Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was an American author and poet. Her works include Live or Die (1966) and Love Poems (1969). She won a Pulitzer Prize for Live or Die.
Life and Works
Anne Sexton was born Anne Gray Harvey on November 2, 1928, in Newton, Massachusetts, to Ralph Harvey, a middle-class wool manufacturer, and his wife Mary Gray Staples. As a child, she attended boarding school, and had a physically comfortable life but dangerous relations with her parents. She went to Garland Junior College for one year, married Alfred Muller Sexton, and took a modeling course at the Hart Agency.
Throughout the 1950s, she suffered from depression brought on by the death of her grandmother and her being uncaringly nurtured at a boarding school, at which point her therapist recommended she write poetry. She channeled these emotions which had haunted her since childhood into confessional poetry, which was criticized by her mother, which encouraged her development into a feminist without curing her mental issues. Afraid, she entered a poetry workshop with John Holmes, where she met her friend Maxine Kumin, and her work was immediately acclaimed. She wrote "The Double Image" in response to Snodgrass's "Heart's Needle," which she felt permitted her to write confessional poetry although it was discouraged by her poet friends. Her works continued after her first volume, To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960), a book about her psychiatric struggles, with Love Poems, Live or Die, and a play called Mercy Street (1969). In her 1972 Transformations, she retells Grimm's Fairy Tales, and ends her works in the The Death Notebook and several volumes published after her death. On October 4, 1974, she committed suicide in Weston Massachusetts, as a likely result of her severe untreated mental illness.
- The New York Public Library Student's Desk Reference. Prentice Hall, New York: 1991.