Saturday, April 27, 2019

A to Z: Letters to Dead Writers: Anne Sexton

 This month I'm writing one post for each letter of the alphabet, all on the theme of "Letters to Dead Writers." You can see my theme reveal post here and learn more about the blogging challenge here.

Today's writer is Anne Sexton. I'm cheating a little, using her for X since she has an X in her name, but I don't have a favorite writer whose name begins with X, so here we go!

Dear Ms. Sexton,

 What a voice!

When people talk about a whiskey and cigarettes voice, they mean you, I think, whether we're literally listening to a recording of you reciting your poetry, or reading it for ourselves on the page.

It's scratchy and hard-edged either way, sounding as if there had been a lot of shouting to get to where we are now.

Some people praised your work for its confessional nature, others use the very same words to dismiss it. But "confessional" is just the right word.

Reading your work gives a feeling like someone is sharing a secret with you, something not normally said aloud, something subversive and strange and fascinating.

 You weren't a good person. After your suicide, the sexual abuse of your daughter was revealed. It gave me a strange feeling when I heard about it, as it often does when you learn that someone you admire has done something that isn't admirable.

It brought up that whole art/artist controversy. Can I still admire the work, when I know something ugly about the creator? My answer, is yes, I kind of can. Art after all isn't necessarily about what is comfortable and easy. Sometimes, it's about confronting uncomfortable mixtures of emotions and conflicting beliefs.

And you Ms. Sexton, if nothing else, were certainly all about ambiguity and contradictions.

Thanks for disturbing my complacency,


  1. I really enjoy your theme. That is a tough question, if you can enjoy the works of an author while loosing respect for them. That's a tough one. The movie industry is dealing with that too. Suppose everywhere is.

    J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

  2. Excellent choice for your X letter. And a very valid, thought-provoking question.