A brief change of pace for the blog, Carpebiblio offers a piece on the poet Anne Sexton. She suffered from a series of mental issues resulting in attempted suicides. She was successful on October 4, 1974. Today, doctors would prescribe a medicine cabinet full of drugs, but in 1960, she wrote about her troubles in poetry. She wrote about intimate subjects, her husband, her family, and many dealt with sexual liaisons. Her writing was her cure, she wrote about her depression and struggles with mental illness.
During her life, the expectations and roles of women in the United States evolved. She struggled with being a good wife and mother that cared and nurtured the family, like the world expected of her. When in reality, she wanted a career and independence. Her writings reflect this inner struggle. She wrote about topics pertinent to women such as adultery, menstruation, masturbation, and abortion.
Some of the analyst readings suggest this struggle manifested itself as a sexual hunger. However, her life also corresponds to the invention of the pill, and a sexual revolution in the United States. Today her actions ad writings may not seem as shocking or controversial as they did in the early sixties. They still may not be fully embraced or accepted by society, but they might not be considered as shocking. While her works may have been controversial, she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967.
Sexton builds her collection of poems, Transformations, around the children’s stories of the Brother’s Grimm. She turns the stories into a series of modernized poems looking at the actions of women in society and sex. Among others, she modernizes Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel. You won’t get these confused with the Disney version.
The reader will not confuse Sexton’s collection of Love Poems for an Elizabeth Barrett Browning collection. Instead you will find For My Lover, Returning to his Wife, In Celebration of my Uterus and The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator. In the late sixties, the sexual revolution was in full force, and even polite society talked about subjects once considered taboo.
Not many people read poetry. Their experience with poetry is the lame and tame reading teachers forced them to read in high school. Sexton’s brand of poetry may change your opinion.