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Transcript of Anne Sexton
Rapunzel Anne Sexton Historical Background Critical Reception
Both canonical and feminist critics disliked and despised it
The audience felt uncomfortable After the WWII, during the 1950s and 1960s many women entered the labor force.
Inspiration from The Civil Rights movement.
National Organization for women.
Equal Right Amendment (ERA). Anne Sexton, also known as Anne Gray Harvey was born on November 9, in Massachusetts.
At the age of 17 , she was sent to Rogers Hall (prep. School) in Lowell.
She continued her education , in the Garland School, in Boston.There she met her Husband Alfred Muller Sexton II.
Back to Massachusetts: Harvey Agency.
1953 & 1955: Linda Gray Sexton, Joyce Ladd Sexton.
1956:Hospitalization: First suicide attempt.
Dr. Martin Orne: Writing poetry.
Second Attempt in 1957.
Enrollment in Robert Lowell’s graduate writing seminar.
In 1974, Sexton committed suicide by way of carbon monoxide poisoning Anne Sexton's Life Confessional Poets It emerged in the United States in the 1950s & 1960s.
Autobiographical poems and exploration of taboo themes.
Topics: mental illness, sexuality & suicide.
Main authors and works:
Robert Lowell: Life’s Studies.
Sylvia Plath: Ariel.
John Berryman: The Dream songs.
Anne Sexton:To Bedlam and Part Way Back
W.D.Snodgrass: Heart’s Needle. Poetry & Prose
To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960).
The Starry Night (1961).
All My Pretty Ones (1962).
Live or Die (1966) – Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1967.
Love Poems (1969).
Mercy Street, a 2-act play performed at the American Place Theatre (1969).
Transformations (1971) .
The Book of Folly (1972).
The Death Notebooks (1974).
The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975; posthumous).
45 Mercy Street (1976; posthumous).
Anne Sexton: A Self Portrait in Letters, edited by Linda Gray Sexton and Lois.
Ames (1977; posthumous).
Words for Dr. Y. (1978; posthumous).
No Evil Star: Selected Essays, Interviews and Prose, edited by Steven E. Colburn (1985; posthumous).
Children's books: all co-written with Maxine Kumin
Eggs of Things (1963) .
More Eggs of Things (1964).
Joey and the Birthday Present (1974) .
The Wizard's Tears (1975). Works Critical Approaches To Bedlam and Part way Back:
James Dickey: 'the poems fail to do their subject the kind of justice which I should like to see done.... As they are they lack concentration, and above all the profound, individual linguistic suggestibility and accuracy that poems must have to be good.'
Melvin Maddocks: 'Mrs. Sexton's remarkable first book of poems has the personal urgency of a first novel. It is full of the exact flavors of places and peoples remembered, familiar patterns of life recalled and painstakingly puzzled over.... A reader finally judges Mrs. Sexton's success by the extraordinary sense of first-hand experience he too has been enabled to feel.
Gail Pool: 'a rich medium for her colorful imagery, a distance from her characters which allowed wit, an eerie realm where she had always been her sharpest, and the structure she needed and so often had difficulty imposing on her own work.'
Louis Coxe : 'a growth of the poet's mind and strength.' The Frost Fellowship to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference (1959)
The Radcliffe Institute Fellowship (1961)
The Levinson Prize (1962)The American Academy of Arts and Letters traveling fellowship (1963)
Pulitzer Prize: Live or Die (1966)The Shelley Memorial Prize (1967) Awards O Sylvia, Sylvia,
with a dead box of stones and spoons,
with two children, two meteors She committed suicide leaving
wandering loose in a tiny playroom, both of her children motherless
with your mouth into the sheet,
into the roofbeam, into the dumb prayer,
(Sylvia, Sylvia Anguish for a lost friend
where did you go
after you wrote me They were close friends and
from Devonshire wrote each other when they couldn't meet
about raising potatoes
and keeping bees?) what did you stand by,
just how did you lie down into?
Thief she feels Plath stole her moment
how did you crawl into,
crawl down alone
into the death I wanted so badly and for so long,
the death we said we both outgrew,
the one we wore on our skinny breasts,
the one we talked of so often each time
we downed three extra dry martinis in Boston, They went together to university
the death that talked of analysts and cures,
the death that talked like brides with plots,
the death we drank to, it was a way to escape despair (blissful oblivion)
the motives and the quiet deed?
ride in cabs,
yes death again,
that ride home
with our boy.) O Sylvia, I remember the sleepy drummer DEATH as their child, their companion (very intimate image)
who beat on our eyes with an old story,
how we wanted to let him come
like a sadist or a New York fairy
to do his job,
a necessity, a window in a wall or a crib,
and since that time he waited
under our heart, our cupboard,
and I see now that we store him up
year after year, old suicides Old attempts until they succeeded
and I know at the news of your death
a terrible taste for it, like salt, Depressed and disappointed
And now, Sylvia,
with death again,
that ride home
with our boy.) And I say only
with my arms stretched out into that stone place, Plath’s gravestone
what is your death
but an old belonging, her poems are full of the sensation
a mole that fell out of her will to commit suicide
of one of your poems?
while the moon's bad,
and the king's gone,
and the queen's at her wit's end
the bar fly ought to sing!)
O tiny mother,
O funny duchess!
O blonde thing! DESPAIR CRIES! Transformations: a controversial work “Whereas the Grimms frequently focus on their heroines’ feelings (...) Sexton, consistent with her overarching conception of her characters as commodities, concentrates instead on their market value.” (Leventen) Sexton's perception of Brothers Grimm's character
Did she fail? Sexton’s contemporary references have been considered
superb and sophisticated by some
“only cute” by others
The most praised and criticised element of her work has been the depiction of the “middle-aged witch.”
What feminists might not understand when the collection was published was maybe the irony in these verses Sylvia's Death A woman
who loves a woman
is forever young.
and the student
feed off each other.
Many a girl
had an old aunt
who locked her in the study
to keep the boys away.
They would play rummy
or lie on the couch
and touch and touch.
Old breast against young breast... Let your dress fall down your shoulder,
come touch a copy of you
for I am at the mercy of rain,
for I have left the three Christs of Ypsilanti
for I have left the long naps of Ann Arbor
and the church spires have turned to stumps.
The sea bangs into my cloister
for the politicians are dying,
and dying so hold me, my young dear,
hold me... The yellow rose will turn to cinder
and New York City will fall in
before we are done so hold me,
my young dear, hold me.
Put your pale arms around my neck.
Let me hold your heart like a flower
lest it bloom and collapse.
Give me your skin
as sheer as a cobweb,
let me open it up
and listen in and scoop out the dark.
Give me your nether lips
all puffy with their art
and I will give you angel fire in return. They touch their delicate watches
one at a time.
They dance to the lute
two at a time.
They are as tender as bog moss.
They play mother-me-do
who loves a woman
is forever young. We are two clouds
glistening in the bottle glass.
We are two birds
washing in the same mirror.
We were fair game
but we have kept out of the cesspool.
We are strong.
We are the good ones.
Do not discover us
for we lie together all in green
like pond weeds.
Hold me, my young dear, hold me. Once there was a witch's garden
more beautiful than Eve's
with carrots growing like little fish,
with many tomatoes rich as frogs,
onions as ingrown as hearts,
the squash singing like a dolphin
and one patch given over wholly to magic –
rampion, a kind of salad root
a kind of harebell more potent than penicillin,
growing leaf by leaf, skin by skin,
as rapt and as fluid as Isadoran Duncan.
However the witch's garden was kept locked
and each day a woman who was with child
looked upon the rampion wildly,
fancying that she would die Years later a prince came by
and heard Rapunzel singing her loneliness.
That song pierced his heart like a valentine
but he could find no way to get to her.
Like a chameleon he hid himself among the trees
and watched the witch ascend the swinging hair.
The next day he himself called out:
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,
and thus they met and he declared his love.
What is this beast, she thought,
with muscles on his arms
like a bag of snakes?
What is this moss on his legs? They lived happily as you might expect
proving that mother-me-do
can be outgrown,
just as the fish on Friday,
just as a tricycle.
The world, some say,
is made up of couples.
A rose must have a stem.
As for Mother Gothel,
her heart shrank to the size of a pin,
never again to say: Hold me, my young dear,
and only as she dreamed of the yellow hair
did moonlight sift into her mouth. Rapunzel What prickly plant grows on his cheeks?
What is this voice as deep as a dog?
Yet he dazzled her with his answers.
Yet he dazzled her with his dancing stick.
They lay together upon the yellowy threads,
swimming through them
like minnows through kelp
and they sang out benedictions like the Pope. MARTÍN GONZÁLEZ, M., DISCURSIVIDAD SEXUAL Y PODER DISCIPLINARIO: Una Visión Foucaltiana en la Obra de Tres Poetas Norteamericanas. (2003) Universidad de La Laguna. Servicio de Publicaciones. La Laguna. Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
WAGNER-MARTIN, L. et alii. CRITICAL ESSAYS ON ANNE SEXTON (1989) G.K. Hall. Boston, Massachussets.
HARRISON, J., “The Gift of Madness” Available from: http://www.nwc.cc.wy.us/waw/essays/Essay3.pdf [Accessed 29 November 2012]
“Sylvia's Death: the Inspiration of Anne Sexton's Poetry.” (2011) 5 February. Available from: http://ijustalittlegirldotcom.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/sylvia%E2%80%99s-death-the-inspiration-of-anne-sexton%E2%80%99s-poetry/ [Accessed 29 November 2012]
MARTÍN GONZÁLEZ, M., “Fairy Tales Revisited and Transformed: Anne Sexton's Critique of Social(ized) Femininity” (1999) Universidad de La Laguna. Servicio de Publicaciones. Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Available from: http://dspace.uah.es/dspace/bitstream/handle/10017/5023/Fairy%20Tales%20Revisited%20and%20Transformed.%20Anne%20Sexton's%20Critique%20of%20Social%20(ized)%20Femininity.pdf?sequence=1 [Accessed 15 November 2012]
ORNE, M. T., “Beyond the Doctor-Patient Relationship: Anne Sexton and her Psychiatrist”. Revista de estudios norteamericanos, n.º 11 (2006), pp. 81-91.
O'NEIL, M., “Sex and Selfhood in the Poetry of Anne Sexton” (1997) Universitat de Lleida. Available from: http://ruc.udc.es/dspace/bitstream/2183/9543/1/CC_27_art_32.pdf [Accessed 2 December 2012]
KAPLAN, C., “Deterritorializations: The Rewriting of Home and Exile in Western Feminist Discourse” No. 6, The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse (Spring, 1987), pp. 187-198
SEXTON, A. TRANSFORMATIONS (1971) Houghton and Mifflin. Boston. Bibliography thank you and have a lovely weekend!