What fascinates me about Anne Sexton is how normal her life appeared as a young housewife and mother in the 1950s. Except she was not ordinary by any means. She was institutionalized for mental illness for a spell -- shock therapy and all that. Whatever happened in there, it unleashed such a deep dark vein of personal memory and trauma it burst into her work and quickly won her a Pulitzer Prize -- just ten years after she learned how to write poetry. Her timing was impeccable. Confessional Poetry was going mainstream, her blank verse bespoke with a voice of a strong confident liberated woman who knew what she was talking about, and she learned with the best; her New England circle of poets included Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, two major American poets in their own right.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Second Stanza)
Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
a beauty in her own right,
though eaten, of course, by age,
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.
Beauty is a simple passion,
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred-
something like the weather forecast-
a mirror that proclaimed
the one beauty of the land.
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison.
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