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Book Title: Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters|
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Reader ratings: 4.5
The author of the book: Anne Sexton
Edition: Open Road Media
Date of issue: April 5th 2016
ISBN 13: 9781504034371
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 845 KB
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A revealing collection of letters from Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Anne Sexton
While confessional poet Anne Sexton included details of her life and battle with mental illness in her published work, her letters to family, friends, and fellow poets provide an even more intimate glimpse into her private world. Selected from thousands of letters and edited by Linda Gray Sexton, the poet’s daughter, and Lois Ames, one of her closest friends, this collection exposes Sexton’s inner life from her boarding school days through her years of growing fame and ultimately to the months leading up to her suicide.
Correspondence with writers like W. D. Snodgrass, Robert Lowell, and May Swenson reveals Sexton’s growing confidence in her identity as a poet as she discusses her craft, publications, and teaching appointments. Her private letters chart her marriage to Alfred “Kayo” Sexton, from the giddy excitement following their elopement to their eventual divorce; her grief over the death of her parents; her great love for her daughters balanced with her frustration with the endless tasks of being a housewife; and her persistent struggle with depression. Going beyond the angst and neuroses of her poetry, these letters portray the full complexities of the woman behind the art: passionate, anguished, ambitious, and yearning for connection.
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Read information about the authorAnne Sexton once told a journalist that her fans thought she got better, but actually, she just became a poet. These words are characteristic of a talented poet that received therapy for years, but committed suicide in spite of this. The poetry fed her art, but it also imprisoned her in a way.
Her parents didn’t expect much of her academically, and after completing her schooling at Rogers Hall, she went to a finishing school in Boston. Anne met her husband, Kayo (Alfred Muller Sexton II), in 1948 by correspondence. Her mother advised her to elope after she thought she might be pregnant. Anne and Kayo got married in 1948 in North Carolina. After the honeymoon Kayo started working at his father-in-law’s wool business.
In 1953 Anne gave birth to her first-born, Linda Gray. Two years later Linda’s sister, Joyce Ladd, was born. But Anne couldn’t cope with the pressure of two small children over and above Kayo’s frequent absence (due to work). Shortly after Joy was born, Anne was admitted to Westwood Lodge where she was treated by the psychiatrist Dr. Martha Brunner-Orne (and six months later, her son, Dr. Martin Orne, took over). The original diagnosis was for post-natal depression, but the psychologists later decided that Anne suffered from depression of biological nature.
While she was receiving psychiatric treatment, Anne started writing poetry. It all started after another suicide attempt, when Orne came to her and told her that she still has a purpose in life. At that stage she was convinced that she could only become a prostitute. Orne showed her another talent that she had, and her first poetry appeared in print in January 1957. She wrote a huge amount of poetry that was published in a dozen poetry books. In 1967 she became the proud recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Live or Die (1966).
In March 1972 Anne and Kayo got divorced. After this a desperate kind of loneliness took over her life. Her addiction to pills and alcohol worsened. Without Kayo the house was very quiet, the children were at college and most of Anne’s friends were avoiding her because they could no longer sympathize with her growing problems. Her poetry started playing such a major role in her life that conflicts were written out, rather than being faced. Anne didn’t mention a word to Kayo about her intention to get divorced. He knew that she desperately needed him, but her poems, and her real feelings toward him, put it differently. Kayo talks about it in an interview as follows: “... I honestly don’t know, never have known, what her real, driving motive was in the divorce. Which is another reason why it absolutely drove me into the floor like a nail when she did it.”
On 4 October 1974 she put on her mother’s old fur coat before, glass of vodka in hand, she climbed into her car, turned the key and died of monodioxide inhalation. She once told Orne that “I feel like my mother whenever I put it [the fur coat] on”. Her oldest daughter, Linda, was appointed as literary executor and we have her to thank for the three poetry books that appeared posthumously.
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