Anne Sexton Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
Childhood And Early Life
The American poet Anne Sexton was born in Newton, Massachusetts on the 9 November 1928 to Ralph Harvey and Mary Gray Staples. She had two older sisters, Jane Elizabeth (b.1923) and Blanche (b.1925).
Her father ran a successful business, and the family had no financial difficulties, but Sexton had a troubled relationship with her father. In Diane Middlebrook's biography of Sexton, she states that he was an alcoholic.(Source: Anne Sexton: A Biography, Diane Wood Middlebrook).
Anne Sexton was a pupil at Rogers Hall, Massachusetts as well as Garland School. As a schoolgirl, she began writing poetry and had a few poems accepted into the school yearbook.
During the 1940s she did a modeling course at Boston’s Hart Agency and found work as a model.
Rise To Fame
In 1957, Anne Sexton joined a poetry workshop at the Boston Centre for Adult Education on the advice of her psychiatrist. She then became active in the literary scene in Boston, meeting up with other writers, including Sylvia Plath, Maxine Kulm, W.D. Snodgrass and John Holmes. She had poems published by The New Yorker and other publications. Her first books of poems To Bedlam and Part Way Back was released in 1960 and received excellent reviews.
Anne Sexton was one of the first of what became known as confessional poets. Other books include All My Pretty Ones (1962); Live or Die (1966); Love Poems (1969); Transformations (1971), The Book of Folly (1972); O Ye Tongues (1973) and The Death Notebooks (1974).
Anne Sexton married Alfred Muller Sexton II in 1948, and the couple had two daughters: Linda Gray Sexton (b.1953) and Joyce Ladd Saxton (b.1955). After both births, Sexton suffered from postpartum depressions which heralded her ongoing battle with bipolar disease. The couple divorced in 1973.
After her first breakdown at age 28, Anne Sexton had many depressive episodes and battled with alcoholism. At one stage, her daughters were cared for by other family members as she found it hard to cope with motherhood.
In 1974, Anne Sexton committed suicide.
Sexton’s daughter Linda Gray Sexton published a memoir Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton (1994) and a followup, Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide (2011).
It was considered controversial when Sexton’s psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Orne, allowed her biographer Diane Middlebrook access to Sexton’s three hundred therapy session tapes while writing Anne Sexton: A Biography, Diane Wood Middlebrook (1991).
Awards And Achievements
Anne Sexton the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Live or Die in 1967. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.