Her Kind by Anne Sexton

‘Her Kind’ was published in 1960 in Sexton’s collection To Bedlam and Part Way Back. It is confessional in nature, as are many of her poems. The poet uses clear language, imagery, and diction in order to allow her speaker to speak on the life that she has lived, or would like to live. She alludes to the difficulties inherent in being a woman and expresses solidarity with those who are like her.

Her Kind by Anne Sexton

 

Summary of Her Kind 

Her Kind’ by Anne Sexton is an image-rich and powerful poem that describes the nature of a woman’s misunderstood life.

The poem is told through a series of images that define the life of a woman. She is separate from the rest of the world, by all definitions, a witch. The poet knows this to be true and embraces it. By the end of the poem, she declares that she is not ashamed to die, to be brunt at the stake by others who don’t understand her. She is proud of who she is and she’s not going to lose that for anyone. 

You can read the full poem Her Kind here. 

 

Structure of Her Kind

Her Kind’ by Anne Sexton is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of seven lines. These lines follow a rhyme scheme of ABABCBC, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. Although the rhyme scheme is regular, the meter is not. Sexton chose to use somewhere between seven and ten syllables per line but with the examples of repetition and refrain, the poem feels like it has a unified structure.

 

Literary Devices in Her Kind 

Sexton makes use of several literary devices in Her Kind’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, enjambment, and metaphor. The latter, metaphor, is seen throughout this poem as the poet defines her life as a woman by describing life as a witch. There are various elements of her, such as her “twelve-fingered” hands which are clearly metaphorical. They are only an example of how different he is from everyone else. 

There are also several good examples of alliteration in this poem. For instance, “black” and “braver” in line two of the first stanza as well as “warm” and “woods” in line one of the second stanza. Enjambment is also present throughout ‘Her Kind’. For example, the transition between lines three and four of the first stanza. 

 

Analysis of Her Kind

Stanza One 

I have gone out, a possessed witch,

haunting the black air, braver at night;

(…)

I have been her kind.

In the first stanza of ‘Her Kind,’ the speaker begins with a striking opening line. This is known as a hook and is meant to draw the reader in and encourage them to keep reading. She describes being a “possessed witch” and going out into the air, “braver than night”. This is one of the many lives that she has she has lived. 

In this one, she dreamed “evil”. By describing herself this way she is setting herself apart from society. The speaker is at a distance from everyone else, fond of the night, and given to explorations of loneliness. She is also special in some way, she has a knowledge of the world that others don’t. She has done her “hitch’ or flight over the houses and she is now dreaming of what’s next. She’s “twelve-fingered,” odd and out of place. 

In the last lines, she steps back from this image of herself and says that she has been “her kind,” the kind of woman who does what she described. She has been separated from society, she has felt like a twelve fingered outcast and has been treated that way. 

 

Stanza Two 

I have found the warm caves in the woods,

filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,

(…)

I have been her kind.

The second stanza of ‘Her Kind’ is similar to the first. She starts out by making several statements about herself. These include what she enjoys and how she lives. In this case, she describes the “warm caves in the woods” and what she found them full of. This is a good example of accumulation. There is a whole world in the caves– bits and pieces that define who she is. A reader should also consider what these “caves” might stand-in for. Are they a metaphor for something else? Perhaps a woman’s womb? 

This woman that she “has been” is busy taking care of others. She has to “rearrange the disaligned” and fix the suppers for the worms and the elves”. She is “misunderstood,” she says. The way she’s seen by the world is not how she sees herself. The last line of the poem is an example of a refrain. 

 

Stanza Three 

I have ridden in your cart, driver,

waved my nude arms at villages going by,

learning the last bright routes, survivor

(…)

The final stanza of ‘her Kind’ starts with “I” once more. Here, she describes how she’s ridden “in your cart” and “waved [her] nude arms at the villages going by”. This might bring to mind the image of a woman being accused of witchcraft and taken into town. This becomes more obvious as the stanza continues and she describes being bitten by flames.

The poem concludes with the speaker saying that a “woman” like that she has “been” is not “ashamed to die”. She has a certain strength that only comes with being misunderstood and separate from the world. It doesn’t matter, this speaker implies, what they do to her. She is never going to lose who she is. 

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