Anne Sexton (1928 –1974) was an influential American poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967. She was known for her highly personal poetry, dealing primarily with her long battle with depression, suicidal tendencies and various intimate details of her private life.
Though she was raised in a comfortable middle-class situation in Massachusetts, she was not happy with her life and she suffered from psychological issues.
A difficult marriage deteriorated her mental health. After the birth of her first daughter, she suffered her first breakdown and her depression worsened after the birth of her second daughter in 1955
Several attempts at suicide led to intermittent institutionalization and it was her therapist who encouraged her to write about her thoughts and feelings.
In the late 1960s, having lost both her parents unexpectedly, her mental issues increased and began to affect her career severely.
Poetry seemed the only route to stability, though at times the friendships she made through her art, which led to sexual affairs, were a little unsettling. Her marriage was torn by discord and physical abuse as her husband saw his formerly dependent wife become a celebrity.
However, she continued to write poems and received several major literary prizes
She used to write openly about subjects such as menstruation, abortion, incest, adultery, and drug addiction at a time when none of them were considered proper topics for poetry, which made her a subject of controversy.
Sexton was able to convince her readers that her poems echoed her life and is regarded as the modern model of the confessional poet owing to the intimate and emotional content of her poetry. However, much of what she wrote was in no way autobiographical, despite the sense of reality it had.
She used her knowledge of the human condition–often painful, but sometimes joyous–to create poems meaningful to the mid-century readers who lived daily with similar fears and worries.
A series of volatile sexual affairs further complicated her life which ended tragically at the age of 45. The previous year she had told her husband she wanted a divorce, and, from that time on, a noticeable decline in her health and stability had occurred (loneliness, alcoholism, and depression).
Divorced and living by herself, Sexton was lonely and seemed to be searching for compassion through love affairs. She continued to be in psychotherapy, from which she evidently gained little solace.
On 4 October 1974, she had lunch with a friend, then she returned home, put on her mother’s old fur coat, removed all her rings, poured herself a glass of vodka, locked herself in her garage, and started the engine of her car, ending her life by carbon monoxide poisoning.