ANNE SEXTON: A Self-Portrait in Letters by Linda Gray & Lois Ames--Eds. Sexton
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ANNE SEXTON: A Self-Portrait in Letters

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Anne Harvey Sexton died by her own hand in 1974, the author of nine successful books of poetry, the recipient of a number of honorary degrees, a brilliant teacher of writing, and the mother-goddess of a devoted cult. Readers of her poetry, mostly ""confessional,"" will be fascinated by the story of the part of her life that didn't get into the books. Blithe Anne, jolly Anne, motherly Anne, and the highly practical Anne who chivied her editors for better publicity, her superiors at Tufts for promotions. We have only her carbons, but her correspondence connects her with a generous segment of the literary world between the late Fifties and the early Seventies. What a lot of warmth, generosity, goodwill she managed to indite and send to her fortunate friends! It is easy and pleasant to be carried away by her fluent charm, but the letters also reveal--and conceal--why she shut down on living. When, after all the attempted suicides, did her seesaw grasp on life begin to over-balance? The loving editors stand so obviously a parti pris that they do not help us to a solution of the sad puzzle. Every childhood blow is one from which ""Anne never recovered."" The death of a loved relative in her late eighties should not be traumatic. Yet, in their view, everything was traumatic for Anne: marriage, childbirth, divorce--which view in no way explains her creativity. . . . What one sees here is the gradual infolding of a would-be outgoing heart. Many correspondents in the earlier years, fewer in the late, especially after she made the disastrous decision to divorce the patient Alfred Muller Sexton II, so appropriately nicknamed ""Kayo."" Two kinds of testimony, then, and which to believe: the poet bitter about unhappy childhood? or the smiling child in the family photograph? The evidence is not all in yet, but this book contains a hearty portion of it, to be read by all lovers of poetry and ali students of the confused, confusing human soul.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1977
ISBN: 0618492429
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin