I live the wrong life for the person I am. —Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton was born on this date (November 9) in 1928; therefore, I thought today a good time to offer for viewing the rare film above of Sexton reading poems, responding to questions, and engaging with family members. In a letter Sexton wrote to Jon Stallworthy on September 24th of 1965, she described her life and the importance of poetry for her:
I am 36, fairly attractive, a mother, two girls are 10 and 12, a husband in the wool business. I live nine miles outside of Boston. I do not live a poet’s life. I look and act like a housewife. My daughter says to her friends “a mother is someone who types all day.” But still I cook. But still my desk is a mess of letters to be answered and poems that want to tear their way out of my soul and onto the typewriter keys. At that point I am a lousy cook, a lousy wife, a lousy mother, because I am too busy wrestling with the poem to remember that I am a normal (?) American housewife.
I led an average childhood of rather well-to-do parents. I did very badly in school because I was (is this an American expression?) too boycrazy to bother. I attended public school (free) until the last two years when I was sent away to boarding school (where there were no boys). At boarding school I spent my time writing to boys . . . (It’s rather dull isn’t it!) At any rate I eloped at nineteen and thought it a great idea. I am still married to the same man, by the way. Still . . . I wish I hadn’t married until 30. I wrote poems, a little in high school, but stopped and didn’t start again until I was 27. I knew nothing about poetry at the time. I had to start from the very beginning. My children were young at the time. I worked like hell, staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning to type out years of bad poems.
My family tree goes back to William Brewster who came over here on the Mayflower. It goes back further to William the Conqueror, to Peter the Cruel, King of Castile, to Sir Edward Neville, who was beheaded in 1538, to Edward the Third who married Phillipa of Hainault, his mistress at age 15.
I live the wrong life for the person I am. I’m tall and thin and that’s all right with me, but my life is square and small and I wish I had a maid but that wouldn’t help. But only important part of the story is that I started to write, and it was a solitary act . . . One might add that interviews and life stories give me the horrors.
—From Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters, edited by Linda Gray Sexton and Lois Ames (Houghton Mifflin, 1977)