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Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters Paperback – October 1, 2004

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Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters + The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton + Anne Sexton: A Biography
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Linda Sexton, Anne Sexton's elder daughter and literary executor, adds a new introduction to this collection of the poet's letters first published in 1977. PW called the original edition, "An arresting, disturbing portrait of a gifted, unstable, death-obsessed writer who never took that giant step from childhood to maturity." Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Anne Sexton (1928-1974), the author of ten collections of poems, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1967.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618492429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618492428
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By sweetmolly on March 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Art of Self-Exposure
Anne Sexton (1928-1974) showed the best of herself in letters. To quote Donald Hall she was a `soul-flasher.' She was passionately engaged in living and tormented into dying. Her flight through life was one of breathtaking bravery in the face of crippling odds. The letters date from 1944 when she was sixteen, through 1974 a few days before her death. Full credit should go to the editors, Linda Gray Sexton, daughter of Ann, and Lois Ames, Ann's closest friend. The commentary is sensitive, knowledgeable and readable. The necessary biographical linkage is there.
There have always been unfortunate attempts to link Ann Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Their similarities are their age, their sex, their birthplace in the Northeastern United States, and their self-inflicted deaths. And there the similarity ends. Ann was a fragile child who emerged a tormented woman. She was creatively brilliant in a very natural sense; yet she worked feverishly all her life to improve every word she wrote. She once said, "I am tearing at the stars." Ann enjoyed a large circle of devoted friends and repaid their devotion in kind. She was supportive and free with advice to younger struggling poets when she could barely survive her own despair. Ann was a naturally beautiful woman who seemed completely unaware or disinterested in her own breathtaking countenance.
I am astounded at how helpless she became at the end of her life. I truly do not comprehend how her friends and family could bear her onslaughts of misery and self-paralysis. They must have loved her very much. These letters are appealing and a pleasure to read. She was a wordsmith as well as an incredible poet.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By My Inner Chick on November 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
I love reading other people's letters. It's a little like catching them undressing! ... Making one feel a little naughty for watching.
Ann's letters are quite revealing, refreshing, honest, as if she is talking to you directly. The misspelled words and puntuation errors just add to the honesty of the words...especially in the beginning of the book. The way Anne jumps from here to there... the same way a person's thoughts or ideas would. Anne writes her letters like this!
Can you believe Anne Sexton got a C in Engish class w/ little effort? Just goes to show you, the genius many of us may hold inside. But throughout the letters, Anne continually second guesses herself, continually craves validity about her writing..."Is this any good?"
She and Sylvia Plath have much in common and discuss their suicide attempts as if it is a common thing to discuss. "How many times have you tried to kill yourself?" Sounds like a poet to me!
I so wanted Anne to be happy, to feel satisfyed, to be content with her MANY accomplishments, but the mental illness would not allow her this luxury.
Anne wrote letters to many people and made them fall in love with her..."I love you." she told many of them. "I don't know what I would do without you." She even wrote beautiful letters to a monk who was, after a while, willing to leave his Monk-hood. "Oh no!" Anne wrote back. "This love affair can only be in letters!" Yes, what a perfect distance, Anne.
One fan wrote about his love for Anne and her poetry. "I am only a housewife!" She wrote back. Did she really see herself this way? Oh, Anne!
Anne said..."Poetry is the opposite of Suicide."
WOW!
And when she finally stopped writing it, she killed herself once again. This time for real.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TorridlyBoredShopper VINE VOICE on July 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
When I first began exploring poetry as a pre-teen, trying to go beyond the rhyming and beyond the few things we see in our burst toward "Education," I ran across the works of Anne Sexton and immediately fell in love with them. They were hopeful and hopeless all at once, loving and filled with dismay sometimes on the same page. As I learned more about the author from a scattering of books, I saw how much of herself she put into her writing because she was tormented in so many ways, too, and that this wasn't a love of writing that powered her onward. It was the need to let things go so she could continue living - in a very real physical sense. The failures on the marital front, the challenges that she found in motherhood, the way she found herself struggling with something that culminated with her writing at the start and breaking at the end - it was all there and I really didn't understand that until I read books like A Self-Portrait in Letters. That's possibly one of the things I liked about her more than most poets as well - Anne Sexton was really struggling when she found herself and the painful Muse she used to write. If followed through, you can see the desperation in the motif of work she constructed, and you can see where she feel too far to be salvaged and ultimately ended her life in October of 1974.

This book isn't a book of poems and doesn't contain anything like that at all inside. It is instead an intimate glimpse of her as she wrote fellow writers and people she loved, trying to figure out everything besides the pen. It shows how she felt about writing sometimes and how she felt about losing sometimes and, ultimately, it showed how she felt about the divorce that would consume her life and the years off she found and the things that drove her to kill herself.
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