Anne Sexton

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  • Topic: Confessional poetry, Poetry, Anne Sexton
  • Pages : 8 (2598 words )
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  • Published : April 5, 2001
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Anne Sexton believed that the most interesting poetry was written out of personal experience. Everything she had been through, her hospitalization, her affairs, her insanity, the loss of her parents, and great-aunt, gave her things to write about. She uses poetry as one of her outlet. She writes out her problems. Her writing was a part of her therapy. As a child, Anne Sexton had to be the center of attention, "a demanding child" (Self-Portrait in Letter 3). When Anne was younger, she thought of herself as an outcast and unwanted (Hall 3). Anne's great-aunt Nana died in July 1954. She thought the death of Nana was her fault. This was proved in some of the poetry that Anne wrote, "I knew you forever and you were always old, / soft white lady of my heart" (To Bedlam and Part Way Back 13).

Anne met and married Alfred Muller Sexton II in the summer of 1948. The Korean War just started in 1950, and Kayo (Alfred) joined the Naval Reserves. Kayo's boat docked in 1952, and Anne drove to San Francisco to see him. She returned pregnant, and on July 21, 1953 she gave birth to Linda Gray Sexton. The next two years of Anne's life became hard for her. She started to become emotionally unstable. She was hospitalized on and off due to suicide attempts.

August 4, 1955, Joyce Ladd Sexton was born. Anne was not ready to handle the responsibilities of an infant, toddler, husband, and a house. "She checked herself in and out of mental institutions which she called ‘summer hotel', and ‘sealed hotel'" (Hall 6). She became angrier and more depressed. In March 1956, Anne was hospitalized. Linda was sent to Anne's parents and Joyce was sent to Kayo's parents. Anne returned home a few months later, and Joyce stayed at Kayo's parents' house, while Linda came back home. Again, on November 9th 1956, Anne attempted suicide. She then started to see Dr. Martin, who motivated her to start writing poetry.

During these years, Anne worked on her poetry in the hospital, Bedlam, and saw her new psychiatrist on a regular basis. The next two years of her life, Anne became a poet. In the early years of her career, she experienced personal suffering and professional achievements. She often admitted herself to hospitals for depression. Her poems were finally collected and called To Bedlam and Part Way Back. This volume was, as Sexton herself observed, "all about my own madness" (Self-Portrait in Letters 12).

The first poem if To Bedlam and Part Way Back, is "You, Doctor Martin", sets the reader up for the poems to come. It explores the "summer hotel", and explains the routine for the day. "This poem also suggests a way back, or at least part of the way" (Hall 16). You, Doctor Martin, walk

from breakfast to madness. Late August,
I speed through the antiseptic tunnel
where the moving dead still talk
of pushing their bones against the thrust
of cure. And I am queen of this summer hotel
or the laughing bee on a stalk

of death.
(To Bedlam and Part Way Back 3)
The placement of the verb "walk" at the end of the first line, together with the following comparison of "breakfast" with "madness, " suggests both "Doctor Martin's involvement in this scene and his distance from it" (Hall 17). Although not an inmate himself, he had breakfast first, in the "normal" world and then goes to work. The doctor is the one who takes control, who has a viewpoint, who is composed, sane, and in disciplined. The speaker, on the other hand, is portrayed by differences with Doctor Martin. The speaker is not given a name. "Her motion is ‘speeds' a word that connects, by means of internal rhyme with ‘queen' in line six and ‘bee' in line seven, to suggest the brittle meaninglessness of her position in the ‘antiseptic tunnel' among the ‘moving dead'. The end rhymes ‘walk', ‘talk', and ‘stalk' contrast Doctor Martin's purposeful action (‘walk') with the lassitude and immobility of the patients (‘talk') and with the frenetic but...
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