Anne Sexton

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Anne Sexton

Michealangelo, perhaps the most gifted sculptor and painter of all times, once said that "geniuses stand on the shoulders of other geniuses." As Michelangelo built upon the brilliance of his predecessors, Anne Sexton does the same in her collection of poems entitled Transformations. She renovated fairy tales as told by the Brothers Grimm by adding her own life experiences and view of contemporary culture, hammering away until she built an entirely new art form. Anne Sexton has had a notable effect upon the literary genre of fairy tales through this shocking transformation of classic tales.

Anne Sexton was born in Newton, Massachusetts on November 9, 1928 to Ralph and Mary Gray Staples Harvey. Her life as a child and
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Orne, M.D., Ph.D., her psychologist who encouraged her to write poetry as part of the psychological healing process (Middlebrook xiii-xviii). With this encouragement Anne published her first book of poetry, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, in 1960 (McCartan 2). The book was well received and marked the beginning of her rise to the top. 1967 another major year in Sexton’s career; she won the Pulitzer Prize for Live or Die. Transformations, her book of poetic fairy tales, was published later in 1971. On October 4, 1974, shortly after the release of Transformations, Anne could no longer stand the pressures of her existence and committed suicide.

This biographical information is essential to understanding Anne Sexton’s influence on the fairy tale because her "transformations" of the Grimm Brother’s work rises out of her personal turmoil. Most of Sexton’s works before and after Transformations are of the confessional style, but through her poetic transformations of fairy tales, Sexton gives herself a more discrete outlet for her passions (Ostriker 255). Her biographer Diane Middlebrook notes that "the poems were a way to place her struggles ‘in legend rather than personal history" (37). The intensely metaphorical characters of Sexton’s fairy poetry are one example of this. For instance, Judith the cold and neglectful mother in "Snow White" surely represents Sexton’s own callous mother (Middlebrook 37). Sexton’s father is also recognizable in her work as
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