An Analysis of Anne Sexton’s “The Kiss”

black and white image of Anne Sexton smoking.
Anne Sexton

“The Kiss” written by Anne Sexton is a beautiful love poem. The poet, in this piece of verse, expresses her true experience and feeling of having a kiss and lovemaking when she was in love with her lover.

Sexton relates that her life has now become useful and worth living. She sees herself in Mary’s position and gets her garments off which probably indicates that she is having a physical pleasure with her man. Her unveiled body generates a pleasurable shock-like an electric-blots. And she resurrects a new life as she is conceived.

Before today my body was useless.

Now it’s tearing at its square corners.

It’s tearing old Mary’s garments off, knot by knot

And see – Now it’s shot full of these electric bolts.

Zing! A Resurrection!

This extract is taken from “The Kiss” written by Anne Sexton, an American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967. The speaker of this stanza is a woman. She talks about her first experience of having a kiss with her lover. She finds kissing livelier and enjoyable which gives her life back. So, she relates her first kissing experience to an ambrosia which gives her life back in a proper track.

In the first line of the stanza, Anne Sexton says that her past life which ‘was useless’ and dull. It reveals the fact that she was not satisfied with her life as she has not got a kiss. Here, the word ‘body’ may mean her physical body, and it also may mean her sense of womanhood. And in the second line, she talks about changes that are taking place in her body because of the kiss with her lover. Now, her body is ‘tearing at its square corners’ may mean it is getting what it wants and similarly, the feeling achieved from the kiss is reaching at every part of the body; it may also mean it is getting its proper order and shape by accepting for what it is made.

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Her relationship is not confined to exchanging a kiss. The term, ‘tearing’ may also indicate the pain by having a romantic sex for the first time in her life. She takes her body as a matter of mathematics: the square corners. It shows that every cell of her body really enjoyed kissing and lovemaking moment. She further says that her body is breaking all the garments of ‘old Mary’ ‘knot by knot.’ Here, Sexton has given us the Biblical reference; old Mary is the reference to the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Mary is considered to be a virgin and pious. On this basis, the speaker says that she is leaving old Mary’s virtues one by one- ‘knot by knot.’ The term, ‘knot by knot’ makes its reader think beyond because she says that her body is not following the body of Mary. This apparently exposes herself to having sex with her lover. As a reader, I assume that the literal meaning of tearing old Mary’s garments off means the real clothes she wears is being taken off.

In the next line, she emphasizes the power of ‘romance’; she uses the metaphor of ‘electric bolts’ for the kisses she gets from her lover. She gets her body and purpose of living back again and it realizes her of the power of love through kissing. Her body is full of kiss, and it gets resurrected: ‘A resurrection!’ The kiss of her lover renewed her body and herself from useless to useful.

To sum up, Anne Sexton compares her life to herself without a love and having a love with a guy. She wants to impart a message to her readers that having a romantic love affair can make one’s life blissful. A simple kiss can resurrect one’s life, and a body thrives so lively. The poem encourages its readers to have a romantic love affair. Similarly, the verse conveys an eye-opening message that a carnal love is an essential part of our lives. The verse encourages its readers to make love so that you could feel rejuvenated in every single time. Only a love can make our life so meaningful and worth living

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