Anne Sexton Rare Video Footage. Sexton suffered from severe mental illness for much of her life. Her first manic episode took place in 1954. After a second breakdown in 1955 she met Dr Martin Orne, who was to become her long-term therapist at the Glenside Hospital. He encouraged her to take up poetry.
The first poetry workshop she attended was led by John Holmes. She felt great trepidation about registering for the class, asking a friend to make the phone call and accompany her to the first session. After the workshop Sexton experienced remarkably quick success with her poetry; her poems were accepted by The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and the Saturday Review. Sexton later studied with Robert Lowell at Boston University alongside distinguished poets Sylvia Plath and George Starbuck.
Sexton’s poetic life was further encouraged by her mentor W.D. Snodgrass, whom she met at the Antioch Writer’s Conference in 1957. His poem “Heart’s Needle” proved inspirational for her in its theme of separation from his three-year-old daughter. She first read the poem at a time when her own young daughter was living with Sexton’s mother-in-law. She, in turn, wrote “The Double Image”, a poem which explores the multi-generational relationship between mother and daughter. Sexton began writing letters to Snodgrass and they became friends.
While working with John Holmes, Sexton encountered Maxine Kumin. They became good friends and remained so for the rest of Sexton’s life. Kumin and Sexton rigorously critiqued each other’s work and wrote four children’s books together. In the late 1960s the manic elements of Sexton’s illness began to affect her career, though she still wrote and published work and gave readings of her poetry. She also collaborated with musicians, forming a jazz-rock group called “Her Kind” that added music to her poetry. Her play “Mercy Street” was produced in 1969 after several years of revisions. 
Within twelve years of writing her first sonnet, she was one of the most honored poets in America: a Pulitzer Prize winner, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature [and] the first female member of the Harvard chapter of Phi Beta Kappa
0 thoughts on “Anne Sexton”
Wonderful little doc! I like the multimedia approach of throwing in a little nostalgic tid-bit from the Lexicon of POETRY! It helps make us aware of the history and progression of poetry as well as demonstrating some spoken word prowess.
I have ‘An Awful Rowing Towards God’, by the way, and it was very eye-opening in regards to the confessional style and namely openess and honesty of material in expression.
Anne herself seems like one of those poets who could speak life into her poetry as an excellent and animated orator–seeing this visually and hearing the literal voice of the poet adds whole new dimensions!
Only thing by her that I own is her children’s book “Joey and the Birthday Present”. Most of her poetry I have read is on the internet. I hadn’t thought to seek out video readings. I will be doing that for many of my favorite poets now.
I like the video links, editor. Nice addition.