Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder and Anne Sexton

I’m still chipping away at my reading list for the MFA. Today I read poems by Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder, born in 1503 and member of King Henry VIII’s court. It’s thought that Wyatt was the lover of Ann Boleyn. I remember him as a minor character in Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, portrayed as a love-struck nobleman who wrote poems to the elusive Boleyn.

He’s known as the father of the English sonnet, a title he shares with Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. I’m saving Henry Howard’s poems for tomorrow.

Here’s a link to an audio version of Whoso List to Hunt, with a painting of Ann Boleyn next to the poem. The word ‘list’ is a funny one to me. People in the Appalachian regions still use that word to mean a desire to do something. I remember Granny from the old TV show The Beverly Hillbillies used to say it, usually in the negative, as in I don’t list to eat them fancy vittles.

I’ve been alternating old poems with twentieth century as well as contemporary works. On Jo’s recommendation, I read Lip by Catherine Smith. What a feast of lucidity combined with mythic moments of eroticism! I just loved it.

I’m also working my way through The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton. Each of her books is combined into one volume, in chronological order. After I finish a book, I put down the Sexton volume to read a contemporary collection. I’m feeling very tenuous these days, somewhat anxious, so even though Sexton’s metaphors about emotional pain are particularly vivid and help me visualize my own pain, there’s only so much talk of misery I can take at one time, and then I need a break. Billy Collins is a good respite. His poems make me feel like God is in his universe and all’s right with the world. Om mani padme hum, the jewel is in the lotus flower.

10 thoughts on “Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder and Anne Sexton

  1. Robin says:

    Good on you to start early! I read almost the entire GRE Literature in English list as an overeager undergrad, then never had to take the subject exam in any of my graduate programs. However, it was great fun and the point of it was the reading, not the test. I’m about to start reading for comps and I can’t wait–to me, this is the main event, even more so than the dissertation. See you around the ranch!


  2. carolee says:

    i’m a little over halfway through the complete sexton. it was my reward for submitting my manuscript. i bought it and told myself you can read it AFTER you get the ms. out. i admit to sneaking a quick read of the intro by maxine kumin (which was wonderful) and flipping through to grab a few peeks at poems, but mostly i held off and stuck to my promise.

    if you’re up for it, i’d love to chat with you about some of the poems. email or something. you know, as practice for your MFA. i’ve been sitting with a pencil and underlining lines i just love, noting recurring images and rhyme patterns.

    as much as i love her, i had to come up for air, too. i’m reading a memoir before i get back into them.


  3. christine says:

    Robin, thanks for dropping by. You really were an inspired undergrad. I was focused on Spanish back then, so I’m having to read a lot of it now.

    Carolee and Collin, I need to get used to discussing poems. Up until now I read them, live them, and respond to them with my own writing. Maybe I’ll start posting my reactions to some of them. I’m really not a scholar… .


  4. Jo says:

    OH Catherine Smith’s a goddess…… poet out there in my humble opinion. Okay, one of the best, though I always return to her…….her voice is unique. I laughed at the Beverly Hillbillies…….I used to watch that show and have problems understanding them!


  5. holly d says:

    I know what you mean about Anne Sexton, but I can SO relate to her too, and yes, her metaphors are downright painful, but really stir up the writer in me! I’m excited for you getting into this program. I hope you love it. It’s such a fun experience to get to read and write for credit!! :)) (I mean in the sense that it becomes your job when you are in school)


  6. Michelle Johnson says:

    Sounds like you’re keeping busy with all that reading. If anybody can finish this program with honors, it’s you. I can remember watching The Beverly Hillbillies growing up. Always kept me laughing. Hope all is well. Have a great night.


  7. Julie says:

    Ha! Ha! The Beverly Hillbillies is great with a buzz. Did I just say that? I’m just kidding, of course:D

    My grandmother used to say “list.” She didn’t speak like the hillbillies, though. Her voice flowed like honey. I think vittles came from victuals?

    Oh, I love Sexton. That’s a great choice. Catherine Smith is another must read! It looks like you’ve got a good variety of reading to do.

    I’m so glad you’re going back to school. What an exciting time it must be for you. Go, Christine!


  8. christine says:

    Ha, the joke is on me, Julie, I misspelled ‘vittles’! And I know the word ‘victuals’ too. I think my head was back in kid land. The Hillbillies was a buzz, no other substance is needed for that surreal world.

    Thanks for stopping by. Same to you, Holly and Michelle. Yes, my job will be to read and write, which is what I already do anyway. We all do!


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