poem index


Anne Sexton

1928-1974 , Newton , MA , United States
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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


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)


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

by this poet


Stylishly, in the white season,
we come here wearing awkward logs
on our feet, to skate on icebergs,
to ride pulleys into the sky
and ride the sky down.

We ride the sky down,
our voices falling back behind us,
unraveling like smooth threads.
Say, I am the air I break; or say

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
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