In Celebration of My Uterus

Anne Sexton

‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ by Anne Sexton is an uplifting poem about the meaning of womanhood. The poem explores Sexton’s perspective on feminine identity.

Cite

Anne Sexton

Nationality: American

Anne Sexton was a well-loved confessional poet.

Sexton's best poems include 'Courageand 'Wanting to Die.' 

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Womanhood deserves to be celebrated.

Speaker: Anne Sexton

Emotions Evoked: Confidence, Contentment, Joyfulness, Pride

Poetic Form: Free Verse

Time Period: 20th Century

Prior to writing this poem, Anne Sexton struggled with her identity as a woman for years. For Sexton, 'In Celebration of My Uterus' is a poem of self-acceptance on discovering her own meaning for her femininity.

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‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ by Anne Sexton is confessional poetry that uses the story of a woman who nearly has a hysterectomy to explore and uplift the meaning of womanhood. That the poem is confessional automatically makes it autobiographical. Surprisingly, however, it is a lighthearted poem, as opposed to the sad poems Sexton was famous for writing.

In Celebration of My Uterus by Anne Sexton


Summary

‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ by Anne Sexton is a lighthearted poem praising the speaker’s definition of womanhood.

In this poem, the speaker, Sexton herself, begins by sharing a personal experience: almost having a hysterectomy– the surgical removal of her uterus. Sharing this personal experience leads to a more general contemplation: the importance of not just her body but every other woman’s. Soon after, Sexton realizes just how important every part of a woman is and lends praise to that throughout the poem.

Structure

‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ by Anne Sexton comprises four stanzas with an uneven distribution of lines. Stanza one has ten lines; stanza two has nine. The third and fourth stanzas are longer, with the third comprising twenty-four lines and the fourth comprising eighteen lines.

This poem is also written in free verse, meaning it has no set rhyme or meter. It is written like prose, with Sexton appropriately using periods after every sentence and commas to indicate a pause. As is common with free verse, enjambments are prominent throughout the poem.

Literary Devices

  • Apostrophe: This is the dominant literary device in the poem. Sexton addresses an inanimate object (from a non-biological perspective), her uterus, throughout a major portion of the poem.
  • Personification: This device is a by-product of apostrophes. Sexton personifies her uterus in stanza one, giving it human attributes like falling sick and singing.
  • Metaphor: Line 1 of stanza one is the clearest indication of metaphor. Sexton compares her entire body to a bird, and the second line, which is an extended metaphor, reveals why. Both lines symbolize joy. Other examples of metaphors appear when Sexton describes women in stanza two. She compares them to the “soil of the fields,” “roots,” and a “central creature” whose “cover” does not “contain.”
  • Anaphora: This literary device is most prominent between stanzas three and four. The repeated phrase “one is…” in stanza three emphasizes the shared bond between women all over the world. “Let me…” in stanza four emphasizes Sexton’s pride in her discovered meaning of womanhood.
  • Simile: A simile appears in stanza one, line nine. Sexton compares her “uterus'” singing to that of a schoolgirl. By extension, this emphasizes the lighthearted nature of the poem.


Detailed Analysis

Stanza One

Everyone in me is a bird.

I am beating all my wings.   

They wanted to cut you out   

but they will not.

They said you were immeasurably empty   

but you are not.

They said you were sick unto dying   

but they were wrong.

You are singing like a school girl.   

You are not torn.

Sexton begins her poem on an uplifting note. Considering the title of the poem, the poet is celebrating having not had a hysterectomy: the surgical removal of her uterus. “You” in this stanza refers to Sexton’s uterus, and “they” refers to the surgeons who said her uterus had to be taken out. Sexton personifying not just her uterus but her entire body (line 1) immediately gives life to her poem and captivates readers. It also clarifies the literal subject of her poem.

Prior to ‘In Celebration of My Uterus,’ Anne Sexton wrote poems expressing raw grief and pain. Around this time, Sexton was also consulting a therapist due to her struggles with her feminine identity and bipolar disorder. With that said, this poem represents a significant change in Sexton’s style. While she could’ve focused on the trauma of almost having a hysterectomy, she chose to write about the joy of not having it.

Stanza Two

Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

(…)   

Hello to the soil of the fields.

Welcome, roots.

Stanza two continues with the personification of the uterus. However, the focus shifts from Sexton’s uterus to the symbolism of “a” uterus. According to this stanza, the uterus, commonly known as the womb, symbolizes womanhood. Following this transition, Sexton takes to celebrating womanhood, which is the figurative subject of the poem.

Considering Sexton’s major struggle with the role and identity of a woman, it appears that in this stanza, she has come to cherish aspects of her femininity. However, she does not refer to her femininity the way others at the time probably did. Within lines 4-9, Sexton uses words like “central creature,” “soil of the fields,” and “roots” to describe her newly discovered definition of femininity.

Stanza Three

Each cell has a life.

There is enough here to please a nation.

(…)

seem to be singing, although some can not   

sing a note.

In this stanza, Sexton generalizes her experience. Between lines 4 to 7, she inserts an almost theatrical but true notion about nations facing a “blight” if women lost their uterus. By doing so, she elevates one importance of women.

After line 7, Sexton uses anaphora to artfully display a bond between women. This not only clarifies to Sexton’s audience how relatable her experiences are, but it also shows how therapeutic ‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ must have been for Sexton in light of her struggles. One can imagine how soothing it must be for Sexton to connect to all the women in the world with this stanza who have faced or are facing similar struggles as hers.

Stanza Four

Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

(…)  

for the correct   

yes.

If anyone misunderstood Sexton’s perspective on the importance of women because of lines 4-7 of stanza three, stanza four clears the air. The concluding stanza of ‘In Celebration of My Uterus‘ shows the importance of women beyond their uterus. Using anaphora, Sexton highlights the different roles of hardworking, smart, and caring women.

More importantly, Sexton acknowledges they are still women and, with the phrase, “let me…”, expresses her pride to be one of them. This gives a fitting, and happy, end not only to ‘In Celebration of My Uterus‘ but also to Sexton’s struggle with her identity.

FAQs

When was ‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ published?

‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ was published in 1981 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It was published posthumously in a collection titled The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton.

What inspired ‘In Celebration of My Uterus?’

Prior to writing this poem, Anne Sexton struggled to understand the meaning of femininity in society. However, with the aid of her first therapist, Dr. Martin T. Orne, she was able to explore her own meaning of womanhood and share it in her poem. While the specific inspiration for ‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ is Sexton’s near-hysterectomy, one can say her struggle with her feminine identity is a more general reason for the poem’s existence.

What is confessional poetry?

Confessional poetry is a poetic style that reveals the deep and often intense experiences of the poet. As a movement, it began in late 20th century America and faced a lot of criticism due to the dark topics (like mental health, psychological traumas, etc.) it explored.

What is the theme of ‘In Celebration of My Uterus?’

The major theme celebrated in the poem is womanhood. Other themes explored, like suffering, sisterhood, and even identity, tie back to this major theme.

Is ‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ a feminist poem?

While Sexton did not identify herself or this poem as feminist, ‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ has inspired several feminist movements over the decades.

What is the tone and mood of the poem?

Sexton’s poems are usually filled with grief, pain, and everything in between. However, the mood in ‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ is, well, celebratory. The speaker’s tone is lighthearted and joyful throughout the poem.


Similar Poetry

If you enjoyed reading ‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ by Anne Sexton, you can check out similar poems:

  • Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou: Like ‘In Celebration of My Uterus,’ this poem uses descriptions of a woman’s body to portray her all-around importance.
  • A Woman Speaks‘ by Audre Lorde: a poem portraying black women from different parts of the world who air their grievances on their experiences and opinions on how to forward the feminist movement.
  • A Woman’s Hands‘ by Eva Bezwoda: is a poem about a woman who laments about the amount of work she does for her family.

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Anastasia Ifinedo Poetry Expert
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Anastasia Ifinedo is an officially published poet. You can find her poems in the anthologies, "Mrs Latimer Had A Fat Cat" by Cozy Cat Press and "The Little is Much" by Earnest Writes Community, among others. A former poet for the Invincible Quill Magazine and a reviewer of poems on several writing platforms, she has helped—and continues to help—many poets like her hone their craft.

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