Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters Paperback – 1 Oct 2004
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About the Author
Anne Sexton (1928-1974), the author of ten collections of poems, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1967.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Let's face it - Anne was one tough pill to swallow. She defiantly refused to conform to the rules of society. Having grown up in a rather straight laced and upper class family (albeit with many skeletons), Anne basically flipped them the bird by refusing to follow any and all established patterns of expected behavior. Kind of admire her for that because she was one ballsy broad. However, anyone knowing the whole story would strongly empathize with her charismatically handsome husband, Kayo, and her daughters Linda Gray and Joy. And as for Anne's relationship with her husband and kids? That's where it gets real sticky because Anne was out of control in so many ways (although undergoing intensive therapy for years), which often left her husband and mother in law mopping up the mess. Husband Kayo was loyal long after most would have ran full tilt for the door. And as someone growing up with an intensely volatile and self involved mother myself, believe Anne Sexton did her daughter Linda Gray (who in fact compiled these letters) a HUGE disservice by appointing her literary executor. Imagine this became an immense burden for the daughter who so resembled her mother and, if Anne had any consideration whatsoever (obviously she didn't), she would have left her daughter free and clear to develop and assert her own individuality without punishing her with homework from mum. Not to mention, all this being dumped in Linda's lap via her mother's suicide.
Regardless of all the static that surrounds any discussion of the life and work of Anne Sexton, if you're into her poetry and want to know about the woman behind those fierce and forceful poems, urge you to read these letters. They are highly readable start to finish with zero fluff. They're all Anne full throttle.
This book isn't a book of poems and doesn't contain anything like that at all inside. It is instead an intimate glimpse of her as she wrote fellow writers and people she loved, trying to figure out everything besides the pen. It shows how she felt about writing sometimes and how she felt about losing sometimes and, ultimately, it showed how she felt about the divorce that would consume her life and the years off she found and the things that drove her to kill herself.
While you can bear witness to this vicariously in her poetry, you can definitely tell that there is something far more driven when looking into her words that she wrote in a montage of letters. More sadly still, you can see her as she struggles to find a way that she will not ever obtain, and you can see the mental illness that silenced one of the most powerful voices poetry has really ever known.
If you are a fan of Anne Sexton and would like to see something on her life from her point-of-view, then this is a good book to look into. It IS NOT a good book for someone looking into the works of Sexton because none of that is there ,and I'm not really sure I would recommend it to anyone other than those interested in what really ailed the writer. I found it fascinating to see her private letters and to delve into her life, because I wondered what had taken her from feeling as if she could function to walking away from everything in the prime of her written moments. Still, this is more exploration into a person that anything else, It is trying to understand, too, because understanding is the key to so many a door not opened simply by the quill.
Anne Sexton (1928-1974) showed the best of herself in letters. To quote Donald Hall she was a `soul-flasher.' She was passionately engaged in living and tormented into dying. Her flight through life was one of breathtaking bravery in the face of crippling odds. The letters date from 1944 when she was sixteen, through 1974 a few days before her death. Full credit should go to the editors, Linda Gray Sexton, daughter of Ann, and Lois Ames, Ann's closest friend. The commentary is sensitive, knowledgeable and readable. The necessary biographical linkage is there.
There have always been unfortunate attempts to link Ann Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Their similarities are their age, their sex, their birthplace in the Northeastern United States, and their self-inflicted deaths. And there the similarity ends. Ann was a fragile child who emerged a tormented woman. She was creatively brilliant in a very natural sense; yet she worked feverishly all her life to improve every word she wrote. She once said, "I am tearing at the stars." Ann enjoyed a large circle of devoted friends and repaid their devotion in kind. She was supportive and free with advice to younger struggling poets when she could barely survive her own despair. Ann was a naturally beautiful woman who seemed completely unaware or disinterested in her own breathtaking countenance.
I am astounded at how helpless she became at the end of her life. I truly do not comprehend how her friends and family could bear her onslaughts of misery and self-paralysis. They must have loved her very much. These letters are appealing and a pleasure to read. She was a wordsmith as well as an incredible poet. Following is a stanza from "All My Pretty Ones"
Never loving ourselves,
hating even our shoes and our hats,
we love each other, precious, precious.
Our hands are light blue and gentle.
Our eyes are full of terrible confessions.
But when we marry, the children leave in disgust.
There is too much food, and no one left over
to eat up all the weird abundance.