Pains of The Poet -- And Miracles

Anne Sexton was a popular, Pulitzer-prizewinning poet who was capable occasionally of a dark brilliance. She had a favorite palindrome: RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR. The trick has first of all its bright little surprise of words, and then, on second look, a deeper, perverse magic -- a double negative of meaning that ends in a metaphysical buzz. RATS LIVE ON EVIL STARS would work in a sane world, or else RATS LIVE ON NO GOOD STAR. But as it is . . .

Like her contemporary Sylvia Plath, Sexton had a gift of the self- dramatizing and self-destructive kind....