On this day, in 1974, confessional poet Anne Sexton, took her own life by asphyxiating herself with carbon monoxide in her garage. She was 45 years old.
Many of you will already know that Anne Sexton’s life was haunted by abuse she suffered as a child, at the hands of her parents. She was committed to mental institutions, and underwent many years of intense therapy to treat her tendencies. It is said she abused her children and struggled with bipolar disorder, nervous breakdowns and alcoholism. If you would like more information on her personal life, we recommend her biography by Diane Middlebrook.
Sexton’s first book of poetry, To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960), examines her mental breakdowns and subsequent recoveries. It was her confessional intensity that brought her to the forefront of the literary world, earning her a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for Live or Die. Our favorite collection of poems by Sexton is undoubtedly All My Pretty Ones, published in 1962. It’s beautifully lyrical and just so… honest.
Several volumes of poetry were also published posthumously. Among them, our favorites are 45 Mercy Street (1976) and Words for Dr. Y: Uncollected Poems with Three Stories (1978), which are both edited by her daughter, Linda Gray Sexton.
Sexton utilized her knowledge of the human condition; pain, joy… vulnerability. Her metaphors were harsh at times, and the unexpected twists and turns of her verse either made readers love her or hate her. I think it’s pretty clear where we stand ;) What made her a great writer was her brutal honesty.
Today… we encourage you to confess. Write about a secret you dare not expose… write about some innermost thought you’ve had, no matter how taboo. Expose yourself through the written word and see what happens. You may surprise yourself.
Also, please consider making a donation to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, to help prevent another brilliant artist, friend or loved one from hurting themselves in the future.And if you feel yourself struggling with similar issues as Ms. Sexton, we encourage you to please seek the help you need… and continue writing. Writing Saves.
Write in in peace, Ms. Sexton.
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