I remember when I was in high school a good friend of mine introduced me to the singer Vanessa Daou. Daou’s first album “Zipless” incorproates Erica Jong’s poetry with music. The hit song off of “Zipless” is Sunday Afternoons. I love this song I recall playing the song over, and over, and over, and over, again. Vanessa went on to explore other musical sounds such as smooth jazz, trip hop, electronica on other albums.
The first time I was introduced to “Anne Sexton” was a song on “Zipless” called “Dear Anne Sexton”. “Dear Anne Sexton” is actually a poem Erica Jong wrote about her friend. I kept on wondering as I listened to “Dear Anne Sexton” over and over again who was Anne Sexton? Why did Erica Jong decide to write a poem about her? I think the poem is a tribute to her. I remember visiting the public library and researching Anne Sexton because I wanted to know more about her. I began reading the volume of poetry by Sexton called “To Bedlam And Part Way Back” immersing myself into Sexton’s world. I also read another volume of poetry by Sexton called “Love Poems”. Anne Sexton was born in the year 1928 in Newton Massachusetts. Sexton had a history of depression for most of her life but she found solace through writing.
I definitely find internal peace when I have something interesting to write about. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I identify with Sexton? I only tend to write my poetry when I am depressed. Isn’t that strange? Anyhow, when I write poems I tend to be confessional. I cannot write about a flower, or a bug, or a plant. I cannot just “write” a poem. Something in my life has to push me or even force me to write poetry. I have to have conviction when I write poetry there is no other way for me to write poems. Now of course, I know I can improve my poetry I will definitely admit that. Perhaps I am afraid to write poetry? I get insecure and I wonder is my poetry any good? I don’t know these thoughts race through my mind. I know other poets can just “write” a poem at any moment with free will but I cannot. I never write my poetry that way. I usually grab a piece of paper sit down and I think about what I want to write about.
I usually just write a quick first rough draft. After that I will rewrite the poem over and over. I usually get my good friend to listen to my poems and he will tell me if he likes it or not. Its so funny because my friend will be silent and then he will say “oh Orville this is really good or oh this can be improved to or oh this sucks”. I really value his opinion so much because he’s honest with me about my work. I can pretty brutal and extremely critical about myself its one of my major flaws.
Most of the poetry I write is autobiographical I’m not going to lie about that. I hate when writers say “oh my work isn’t autobiographical or it doesn’t have any autobiographical elements.” Its like give me a break. Perhaps this is true but I think with poetry the poet is “closer” to the “material” then say when a writer writes a novel. I think poetry is one of the most “real” forms of writing because the poet is trying to “send” a message to the “reader” and its up to the reader to discern what the poet is trying to say. In some ways I feel poetry is one of the most honest forms of writing even more honest then the autobiography or the memoir. A poem is like a picture at first it is a blank canvas that needs to painted in, coloured with the essence of the poet’s life experiences. I think that’s one of the fun parts about poetry there are so many interpretations to a poem.
I think when when I write I take my life experiences and in some way it can become a sentence, a phrase, or paragraph in a poem. Of course, I also write poems that are pure fiction but in my first poetry collection “You Don’t Know Me” most of the poems were mostly autobiographical. I mean why should I lie to readers about that? Its pretty obvious to anyone that bothers to read “You Don’t Know Me” that this volume deals with a lot of painful experiences I had in my life when I was younger. Even though “You Don’t Know Me” is out of print now I wonder if people still read it? Well that’s another blog entry isn’t it?
I gained a lot of appreciation for Anne Sexton because of her fearlessness. Sexton challenged the American literary industry in the sense she brought the issues of gender to the masses. Sexton was indeed very popular in her lifetime in North America and in the United Kingdom. I really feel a connection to Erica Jong’s poem about the poet “Anne Sexton”. I don’t think Anne Sexton gets the credit she deserves.
Everyone talks about Sylvia Plath she definitely is considered more “famous” then Anne Sexton. I wonder why Plath was more “famous”? I don’t get it? I never felt a connection to Plath although she definitely was a solid poet. I remember when I was a kid I loved reading Emily Dickinson’s poetry a lot. I always felt I had a connection to Anne Sexton’s poetry I just loved the way Sexton used language. Sexton’s poetry in my mind had much more “urgency” and power.
Erica Jong even uses the line “Live or Die” in her poem “Dear Anne Sexton”. Anyone that has read Anne Sexton’s poetry knows that Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for her powerful confessional poetry collection “Live or Die”. If you ever get the chance read “Live or Die” its such a great read. Sexton is a confessional poet the emotion, passion, frustration, and anger, from her poetry moves me. Its sad that Anne Sexton is not respected as a “premier” American female poet as Plath. Sexton was more controversial she wrote about abortion, depression, suicide, death, menstruation, and other topics in the 1950s and 1960s.
Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath were actually “friends” there have been rumors about the “nature” of their friendship may have had an undercurrent of lesbianism but perhaps that’s just mythology? There is no “proof” of a “lesbian relationship” between Plath and Sexton even though the rumour still exists after all these years.The truth is though Sexton and Plath did meet at a poetry workshop in Boston in the 1950s and became friends. After Plath died Anne Sexton even wrote a poem about Plath.
Another poetry collection by Anne Sexton that I love is called “Transformations” in this volume Sexton takes classic fairy tales and puts her own “twist” on them. “Transformations” is a very interesting read. Sexton committed suicide in the year 1974 but she will never be forgotten. If you ever get a chance go to the library and read Anne Sexton’s poetry you will shocked by the incredible power, imagery, sadness, and honesty of her poems.