Anne Sexton: Confessional poetry

Anne Sexton is a confessional poet.

She tells her truth in the fragmentation of the poet, in the fragmentation of modern American life in general after World War II. Themes of divorce,  sexual  infidelity, childhood, neglect, and the mental disorders that follow from deep emotional wounds received early in life.  A confessional poem contains the first-person speaker, I. It is all about I.

Sexton is intrigued by death. Multiple suicide attempts. She carries pills in her handbag just in case. After breaking up with her psychiatrist, Dr Zweizung, with whom she had a love affair, she takes an overdose of pills and is hospitalized for forty-eight hours. She self-medicates with alcohol. Depression, remorse, sleeplessness, paranoia, loneliness.

Her mother dies from breast cancer in March 1959, her father only two months later from a stroke. One year later her father-in-law George Sexton dies in a car accident. The temptation of her own death returns.

‘I’m so fascinated with Sylvia’s death, the idea of dying perfect.’

‘I’m afraid to die. Yet I think it might do a few favors. If I could I’d just die inside, let the heart-soul shrink like a prune, and only to this typewriter, let out the truth. I feel awfully alone - crying in the bathroom so no one need hear - crying over these keys, where they sit as patient as an old granny. Can I save myself? I can try. I can keep right on trying.’

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