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Live or Die

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,177 ratings  ·  109 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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Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,177 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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mwpm mwpm
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
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was by far my favourite collection of Anne Sexton’s that I’ve read so far.

She starts off by quoting Arthur Rimbaud within one of the first poems which made me instantly fall hook, line and sinker for her once again. She coincidentally has a habit of quoting everyone that I’ve always wanted to see indexed in this type of literature.

She also dedicates one of her poems to Sylvia Plath who was a close friend of hers at college. This one really gnaws at your heartstrings considering the fact t
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,
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: of-poems

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

This collection is really just all DIE. Her 'Love Poems' are more LIVE.

I liked these, many are clear descriptions of losing sanity, willpower, feeling, someone...
But I prefer her 'Love Poems', because I get a kick out of Sexton's explicit and strong yearning in her poems, and I find this was more captivating in her poems for love than those for death.

Flee On Your Donkey
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I was
the girl of the chain letter,
the girl full of talk of coffins and
the one
who kept dropping off to sleep,
for hours and hours
and then she’d wake,
after the small death,
and then she’d be
as soft and delicate as
an excess of light..."
Mary Mithrilil
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
''But I would cry,
rooted into the wall that
was once my mother,
if I could remember how
and if I had any tears''

My poor heart:

Sexton pierces my soul with blunt needles and laughs in the process.

This is the best collection of hers I've read so far. The best way to end a year full of struggle and raw questions about reality and all things we pretend to understand in vain.
Oct 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020, poetry
"O Sylvia, Sylvia,
with a dead box of stones and spoons,

with two children, two meteors
wandering loose in the tiny playroom,

with your mouth into the sheet,
into the roofbeam, into the dumb prayer,

(Sylvia, Sylvia,
where did you go
after you wrote me
from Devonshire
about raising potatoes
and keeping bees?)

what did you stand by,
just how did you lie down into?

how did you crawl into,

crawl down alone
into the death I wanted so badly and for so long,

the death we said we both out
Jan 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: january-2017, kindle
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. ...more
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
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it

a prayer

O Mary, fragile mother,
hear me, hear me now
although I do not know your words.


i enjoyed it. it was explicit, but that's something to be expected with anne sexton, so it's not something im upset with lol.

my favourite poems were the one mentioned above^, the addict, live, the legend of the one eyed man, flee on your donkey, imitations of drowning, sylvia's death and love song.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At the first reading, I felt that the Live or Die was a step back from All My Pretty Ones. However, I felt that I needed to read these poems more closely and then doing so increased my appreciation. The poems here are more complex and advanced than All My Pretty Ones much like that collection advanced from To Bedlam And Half-Way Back.

One of Sexton's talents that I missed here is her ability to arrange poems in an order that illuminates the following poems, she does that best in Transformations.
Miguel Vega
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"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
Descending Angel
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sexton
Sexton's award winning third poetry collection, consisting of 33 poams. A lot of these poems deal with mental illness, suicide and Sexton's life making them highly personal. Highlights ~ "And One for My Dame" "flee on your donkey" "imitations of drowning" "consorting with angels" "man and wife" "for the year of the insane" "crossing the Atlantic" " wanting to die" "a little uncomplicated hymn" and "live". ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
this has been... haunting. thanks ma
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Crude. Vulgar. Raw.

Not for the /faint/ of heart ( read faint as prudish ), for Sexton tackles subjects considered as taboo (sexual assault, incest, parental abuse, substance use, etc)

Sexton’s poems are unfiltered and disordered (the latter being reflected by her use of enjambment). Albeit, I was not very fond of her use of religious imagery and Biblical allusions ( found them arbitrary and excessive mostly ... I think it’s just me )
Oct 02, 2018 rated it liked it
My favourite of the bunch was The Addict.
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I swam — but the tide came in like ten thousand orgasms.
I swam — but the waves were higher than horses' necks.


There is no news in fear
but in the end it's fear
that drowns you.
Mai M3rouf
There is no news in fear
but in the end it's fear
that drowns you
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2021
low 4 stars. this is probably one of the first pieces of writing i’ve ever read that describes the distinct feeling of depersonalization so perfectly without being clinical about it.
Moataz Abdel Latif
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: pdf, non-fiction
My Favourites:
The Addict
For the year of the insane
Protestant Easte
The legend of the one eyed man
Consorting with angles
Imitations of drowning
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. ...more
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: شاعری
To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose
the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends
you loved, for greater loving; to End a land more kind
than home, more large than earth.. ~

"Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,
leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love, whatever it was, an infection. "
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
I like her nursery rhymes.
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. ...more
Chelsea Phillips-Carr
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
my favourite poem by far is 'wanting to die' ...more
Steven Godin
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read as part of the 'Complete Poems', of which I reviewed. ...more
So good. It definitely deserved the Pulitzer it won.
Oct 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: long-ago, poetry
I opened my copy to find her NYT obit. Such a beautiful, gifted, young woman. So sad.
Tiff Gibbo
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Anne Sexton is one of my favourite poets, yet I struggled with this book at points. That being said, overall, I very much enjoyed it. Some poems were incredible - Consorting with the Angels, Man and Wife, Menstruation at 40, Self in 1958, Suicide Note. The overuse and overreliance on Catholic/Biblical, Freudian and Greek metaphor is a symptom of its time and what was en vogue for poetry during its publication, but I nonetheless have had my fill of poetry couched in that language, so the less ent ...more
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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.

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“So I won't hang around in my hospital shift,
repeating The Black Mass and all of it.
I say Live, Live because of the sun,
the dream, the excitable gift.”
“I have a room of my own.
Rain drops onto it. Rain drops down like worms
From the trees onto my frontal bone.
Haunted, always haunted by rain, the room affirms
The words that I will make alone.
— Mother And Jack and The Rain.”
More quotes…