Welcome Morning: There is joy in all - Anne Sexton

Welcome Morning by Anne Sexton

Welcome Morning
- Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.

Ruminating on Welcome Morning

The simplicity, joy and piercing of Welcome Morning by Anne Sexton is breathtaking.  She starts by saying: "There is joy in all." And then she lists all the small things that give her joy.  Somewhat akin the the evergreen song from the Sound of Muic: These are a few of my favorite things. She seems drugged with a magically joyful substance. I am reminded of Tera Kiya Meetha Lagai by Guru Arjan: I desire that one substance that makes every happening sweet: Naam Padaarath, the substance of Naam. 

One line that I really love in this poem is the last one: "The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard, dies young."  The poem is about gratitude for every small thing.  Joy is why art manifests.  In successive lines of the poem she imprints a "thank you" on her mind. 

She explains why the poet writes a poem.  Joy is why a poet writes a poem. Joy is why a singer sings a song. If the joy is not shared it has the danger of dying young.  The more beautiful the song, and the more it is shared, and the deeper it goes in every vessel, the longer it lives. The beauty of these words is in their truth.

The phrase "chapel of eggs" is interesting. Perhaps it implies a mountain of eggs that she eats, perhaps it is holy. Perhaps it is a symbol of genesis, a new beginning from zero, consistent with the morning and hopeful imagery of the poem. Perhaps it refers to something that houses life and provides for life. The repetition of morning is interesting in this poem. It seems a meditation for the morning, sort of a gratefulness charging up at the beginning of the day. 

Because this is a hopeful poem of the morning, it would be sung in raag asa if it were sung. This is much like Bhagat Namdev's poem about where all this joy is coming from: "All this is God."  Here beethal, there beethal, no one without beethal says Bhagat Sant Namdev in Raag Asa. 

Poet Roger Housden on this poem

What a glorious ode to the beauty of the everyday Anne Sexton gives us in this poem. I believe that the fact that it was written not long before her suicide in 1974 only adds to its power and poignancy. Sexton suffered from mental illness all her life and was not afraid to explore it and other intimately personal details in her poetry, which set the standard for the modern movement of confessional poetry that began at that time.

This poem shows how intimate Sexton could feel at times with the daily presentations, as Mary Oliver calls the little details of our life. Everything has a life of its own, even the hairbrush and the kettle and the chair we sit on for breakfast each morning. When we feel the life that pours through everything, then joy is the spontaneous and natural result, and we can sense that all this is God. In that moment of remembrance our life itself becomes a prayer of gratitude.

More on Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton (born Anne Gray Harvey; November 9, 1928 – October 4, 1974) was an American poet known for her highly personal, confessional verse. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967 for her book Live or Die. Her poetry details her long battle with depression, suicidal tendencies, and intimate details from her private life, including relationships with her husband and children, whom it was later alleged she physically and sexually assaulted. More on Wikipedia