Anne Sexton was born Anne Gray Harvey in Newton, Massachusetts in 1928. She married Alfred Muller Sexton II when she was 19. In 1953, she had a daughter. The following year she was diagnosed with postpartum depression and was admitted to Westwood Lodge, a neuropsychiatric hospital to which she would return several times. With the birth of her second daughter in 1955, Sexton relapsed and was hospitalized again. That same year she attempted suicide on her birthday. A doctor encouraged her to continue a pursuit she had enjoyed in high school--writing poetry. Her first book, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, was published in 1960 and was nominated for a National Book Award. In 1967, she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her book Live or Die. She became Colgate University’s Crawshaw Professor of Literature in 1972. She committed suicide two years later. Much of Sexton's work, in which the experience of being a woman featured prominently, was considered quite controversial at the time.
The Truth the Dead Know
For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.
We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.
My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.
And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.