She was born Anne Gray Harvey in Newton Massachusetts, on 9 November 1928.
The third child in her family, her father owned a profitable wool garnetting business,
which became quite profitable during the second world war. Anne lived a fairly uneventful
life in the suburbs of Boston. Her best friend was her great-aunt Anna Ladd Dingley ("Nana"),
who lived with the family
until Anne was 13, when she went mad, and was placed in a nursing home.
When Anne was 19 she eloped with
Alfred Muller Sexton II, who was in the navy during the Korean War. When the war ended, Alfred came
home and started working in Anne's fathers shop, and the couple had two daughters, Linda Gray, in 1953,
and Joyce Ladd in 1955.
After the birth of their second child, Anne began receiving psychiatric counseling for "severe anxiety",
and her therapist suggested she take up writing as a form of therapy. She was 28 when she began writing,
and by the time she was 32, her first book, To Bedlam and Part Way Back was published. She continued
her writing, receiving honorary doctorates for her poetry, and winning a Pulitzer prize.
Despite all the
commotion surrounding her work, she was still struggling with her own personal demons, which manifested
themselves in the form of addiction, to sleeping pills and alcohol, which had corroded her ability to make informed
and rational judgments. She continually maintained a sense of sadness
and dread, which greatly plagued her daily life. She had attempted to commit suicide, and had failed,
requiring occasional institutionalization. These experiences often prompting her to write even more
intensely. However, by 1974, writing no longer held the same therapeutic value, and fearful that she was
losing her creativity, she killed herself by way of carbon monoxide poisoning, one month before her
forty sixth birthday.
Anne's Sexton is often credited with the development of the confessionalist style.
This refers to a style of writing which she pioneered drawing heavily
on personal experience and psychological analysis. She has a grasp of words, and the ability to create
simple yet powerful phrases, which even Shakespeare would have to appreciate. Her poems often deal with
such subjects previously neglected by the poetic establishment at the time, which have since become the
backbone for every angsty wannabe teen-poet out there. When reading her work, one cannot escape the
feeling that they are looking in on someone else's life, which in fact they are. I feel that by being a man,
I can never truly comprehend many of the thoughts and ideas which she is attempting to communicate. Her
use of language is often shockingly blunt, yet perfectly poignant. While this may seem to be difficult
reading, it is quite accessable, which ensures it's growing popularity, even thirty years after her death.
Here is a short list of all the books published during her lifetime. As with most artists, many posthumous
collections have been published, but no one can truly say whether that is what Anne would have wanted, so for
the sake of argument, I am only including the ones she knew of.