Harrowing Anne Sexton

Yesterday, October 4th, was Anne Sexton's suicide anniversary. She had long searched for her Mercy Street but could not find it so she chose to gas herself to death in her garage at the age of 45.

I have always admired her strong, painful, masterfully written poems but, I had never yet read more about her life than what I had studied on my anthology books at University. Until, just a few days ago, when I decided to buy a memoir book written by Linda Gray Sexton, her daughter, and I am finally catching up on her tormented and highly dramatic life.

I will confess that I have asked two famous poems what they thought about her poetry and, I was kind of surprised to learn that they dismissed her work as highly narcissistic. But, knowing their mindset, I can well understand their reaction.

Sexton is certainly no poet for the weak of heart. She explores personal themes in an unprecedented manner and in such a stark, brutally honest way that people may end up failing to notice the beauty of her words, each chosen with skillful craftsmanship.

I feel people should know more about her harrowing life and read more of her strong and mind-blowing poetry. In the meantime, I wish to thank Anne's daughter for having had the courage to disclose so much about her mother. This has also enabled me to mull over a new, exciting writing project.

"I cannot promise you very much./I give you the images I know." 

Thanks, Anne.


  1. What drew me to both Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton was their courage to face their demons and writing about them in unflinching ways. Without their voices, how much poorer would poetry be! Granted, I haven't read them in ages but I still remember the powerful way they effected me. I read Anne's autobiography a long time ago and will have to unearth it again to see if the copy I have was written by her daughter. I do remember it being very sad. It shouldn't matter how and why such poems exists, that they exist at all is a gift we should all be thankful for.

  2. Funny how it's only the poetry of women and the young that get dismissed as "narcissistic" -- because old men, of course, say nothing but weighty truths. Sexton's poetry is no more self-reflective than Larkin's but I don't recall him being dismissed as "narcissistic". She is genius and when the tragedies of her life are far enough behind us to be no more than a sad tale of the past, her work will be taken on its own terms -- and it will stand securely.

  3. Agreed! After I posted I told myself that writing itself is a narcissistic endevour: you wouldn't write if you didn't think so highly of yourself and thoughts that you were driven to share them with the world. In fact I lacked this trait for the longest time which kept me from submitting any of my work. Furthermore, did anyone call Robert Frost a narcissist for writing "the road not taken?"

  4. Well said, Dora and Kate. I cannot but agree, narcissism is more healthy than destructive most of the times!


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