Anne Sexton's 'The Starry Night' Poetry on Vincent Van Gogh's Painting

Categories: Anne Sexton

The poem, “The Starry Night” by Anne Sexton describes the painting of Vincent Van Gogh and relates her deep and intimate feelings as it is related to the impression of the said painting. The poem starts off to portray the images illustrated in the painting, with descriptive words and phrases such as “silent,” “night boils with eleven stars,” etc. (Sexton, 1981) The image of the black tree was also mentioned as a distinct element in representing the setting of the village in the painting.

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The second stanza relates how the author of the poem sees the painting.

In her eyes, the painting is animate. It is alive. The coiling and twisting strokes of Van Gogh allows Sexton to look deeper into the poignant and stirring quality of the painting. The author expresses a more private relationship with the painting and its visual artist as she relates her longing to pass away with such intense and serene feeling as the painting is suggesting to her.

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As I was reading the poem, I cannot help but look at and observe the painting of Van Gogh, as they both complement each other.

The poem of Sexton will be of greater understanding if one is looking at the painting, because one starts to empathize with Sexton and also appreciate Van Gogh’s painting in the process. Sexton’s poem allows the viewer of the painting to experience the feelings and emotions underlying each blow in the painting. Moreover, Sexton described in specific each element of the painting, which also makes the viewer look into the special quality or the arrangement of the images in the painting.

Therefore, the poem appeals to both the physical and the artistic qualities of the painting, as well as Van Gogh’s state of mind while painting the picture. However, Sexton’s interpretation of the painting is just one of the many interpretations from people who have seen “Starry Night. ” Personally, Sexton’s poem complements and give further meaning to the painting, if these two – the poem and the painting – are taken together. Nevertheless, the painting stands on its own as it is open to many interpretations and interpretations and elucidations from different artistic points of view.


Poetry Foundation. (2008). “The Starry Night.” Retrieved July 25, 2008, from Poetry

Web Museum. (2002). “Gogh, Vincent Van.” Retrieved July 28, 2008, from BMW Foundation,

WebMuseum. Website:

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Anne Sexton's 'The Starry Night' Poetry on Vincent Van Gogh's Painting. (2017, Mar 01). Retrieved from

Anne Sexton's 'The Starry Night' Poetry on Vincent Van Gogh's Painting
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