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The poem “Her Kind” was first published in 1960 by American poet Anne Sexton. A speaker there assumes a number of witchy identities that exist outside of constraining patriarchal gender barriers. The poem implies that women who are shunned by society for rejecting conventional femininity can yet feel a sense of companionship with one another.
About The Poet
Weston, Massachusetts, was where Anne Sexton grew up after being born in Newton, Massachusetts. One of America’s most well-known poets of the middle of the 20th century, Sexton’s enormous body of work is still read and discussed by literary experts. Sexton studied the myths that shape and sustain our culture, including the traditional bonds between fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, gods and people, and men and women.
The rhyme scheme of the poem is ababcbc.
I have gone out, a possessed witch, haunting the black air, braver at night; dreaming evil, I have done my hitch over the plain houses, light by light: lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. A woman like that is not a woman, quite. I have been her kind.
She claims to be a “possessed witch” and can fly through the skies while being “braver than night.” She has lived many lives, and this is just one of them. She had an awful dream. She is unique in that she understands the world in a way that others do not. After completing her “hitch,” over the houses, she is now daydreaming about the future activities. She is strange and out of place, having “twelve fingers.” Eventually , she takes a step back from this portrayal of herself and admits that she has always been “her kind,” a woman who acts in the manner she outlined. She was isolated from society, treated like an eccentric with twelve fingers, and felt that way.
I have found the warm caves in the woods, filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves, closets, silks, innumerable goods; fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves: whining, rearranging the disaligned. A woman like that is misunderstood. I have been her kind.
She talks of the “warm caves in the woods” and what she discovered inside of them. The caves contain an entire world, bits and pieces of which make up who she is. This woman, who she “has been,” is busy caring for others. She is required to “rearrange the disaligned” and prepare meals for the elves and worms. She claims that she is “misunderstood.” She does not perceive herself like the rest of the world does.
I have ridden in your cart, driver, waved my nude arms at villages going by, learning the last bright routes, survivor where your flames still bite my thigh and my ribs crack where your wheels wind. A woman like that is not ashamed to die. I have been her kind.
She mentions riding “in your cart” and waving her bare arms at passing towns in this stanza. This may conjure up the picture of a woman being accused of witchcraft and brought into town. She then talks about being bitten by flames. A “woman” like the one she has “been,” the speaker says in the poem’s climax, “is not ashamed to die.” She possesses a special power that only results from being misinterpreted and isolated from the outside world. What they do to her doesn’t matter, the speaker says. She won’t ever stop being herself.