Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton (Harvey), 1928–74, American poet, b. Newton, Mass. Educated at Garland Junior College and at Radcliffe, she worked briefly as a fashion model in Boston. Her "confessional poetry" is highly autobiographical, marked by irony and lyrical emotion, and often dwells on themes of madness and death. Her first work, To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960), deals in personal terms with her efforts to retain her sanity. Other works include Selected Poems (1964, 1988), Live or Die (1966; Pulitzer Prize), Love Poems (1969), Transformations (1971), The Book of Folly (1973), The Death Notebooks (1974), the posthumous The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975), and The Complete Poems (1981). Sexton died at 46, an apparent suicide. Her daughter, Linda Gray Sexton, is a novelist and essayist.

See D. W. Middlebrook, Anne Sexton: A Biography (1991); J. D. McClatchy, ed., Anne Sexton, the Artist and Her Critics (1978); L. G. Sexton, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton (1994).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Textual Confessions: Narcissism in Anne Sexton's Early Poetry
Gill, Jo.
Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 50, No. 1, Spring 2004
Anne Sexton-Making More of One's Own Life through the Creation of Metaphor
Kendall, Charity.
Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 1-2, March 2005
Imagining Incest: Sexton, Plath, Rich, and Olds on Life with Daddy
Gale Swiontkowski.
Susquehanna University Press, 2003
New & Selected Essays
Denise Levertov.
New Directions, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "Anne Sexton: Light Up the Cave" begins on p. 186
Rewriting the Word: American Women Writers and the Bible
Amy Benson Brown.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "Much Madness is Divinist Sense: The Biblical Revison of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath"
Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital
Alex Beam.
Public Affairs, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Mad Poets' Society"
Creativity in Context: Update to the Social Psychology of Creativity
Teresa M. Amabile; Mary Ann Collins; Regina Conti; Elise Phillips; Martha Picariello; John Ruscio; Dean Whitney.
Westview Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Anne Sexton: Coping with External Contraints" begins on p. 8
After Frost: An Anthology of Poetry from New England
Henry Lyman.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Whale" by Anne Sexton begins on p. 53
Women, Literature, Criticism
Harry R. Garvin.
Bucknell University Press, 1978
Librarian’s tip: "Politics of Suicide and Survival: The Poetry of Anne Sexton and Adrienne Rich" begins on p. 106
Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale
Catherine Orenstein.
Basic Books, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "The Waiting Wolf: In the Belly of the Beast"
Making Sense of Dying and Death
Andrew Fagan.
Rodopi, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "'Suicides Have a Special Language': Practicing Literary Suicide with Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and John Berryman Clare Emily Clifford" begins on p. 197
Through the Looking Glass: Women and Borderline Personality Disorder
Dana Becker.
Westview, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Borderline Self-Destructiveness and Therapeutic Breakdown"
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