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Live or Die

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  792 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize: A gripping poetry collection mapping the thorny journey from madness to hope.

Anne Sexton won immediate recognition as a strong voice in American poetry with the 1960 publication of her first book, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, followed by critical acclaim of her second volume, All My Pretty Ones, published in 1962. Live or Die, her third volume
Paperback, 90 pages
Published 1966 by Houghton Mifflin
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Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I have heard of fish
coming up for the sun
who stayed forever,
shoulder to shoulder,
avenues of fish that never got back,
all their proud spots and solitudes
sucked out of them.

I think of flies
who come from the foul caves
out into the arena.
They are transparent at first.
Then they are blue with copper wings.
They glitter on the forehead of men.
Neither bird nor acrobat
they will dry out like small black shoes.

I am an identical being.
Diseased by the cold and the smell of the house
I undress under the burning
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, 2013, reviewed
This is a problem.

When a person suffers and expresses that suffering incisively, shouldn't we feel compassion and shouldn't that compassion be absolute?

Why isn't it then?

Why do goths grate on us so much and why do people sometimes say, "Then kill yourself already!" when what they'd rather have is for the person to get better?

It must be the self-centeredness of the whining. Suicide shouldn't be judged harshly, but complaining endlessly probably should.

As someone not known for being Mr. Sunshine,
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, january-2017
Live or Die is Anne Sexton's fourth collection of poetry. I'd not read any of her work before, but had a feeling that I would love it. There were some poems here which I didn't much like, I must admit, but others far made up for them. There are so many interesting ideas and themes at play throughout, and her tribute to Sylvia Plath was quite beautiful. The downside for me was that there was too much religious imagery included for my personal liking.
Rafael Montenegro-Fausto
I wanted to write such a poem
with such musics, such guitars going;
I tried at the teeth of sound
to draw up such legions of noise;
I tried at the breakwater
to catch the star off each ship;
and at the closing of hands
I looked for their houses
and silences.
I found just one.
you were mine
and I lent you out.
I look for uncomplicated hymns
but love has none.
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Painfully sensitive, horribly depressing, joyful and heart-wrenching... I read this a lot as a teen
Miguel Vega
"I say Live, Live because of the sun, the dream, the excitable gift."

This collection was so raw and so complete I loved it. Her struggles with choosing to live or die is fascinating and I love how she chose life at the end. Tragic how death won out for her (through herself) in the end.

Favorites: The Sun, Three Green Windows, Somewhere in Africa, Imitations of drowning, Love Song, Those Times..., Sylvia's Death, For the Year of the Insane, Menstruation at Forty, KE 6-8018, Wanting to Die, Self i
Gloria Sun
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was so cool because Sexton was an author living in Boston, so I knew all these places she was mentioning. Anyway, these poems were highly autobiographical and I think she was contemplating suicide and they felt really relevant. While working on this volume her friend Sylvia Plath died and some other people and I feel like I could understand her. All these poems just went by so quickly, but the last one was titled "Live" and it was so affirmative.
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
No words.

«Traficante de sueños,
traficante de muerte,
con pastillas en mis manos cada noche,
ocho a la vez sacadas de dulces botes de farmacia,
hago los preparativos para un corto viaje,
soy la reina de este estado.
Soy experta en hacer el viaje invicta
y ahora dicen que soy una adicta.
Ahora me preguntan por qué.
¡Por qué seguir!»

Live or Die.
Die. Die. Die.
Shrobona  shafique dipti
আমি তারে আদর করে বলি এনি। মৃতযুর পরতি যে টান অথবা বাঁচার পরতি তার থেকেই তো পরিচয় তার সাথে। "লিভ অর ডাই ডনট পয়েজন এভরিথিং" এইটারে অকসিজেন মনে হয় আমার।
পরতিটা কবিতা আমি মনে রাখি কবিতার ভেতর এনি যেসব রং এর কথা বলে তাও গেঁথে রেখে দেই।
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, poetry
my favourite poem by far is 'wanting to die'
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
I like her nursery rhymes.
Wells T.
Nov 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
In "Live or Die" Sexton marries Christian ceremony with the psychiatric worship of chemical self help. The result is a tragic anthem of communion, uncertain worship and unknowing provenance.
Oct 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, long-ago
I opened my copy to find her NYT obit. Such a beautiful, gifted, young woman. So sad.
Jose Carlos
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

La canción Mercy Street, del álbum So del cantante Peter Gabriel, inspirada a su vez en el poema 45 Mercy Street de la escritora estadounidense Anne Sexton, me puso sobre la pista que desembocó en la conexión entre la propia Sexton y Sylvia Plath –una conexión que iba mucho más lejos de sus respectivos suicidios-.
En 1959 se consideraba a Robert Lowell el poeta más notable de los Estados Unidos. Su primera obra, compleja y tensa, tenía mucho prestigio y había iniciado el proceso d
Caroline M
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
3.75 - I don't deny that Sexton is a skilled poet, but rounded down because she's really not my style and a lot of it just didn't resonate with me. Although to be fair the fixation on death is super relatable, thanks Sexton. A lot of the "eh, can't sympathize that much" might also come from the fact that while I am totally aware you can like the writing of a person who's said/done terrible things without condoning those things or liking the person (hi, Neruda!), a poem like "Little Girl, My Stri ...more
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This collection has grown on me over the years, its contents cohering as the distillation of four years in a troubled life, with Anne Sexton's unsweetened psychic excavations periodically interrupted by the loss of a friend ("Sylvia's Death"), a yearly holiday ("Christmas Eve") or even the injury experienced by a child ("Pain for a Daughter"). There's a constant rigor to the digging here which may explain why this queen of the confession so often strikes gold.
Cooper Renner
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I’m sorry. I just can’t make myself care about these flaccid prosy ruminations. Sometimes the images are sharp, but the context is still the jagged psychological loathing—a kind of writing I especially dislike, and not in this case redeemed by good enough writing. I quit not quite halfway. Maybe I’ll try to finish it later.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, aty-challenge
I struggled with what rating to give this book. It's stark and beautiful. It's sad and often painful. It's tragic and real. In the end, I decided that any discomfort I might have felt with some of her poems was a good thing. She succeeded in making me feel something, and that kind of emotional resonance is what I'm looking for in poetry.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Exquisite verses bridge topics that were controversial at the time writer lived. Offbeat and drugged sounding voice. Author was friends with Plath as seen in writing.
Ending verse...
"I say Live, Live because of the sun, the dream, the excitable gift."
This collection serves as a fantastic introduction to Sexton's work.
Rachel Becerra
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
this was depressing and despite my mental illness I can no longer relate to Sylvia Plath or Ann Sexton.
Nimitha TR
Aug 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, pulitzer
3.5/5 Depressing, painful and heartbreaking collection of poems. I liked a few of them, if not all. Author's suicidal ideation and motherhood shame is clearly visible in them, so heartbreaking..
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Intimate, visceral poems. Raw and tinged with tragedy.
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
found a first edition of this at a used bookstore and read it like it was the first time and it was heavenly as always.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece!
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2017
I'd give this like 2.5 or 2.75, but I'll round up. I'm still really trying to branch out and "get" poetry. There were 3 poems in here that I loved: Imitation of Drowning, Sylvia Plath's tribute, and one other one that the title escapes me at the moment. I can understand why people find her work profound, and I'm willing to read more, hence the 3 stars. But nonetheless, this isn't something I would sit at work all day and really look forward to cracking open upon returning home. It's just not my ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry-plays
Wanting to Die

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this w
Mar 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Just finished the first book for this year's Birth Year Challenge. With a quick roll of the virtual dice I found myself reading books from my husband's birth year: 1966. First up: Live or Die, a collection of poetry by Anne Sexton. I have always found it much harder to write about poetry than I do fiction. I like poetry. I have written poetry. But writing about or reviewing it seems difficult to me. I feel rather like the proverbial philistine of the arts who "just knows what she likes."

Shhhtevie St. Evie
Oct 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

The title says it all: Live or Die. There is no mistake; Anne Sexton grapples with two dichotomies orbiting her crown.

O humpty-dumty girl,
I named you Joy.
That’s someone’s song all by itself.
In the naming of you I named
all things you are…
except the ditch
where I left you once,
like an old root that wouldn’t take hold,
that ditch where I left you
while I sailed off in madness
over the buildi
Aug 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Why hadn't I ever heard of this poet before?

My English Lit tutor has been telling me to look her up for ages so I finally did, hoping to cite her work in an essay I'm writing. But the essay is currently lying discarded, as I'm now devouring the work of Anne Sexton.

I would thoroughly recommend this poet to be studied alongside Sylvia Plath's work. The two go hand in hand really, however, Plath is more well-known in the UK, whereas Sexton, in my experience is hardly spoken of. I have read that sh
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  • Heart's Needle
  • 77 Dream Songs
  • Collected Poems
  • Selected Poems
  • The Carrier of Ladders
  • The Waking: Poems: 1933 - 1953
  • The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue
  • Thomas and Beulah
  • North and South
  • Black Zodiac
  • Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton
  • Repair
  • New Hampshire
  • Breath
  • The Morning of the Poem
  • The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994
  • Practical Gods
  • Late Wife
Anne Sexton once told a journalist that her fans thought she got better, but actually, she just became a poet. These words are characteristic of a talented poet that received therapy for years, but committed suicide in spite of this. The poetry fed her art, but it also imprisoned her in a way.

Her parents didn’t expect much of her academically, and after completing her schooling at Rogers Hall, sh
More about Anne Sexton...