The Complete Poems – Anne Sexton’s Words are Magic


Goodreads Synopsis: For Anne Sexton, writing served as both a means of expressing the inner turmoil she experienced for most of her life and as a therapeutic force through which she exorcised her demons. Some of the richest poetic descriptions of depression, anxiety, and desperate hope can be found within Sexton’s work. The Complete Poems, which includes the eight collections published during her life, two posthumously published books, and other poems collected after her death, brings together her remarkable body of work with all of its range of emotion.

With her first collection, the haunting To Bedlam and Part Way Back, Sexton stunned critics with her frank treatment of subjects like masturbation, incest, and abortion, blazing a trail for representations of the body, particularly the female body, in poetry. She documented four years of mental illness in her moving Pulitzer Prize–winning collection Live or Die, and reimagined classic fairy tales as macabre and sardonic poems in Transformations. The Awful Rowing Toward God, the last book finished in her lifetime, is an earnest and affecting meditation on the existence of God. As a whole, The Complete Poems reveals a brilliant yet tormented poet who bared her deepest urges, fears, and desires in order to create extraordinarily striking and enduring art.

Find on Amazon and Goodreads.

Let me start by saying, firstly as this is a kindle edition of a 750 book it took me forever to read.  At times I thought it would never end, not that I wasn’t enjoying myself, it was just a lot of pages. Secondly it’s a good thing it took me so long to read this, because Anne Sexton’s poems aren’t something to be gobbled up on a cozy afternoon.  They are something that requires time to think. I tried to come into this book with no expectations, I had heard a lot about Anne Sexton’s poems but had never read any for myself. I hoped I would like the book.

From poems like That Day: “This is the desk I sit at/and this is the desk where I love you too much.” 

To poems like Flee on Your Donkey: “In here/it’s the same old crowd/the same ruined scene./The alcoholic arrives with his golf club./The suicide arrives with extra pills sewn/into the lining of her dress./The permanent guests have done nothing new./Their faces are still small/like babies with jaundice.

Anne Sexton’s words weave magic. Not in a glittery, fairy-tale way, I mean that she wrote words that give a very vibrant mental image. Her imagery, her phrasing, everything has this unique touch that shows you the world in a way you might not usually see it.  I did very much like this book. I liked her poems, I was moved to tears at points and laughed at others. I would say read this book. Read it slowly. Dissect her words and let her move you.

I was given a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.  I gave it four stars on Goodreads.





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