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The Awful Rowing Toward God [Paperback]

Anne Sexton
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (3 Feb 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701122013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701122010
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,358,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suffocating anguish and bursts of joy 21 Aug 2003
By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Anne Sexton’s final battles with her personal demons are documented here and it does not make for easy reading. The book opens with the poem Rowing and ends with The Rowing Endeth and inbetween are extraordinarily powerful poems about life, death, despair, the suicidal impulsive and mercifully about love too. Referring to herself as Ms Dog, the author very honestly examines her psyche in poems like The Civil War, The Room Of My Life and The Witch’s Life, a poem that continues a theme established by Her Kind in the first volume To Bedlam And Part Way Back and continued through The Black Art in All My Pretty Ones. A poem like Courage overflows with hurt but has a transcendent quality too and the same duality or conflict becomes very clear in the poem After Auschwitz, where she declares: “Man … / …/ is not a temple/but an outhouse”, proceeding to curse mankind, before concluding with: “I say these things aloud./ I beg the Lord not to hear.” The Poet Of Ignorance is painful to read as the arresting image of an indestructible crab gripping the poet’s heart becomes a metaphor for mental pain. This oppressive image is reiterated in The Dead Heart, where the tongue did the killing, a theme more delicately investigated in the next poem, Words. The following one, The Sickness Unto Death, must be one of the bleakest poems in the English language in its seemingly casual wrestling with evil and utter despair. The line “My body became a side of mutton/and despair roamed the slaughterhouse” perhaps best encapsulates the unrelenting torment. Read more ›
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars painful, but of great value 29 Jan 2002
By NotATameLion - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What to make of this sorid little book of verse? Its like watching someone disembowel themselves, draw up a schematic of what they should "really" look like, and then try, like Humpty Dumpty, to put themselves back together again.
Yet, somewhere here Anne Sexton reaches for something a little further from (and at the same time closer to) herself...namely, God. And that is what these poems are: Sexton wrestling with her God. A brief taste of what this text is like (from "The Sickness Unto Death" which is one of my favorite poems contained in the book)--
"I who was a house full of bowel movement,
I who was a defaced altar,
I who wanted to crawl toward God
could not move nor eat bread.
So I ate myself,
bite by bite,
and the tears washed me,
wave after cowardly wave,
swallowing canker after canker
and Jesus stood over me looking down
and He laughed to find me gone,
and put His mouth to mine
and gave me His air."
There is much to meditate on within the pages of "The Awful Rowing Toward God." When it comes to matters such as spiritual suffering, seeking, and pain, Mrs. Sexton seems to have had some experience. No doubt, this will not be everyone's cup of tea. Nevertheless, there is much of value here.
That is why I recommend this book.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suffocating anguish and bursts of joy 3 Jun 2003
By Pieter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Anne Sexton's final battles with her personal demons are documented here and it does not make for easy reading. The book opens with the poem Rowing and ends with The Rowing Endeth and inbetween are extraordinarily powerful poems about life, death, despair, the suicidal impulsive and mercifully about love too. Referring to herself as Ms Dog, the author very honestly examines her psyche in poems like The Civil War, The Room Of My Life and The Witch's Life, a poem that continues a theme established by Her Kind in the first volume To Bedlam And Part Way Back and continued through The Black Art in All My Pretty Ones. A poem like Courage overflows with hurt but has a transcendent quality too and the same duality or conflict becomes very clear in the poem After Auschwitz, where she declares: "Man ... / .../ is not a temple/but an outhouse", proceeding to curse mankind, before concluding with: "I say these things aloud./ I beg the Lord not to hear." The Poet Of Ignorance is painful to read as the arresting image of an indestructible crab gripping the poet's heart becomes a metaphor for mental pain. This oppressive image is reiterated in The Dead Heart, where the tongue did the killing, a theme more delicately investigated in the next poem, Words. The following one, The Sickness Unto Death, must be one of the bleakest poems in the English language in its seemingly casual wrestling with evil and utter despair. The line "My body became a side of mutton/and despair roamed the slaughterhouse" perhaps best encapsulates the unrelenting torment. Mercifully, poems like Welcome Morning - a description of a burst of domestic joy - and The Big Heart - where the "fury of love" for friends and family rushes into her heart, show the other side of Sexton's intensity of feeling. The Awful Rowing Toward God was the last book to be arranged by the author herself and is not recommended for the fragile reader. It reflects the agonizing search for meaning that is so universal to the individual consciousness. But perhaps because of the intensity, some of the musical rhythm of her work from especially the two aforementioned books is missing here. There is still the conversational style, but it would appear that the large crab gripping Sexton's heart was squeezing very hard here, suffocating all but the most unquenchable outbursts of joy like Welcome Morning.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Suffocating anguish and bursts of joy 5 Jan 2008
By Pieter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Anne Sexton's final battles with her personal demons are documented here and it does not make for easy reading. The book opens with the poem Rowing and ends with The Rowing Endeth. In between are extraordinarily powerful poems about life, death, despair, the suicidal impulsive and mercifully about love too.

Referring to herself as Ms Dog, the author very honestly examines her psyche in poems like The Civil War, The Room Of My Life and The Witch's Life, a poem that continues a theme established by Her Kind in the first volume To Bedlam and Part Way Back and continued through The Black Art in All My Pretty Ones.

A poem like Courage overflows with hurt but has a transcendent quality too and the same duality or conflict becomes very clear in the poem After Auschwitz, where she declares: "Man ... / .../ is not a temple/but an outhouse", proceeding to curse mankind, before concluding with: "I say these things aloud./ I beg the Lord not to hear."

The Poet Of Ignorance is painful to read as the arresting image of an indestructible crab gripping the poet's heart becomes a metaphor for mental pain. This oppressive image is reiterated in The Dead Heart, where the tongue did the killing, a theme more delicately investigated in the next poem, Words.

The following one, The Sickness Unto Death, must be one of the bleakest poems in the English language in its seemingly casual wrestling with evil and utter despair. The line "My body became a side of mutton/and despair roamed the slaughterhouse" perhaps best encapsulates the unrelenting torment.

Mercifully, poems like Welcome Morning - a description of a burst of domestic joy - and The Big Heart - where the "fury of love" for friends and family rushes into her heart, show the other side of Sexton's intensity of feeling. The Awful Rowing Toward God was the last book to be arranged by the author herself and is not recommended for the fragile reader.

It chronicles a particularly agonizing search for meaning. But perhaps because of the intensity, some of the musical rhythm of her work from especially the two aforementioned books is missing here. There is still the conversational style, but it would appear that the large crab gripping Sexton's heart was squeezing very hard here, suffocating all but the most unquenchable outbursts of joy like Welcome Morning.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Awful Rowing Toward God And The Awesome Journey Toward Anne Sexton 12 Nov 2013
By Nina Catanese - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Why I never heard of this poet in all my literature classes - but have heard of her contemporaries - boggles my mind. I feel like going back to my school and yelling, "What the hell??" at some of my old professors. Regardless... The book is in fine condition. It's what is inside that counts, however. And what is inside is marvelous.
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