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Anne Sexton’s Life
Anne Gray Harvey was born in Newton, Massachusetts in November 1928. She was the daughter of Ralph Harvey, who was a successful businessman specialized in wool manufacturing. Her mother was known as Mary Gray Staples. Anne was brought up in a comfortable middle-class atmosphere in Weston, Massachusetts. Though raised in a middle-class environment, Anne was never comfortable with the life that was prescribed for her. In most cases, this is said to have been due to her father’s alcoholic nature. Her mother, on the other hand, had her literary ambitions frustrated by the life o the family. Therefore, Anne sought refuge from her unsettled family in a close relationship she had with her maiden great aunt. Her maiden lived with Anne’s family during her adolescent. Anne’s biographers recount some possible sexual abuses that she experienced while living with her parents. The state of her parents and family made Anne feel like she had been neglected and that she would one day be abandoned. Moreover, her maiden’s later hospitalization traumatized her. This paper seeks to give the detail of Anne Sexton’s life and how her life impacted her style of poetry (Ostriker, 11).
Anne ha a life full of depression and disturbance. She appeared to dislike school, and this is pointed to be as a result of her inability to concentrate in class. In 1945, she was sent to Rogers Hall boarding school where she began her writing of poetry. She described this as finishing School. She concentrated much on her work of poetry. Her daring and beautiful nature attracted a lot of men. When she was 19, she married Alfred Kayo Sexton II despite the fact that she was still engaged with another man at this time. In the years that followed, when Kayo served in Korea, Miss Sexton modeled at Boston’s Hart Agency. Sexton’s infidelities during Kayo’s absence led her into therapy (Pollard, 11).
In 1953, Anne Sexton had her first daughter while her husband took up a job at her father’s business as a traveling salesman. The death of Anne’s beloved maiden in 1954 depressed her enormously. Her depression was heightened by the birth of her second daughter in 1955. Sexton had to head back for therapy. Her depression grew even worse during the following years and in most occasions when her husband was gone, Anne abused the children. Additionally, she had attempted several suicides that led to intermittent institutionalization. However, her parents did not approve of this. Her passion and gift of writing poems also had a chance to grow during this period. Her therapist encouraged her to express her ideas through writing. She got used to writing that she always expressed her confessions and personal life experiences through poems and other forms of writing (Gill, 67).
Sexton became part of several writing groups in Boston where she met other influential writers like Maxine Kumin, George Starbuck, Sylvia Plath as well as Robert Lowell. During this period, poetry began taking a central position in her life. She mastered several formal writing techniques that helped her in gaining wide attention. Her most popular technique was the confessional technique that initially won her a lot of criticism (Gill, 61).
Usually, her work is classified with other great confessional poets like John Berryman, Lowell, Plath, and Snodgrass. Patrician Marx took Sexton through an interview where Sexton described her love for her work and the most influential poets who made her work possible. In the interview, Sexton claimed that she is greatly influenced by Snodgrass’ poem ‘Heart’s Needle.’ She said that the poem greatly changed her and also influenced her style of poetry. Additionally, she said that she had received some critics on her way of writing. Many people had tried talking to her to stop writing about her personal feeling and in a confessional manner. She suggests that many people discouraged her, but she remained firm in what she was doing. However, she saw that Snodgrass was doing exactly what people were telling her to stop doing. Sexton claims that seeing Snodgrass work on such poems sort of gave her permission to keep doing what she had started. Her works after that include poems such as ‘Live or Die,’ ‘All My Pretty Ones,’ ‘Love Poems,’ and her play ‘Mercy Street,’ which won her a handful of prizes (Marx p.1 web).
In 1959, Sexton all of a sudden lost both of her parents. The loss went away with her memory of the difficult experiences she had with her parents. The death of her parents speared to have led to an additional breakdown. During this period, poetry appeared to be the only pillar of stability that Sexton had left. Even though she had made a lot of friends through her work of art, most of her friendship ended up in sexual affairs and this as unsettling. She had to stick to her art of poetry to stabilize again; despite being that she had not had any stable moment in her life. Discord and physical abuses later started to tear her marriage as her Kayo saw that her formerly dependent wife was no becoming a celebrity. There was no time that things went easy on her. It appeared that she was going through one breakdown after another (Gill, 69).
Sexton’s status as a great poet touched the crest with her publication of Love Poems, and off-Broad production of Mercy Street play together with her publication of prose poems in Transformations. Her voice had no become less confessional and now took a new dimension of criticizing the cultural practices. The voice was now inclined to looking outside the poet’s persona for material. She had taken some trips with her husband in 1966, and she had also helped her husband start his own business in 1970 after he had broken away from her father’s corporation. Even though Anne seemed very confident and strong before the public, this was not the case as she was greatly dependent on close friends, therapists as well as constant medication. Her frequent suicide attempts, constant depressive bouts, and unexpected trance state kept members of her family as well as friends watchful. Eventually, in 1973, Sexton demanded a divorce from Kayo and from after that, there was a noticeable decline in her health as depression and alcoholism took the better part of her. She later died in 1974 at the age of 46 (Ostriker, 15).
Sexton’s work received much popularity during her lifetime. Her work made her a recipient of some honors and awards. Some of the greatest awards that she won included the Frost Fellowship, the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, and the Levinson Prizes among many other honors and prizes. Far from her many achievements, there have been a lot of critical discussions that focus on autobiographical constituents found in Anne Sexton’s art. Miss Sexton’s works appear to be a little more than a kind of a dreadfully serious and resolutely outspoken soap-opera. However, her canniness about the influence of fiction, use of imagination and fact and poem as a fundamental performance mean that there are no simple equations that can be drawn between life and art as well as poem and poet. In most cases, her works are misread and taken to be of as much of her works are poems and not memoirs or biographical as they seem. Anne Sexton also clarified this in most of her discussion forums (Alkalay-Gut, 64).
In conclusion, it is clear that Anne Sexton had no peaceful moment at any stage of her life. Most of her experiences were filled with grief and discomfort. It all began with the abuse she was subjected to during her childhood. The abuses later affected her schooling; next was an enormous depression from the death of her beloved maiden. The depression was made worse by the rapid succession of her two daughters. She also suffered a breakdown after the unexpected death of her parents. Her unsettling marriage that later led to divorce also had some emotional impact on her life. Despite the fact that her works were just fiction, art and the work of poem, it is clear that the misfortunes in her life must have also contributed to her confessional voice in her poems. She attempted a series of suicides that also explain the difficulties she experienced in her lifetime. Her style of work must have been shaped by the misfortunes and challenges she experienced.
Alkalay-Gut, Karen. “The Dream Life Of Ms. Dog: Anne Sexton’s Revolutionary Use Of Pop Culture.” College Literature 32.4 (2005): 50-73.
Gill, Jo. “Narcissism In Anne Sexton’s Early Poetry.” Twentieth Century Literature 50.1 (2004): 59-87.
Marx, Patricia “Interview with Anne Sexton.” N.p., n.d Web http:// www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/anne-sexton 17th November 2015
Ostriker, Alicia “That Story: Anne Sexton And Her Transformations”. www.jastor.org. The American Poetry Review Vol 11, No. 4 (1982) pp 11-16
POLLARD, CLARE. “Her Kind: Anne Sexton, The Cold War And The Idea Of The Housewife.” Critical Quarterly 48.3 (2006): 1-24.