Sexton’s intense tone mirrors the passion of van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” The painting depicts “the fire that smoldered within” van Gogh (Dietrich). The canvas is in turmoil. Sexton’s poem also throbs with deep agitation: The sky is hot, “The night boils,” (…4); the stars are alive and move; “…the moon bulges…” (8) and gives birth to life. The poem echoes the painting’s hallucinatory tone with its hot, dramatic, unstable voice. Sexton’s liberal use of verbs like “boil,” “bulges,” “push,” “swallows,””split” and “sucked” demonstrate her inner turmoil. Except for the silence of the town, the poem depicts a world of turbulence. Sexton’s tone conveys the message that her starry night, like her inner life, is in a state of ferment. Sexton’s poem is a feast of imagery. She matches the rich graphics of van Gogh’s poem with the skilful use of figurative language. Sexton makes van Gogh’s vibrant night a ravenous beast: “…that great dragon…” (14) which is to devour her. The thick, serpentine swirl of his brush becomes the “…old unseen serpent…” (10) which swallows the stars. Her words, “…in its orange irons” (8), conjure an image of the moon as a captive who is forced to give birth to the stars. The most striking image is that of the lone, black tree silhouetted in the foreground of van Gogh’s painting, which Sexton metaphorically compares to a “…drowned woman…” (3). Just as van Gogh’s tree reaches out to the Heavens for help, Sexton depicts herself as a lost woman seeking solace in the skies.
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