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About this poet

Anne Sexton was born Anne Gray Harvey in Newton, Massachusetts, on November 9, 1928. She attended boarding school at Rogers Hall Lowell, Massachusetts, where she first started writing poetry. She attended Garland Junior College for one year and married Alfred Muller Sexton II at age nineteen. Sexton and her husband spent time in San Francisco before moving back to Massachusetts for the birth of their first daughter, Linda Gray Sexton, in 1953.

After her second daughter was born in 1955, Sexton was encouraged by her doctor to pursue an interest in poetry that she had developed in high school. In the fall of 1957, she joined writing groups in Boston that introduced her to many writers such as Maxine Kumin, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath. She published her first two books, To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960) and All My Pretty Ones (1962), with Houghton Mifflin.

In 1965, Sexton was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in London. She then went on to win the 1967 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her third collection, Live or Die (Houghton Mifflin, 1966). In total, Sexton published nine volumes of poetry during her lifetime, including Love Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1969), The Book of Folly (Houghton Mifflin, 1973) and The Awful Rowing Toward God (Houghton Mifflin, 9175). She also authored several children's books with Maxine Kumin.

Sexton received several major literary prizes including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the 1967 Shelley Memorial Prize, the 1962 Levinson Prize, and the Frost Fellowship to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. She taught at Boston University and Colgate University, and died on October 4, 1974, in Weston, Massachusetts. Her papers are collected and housed at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
 


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

To Bedlam and Part Way Back (Houghton Mifflin, 1960)
All My Pretty Ones (Houghton Mifflin, 1962)
Selected Poems (Oxford University Press, 1964)
Live or Die (Houghton Mifflin, 1966)
Love Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1969)
Transformations (Houghton Mifflin, 1971)
The Book of Folly (Houghton Mifflin, 1973)
The Death Notebooks (Houghton Mifflin, 1974)
The Awful Rowing Toward God (Houghton Mifflin, 1975)
45 Mercy Street (Houghton Mifflin, 1976)
Words for Dr. Y.: Uncollected Poems with Three Stories (Houghton Mifflin, 1978)
The Complete Poems 1981 (Houghton Mifflin, 1981)

Prose

Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters(Houghton Mifflin, 1977)
No Evil Star: Selected Essays, Interviews, and Prose (University of Michigan Press, 1985)

Wanting to Die

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.  
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don't always die,
but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!--
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death's a sad Bone; bruised, you'd say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

From The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton. Used with permission.

From The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton. Used with permission.

Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton was born Anne Gray Harvey in Newton, Massachusetts, on November 9, 1928. She recieved the 1967 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for her third collection, Live or Die (Houghton Mifflin, 1966). She taught at Boston University and at Colgate University, and died on October 4, 1974, in Weston, Massachusetts.

by this poet

poem
No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say, 
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a
poem
For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June.  I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the
poem
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them
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