Anne Sexton, the original name Anne Harvey, (born November 9, 1928, Newton, Massachusetts, USA – October 1974, Weston, Massachusetts) is an American poet whose work is known for its confessional intensity.
Anne Harvey attended Garland Junior College in 1944, a year before her marriage to Alfred M. Saxon II. She studied with the poet Robert Lowell at Boston University and also worked as a model and librarian. Although she wrote some poetry as a child, she did not begin writing seriously until the late 1950s.
Her poems, which show Lowell’s influence, were published in Harper’s, The New Yorker, Partisan Review, and other magazines, and his first book, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, was published in 1960.
The book draws immediate attention because of the intensely personal and relentlessly honest self-revealing nature of his nervous separation and recovery recording poems. Their images were often bright and their tone was both failing and weak.
Her second book of poetry, All My Pretty Ones (1962), continued in the vein of uncompromising self-inquiry. Live or Die (1966), another record of Sensitive Illness, won a Pulitzer Prize and then, Love Poems (1969), Transformation (1971), The Book of Foley (1972) and The Death Notebooks 1974). Sexton studied at Boston University in 1970–71 and at Colgate University in 1971–72. She also co-authored several children’s books with the poet Maxine Cumin, including Egg Things (1963), Joe and Birthday Presence (1971), and The Wizard’s Tears (1975). Sexton died at his own hands. Unbroken poetry was posthumously published, including The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975), 45 Mercy Street (1976, edited by his daughter Linda Gray Sexton), and Three Stories (1978). Anne Sexton: A self-portrait of letter edited by Lois Ames and Linda Gray Sexton was published in 1977 and No Evil Star: Selected Essays, Interviews and Prose was published in 1985.
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Anne Sexton Early life and family
Ann Sexton was born in New Newton to Ann Gray Harvey, from Massachusetts to Mary Gray (Staples) Harvey (1901-1999) and Ralph Churchill Harvey (1900-1999). Her two older sisters were Jane Elizabeth (Harvey) alous Risha (1923–1983) and Blanc Dingley (Harvey) Taylor (1925–2011).
She spent most of his childhood in Boston. In 1945 she enrolled at Rogers Hall Boarding School in Lowell, Massachusetts, and later spent a year at Garland School. For a time, she modeled for the Boston Heart Agency.
On August 16, 1948, she married Alfred Mueller Sexton II and they remained together until 1973. Sexton’s first child, Linda Gray Sexton, was born in 1993. Her second child, Joyce, was born two years after Lad Sexton.
Anne Sexton had a serious bipolar disorder for most of her life, her first manic episode being held in 1945. After the second episode in 1955, she met Dr. Martin Oren, who became her long-term therapist at Glenside Hospital. It was Orne who encouraged her to write poetry.
John Holmes led the first poetry workshop she attended. Sexton was very surprised about registering for the class, asking a friend to make a phone call and go with her in the first session. She was praised early on with her poetry; A number was adopted by The New Yorker, Harper Magazine and Saturday Review.
Sexton later studied with poets Sylvia Plath and George Starbucks at Loyal Sunday at Boston University. Sexton later paid tribute to her friendship with Plath in the poem “Sylvia’s Death” in 1966. Her first book of poetry, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, was published in 1960 and included the poem “Her Kind,” which uses grandparents’ oppression as a metaphor for women’s oppression in a patriarchal society.
At the Antioch Writers Conference in 1957, Sexton’s poetic career was encouraged by her mentor, WD Snodgrass. Her poem “The Needle of the Heart” proved to be an inspiration for her as she separated from her three-year-old daughter.
Anne Sexton first read the poem at a time when her own daughter was living with her mother-in-law. She took turns writing “The Double Image,” a poem that explores the multi-generational relationship between mother and daughter. Sexton begins to write letters to Snowgrass and they become friends. While working with John Holmes, Sexton was confronted by Maxine Cumin.
They became good friends and remained Sexton’s whole life. Cumin and Sexton were harsh critics of each other’s work and wrote four children’s books together. In the late 1960s, the manic elements of Sexton’s illness began to affect his career, although he still wrote and published and read his poems.
She collaborated with musicians and formed a jazz-rock group called Her Kind that added music to her poems. Her Mercy Street, starring Marian Stelles, was built in 1969 after several years of revision. Sexton also collaborated with artist Barbara Swann, who gave examples of several of her books.
Within 12 years of writing her first sonnet, she was one of the most respected poets in the United States: a Pulitzer Prize winner, an associate of the Royal Society of Literature, and the first female member of the Harvard chapter.
In October 1974, Sexton had lunch with Cumin to revise the gallery for Sexton’s manuscript of The Awful Rowing Toward God, scheduled for publication in March 1975. Back home she wore her mother’s old fur coat, removed all her rings, poured herself a glass of vodka, locked herself in her garage and started her car’s engine, ending her life with carbon monoxide poisoning.
In an interview a year before his death, he explained that he wrote the first draft of The Awful Rowing Toward God within 20 days, “two days for depression and three days out in a mental hospitalization.”
She further said that she would not allow poetry to be published before her death. She is buried in the Forest Hills Cemetery and Cemetery in the Jamaica Plains of Boston, Massachusetts.
Content and themes of work
Anne Sexton is seen as a modern confessional poetry model because of her poetry’s intimate and sensitive content. Sexton often writes and expresses her struggles with mental illness through his work. Anne Sexton also includes important yet neglected topics that touch on a woman’s overall experience.
Maxine Cummin describes Sexton’s work: “She wrote publicly about stru urination, abortion, masturbation, adultery, fornication, and drug addiction at a time when recognition did not take any of these as appropriate subjects of poetry.” Sexton’sIn the late sixties, work has been otherwise criticized by critics as “prudent, lazy and flip”.
Some critics consider her reliance on alcohol as a compromise in her latest work.
Other critics, however, see Sexton as a poet whose writing matures with time.
“Starting as a relatively conventional writer, she learned to use language, politics, religion [and] gender as a tool against ‘politicians’ to further his approach.” Sexton was heavily criticized for her poetic content and themes, but these issues contributed to her work’s popularity.
The title of his eighth book of poetry, The Awful Rowing Toward God, came from his meeting with a Roman Catholic priest who, refusing to conduct the last ceremony, told him that “your God is on your typewriter.” It gave the poet the desire and will to survive and continue writing.
The Awful Rowing and Death notebooks for God is one of her final works, and both are central to the death theme. Her work began with himself, but as her career progressed she made periodic efforts to reach beyond the realm of his own life for poetic themes.
Transformations (1971), a retelling of Grimm’s fairy tales, is a book. (Adaptations were used as the libretto for the 1973 opera of the same name by American composer Conrad Super.)She later used Christopher Smart’s Jubilee Agno and the Bible as the basis for some of her work.
Much like Sylvia Plath’s suicide in 1963, much of her writing, life, and frustrating threads were made. Robert Lowell, Adrian Rich, and Dennis Levertov commented on the role of creativity in Sexton’s death. “Those of us who survive must make clear the difference between creativity and self-destruction,” Levertov said.