Anne Sexton

Although not as obvious in her technique, Ann Sexton uses the cataloguing of items in her poem “Venus and the Ark”:

The missile to launch a missile

was almost a secret.

Two male Ph.D.’s were picked

and primed to fill it

and one hundred

carefully counted insects,

three almost new snakes,

coiled in a cube,

exactly fifty fish creatures

in tanks, the necessary files,

twenty bars of food, ten brief cures,

special locks, fourteen white rats,

fourteen black rats, a pouch of dirt,

were all stuffed aboard before

the thing blasted from the desert.

The line breaks are more regular than Whitman (and Ginsberg for that matter), but the catalogue of things is reminiscent of Whitman’s part 15 of Song of Myself in which he lists the different activities and identities of people in America.  With this allusion in mind, it is possible to see how Sexton, in this poem, draws from both the biblical lists and from the lists of Whitman to link the image of the ark with that of America.

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