Friday, April 29, 2011

Anne Sexton from Beyond - Part Two in my Dead Poet Mentor Series

This week I've continued to be in communication with my dead poet mentor. Our communication has taken on several forms. The most common has been to speak to me through her poems. Let me explain what this has looked like. As I've read through various of Sexton's works this week some have been worthwhile reads but have not  elicited any remarkable internal reactions. On other occasions however, I've been prompted to consider fresh ideas on which to draw from in writing. I'm not talking about writing on the same subject as the poem in question, but rather drawing upon an image I'm finding within her words or seeing something that has taken me back to some experience of my own from the past that I'm seeing - unfold in some freshly developing language that I believe will carry over at some point into my writing.
Another way that Anne has been communicating with me is through her letters. Anne Sexton, like many poets of this same period was a prolific letter writer.  It's pretty easy to get inside Anne's head in these writings. I say this because these letters leave her quite vulnerable to anyone who would read them.  I've spent a good deal of time and energy studying Sylvia Plath and there is a stark difference between Sexton's letters and those in Plath's published, "Letters Home."

If one compares Sylvia's "Letters Home" and her Journals side-by-side, it becomes clear that what Sylvia was saying to her mother and what she was journaling  were often quite different. If one did not know any better you might even conclude these were not written by the same person.  Plath were out of her way to paint a picture for her mother's benefit that was about controlling the message. Her journals seem on the contrary to be a much more honest assessment of the authentic Plath.  This too is how Anne appears in her letters, authentic to a fault.  I'll have more to say about Anne's letters at a later time, but the point I am making now is they are quite revealing.

The last aspect of Anne's communication is through biographical material.  While Biographers may sometimes extrapolate on certain facts to reach differing conclusions, we can come to learns some things about a person that seem to be indisputable. When we learn some important truths about a person's life - it can help us to understand how these thing come to inform that person's writing.

So you have a bit of the "how" part of of my mentoring under a dead poet. Later in this series I'll talk more in depth about what Anne has actually been conveying to me.

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