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Selected Poems

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,324 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
This selection, which is drawn from Anne Sexton's ten published volumes of poems as well as from representative early and last work, is an ideal introduction to a great American poet.
Paperback, 266 pages
Published June 20th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1988)
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Jun 12, 2013 Mcatania21 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
According to Webb’s definition, a poet's voice consists of four major, mutually- influencing components: diction, subject matter, temperament, and style of thought.

Anne Sexton’s writing style is brutally honest, even desperate at times. She seems to be writing poetry from a confessional standpoint, but also one of psychoanalysis, writing poetry is also a way of trying to cure her own madness, but as I read, I wonder if her words exacerbate her illness? Suicide for her is a deep “desire,” even a
Sep 05, 2010 Mike rated it really liked it
i saw death's face and blushed
John Orman
Jul 13, 2012 John Orman rated it really liked it
Before Ms. Sexton committed suicide in 1974, she left quite a legacy of poetry. She was a rarity in the literary field--a popular poet in the 1960's and 1970's. She is described as one of the 20th century's most original religious poets.

I especially liked this excerpt from Anne's poem "In Excelsis" describing her experience "confronting ocean" at the beach:

here where the abyss
throws itself on the sand
blow by blow
over and over
and we stand on the shore
loving its pulse
as it swallows the stars
and ha
Feb 16, 2010 Kirsten rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who like confessional poetry, lyric poetry, accessible poetry.
Dear Anne Sexton,

Thank you for your muscular rhythms, your anger, your narratives, your clear-eyed and unromantic views of mothering and sex and familial wounds. Your poems aren't always consistent, but your persona is consistently fascinating. Above all, it seems sincere. Thank you for your uncomfortable confessions; your sadness; your unerring descriptive powers. Thank you, too, for your honesty. Especially for that.

This Reader
Althea J.
Jan 02, 2015 Althea J. rated it really liked it
Anne Sexton's poems are windows into who she was. Her poetry was labeled "confessional" which I find a bit condescending as a term, but apt as a description. She lays herself bare, and in doing so, reveals truths of the human experience. At least, the poems that most resonated with me are ones that paint insights into some of my own truths. About the nature of memory and faith, life that is illuminated by death, our capacity to love, about the essence of creativity.

All My Pretty Ones
Menna Kh.
Oct 03, 2011 Menna Kh. rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Confessional poetry at its best.
One can only sympathize with her confessions yet glorify her great sense of ability to weave magic through words.
After reading her poems (or some of them) I felt that she's a friend of mine that I can't have enough of her words.
Amazing book.
Laura Rogalsky
Feb 08, 2014 Laura Rogalsky rated it it was amazing
I was Anne Sexton for a year..
Jul 07, 2014 Clelia rated it really liked it
One of my favorites:

The Starry Night

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die.

It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die:

into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by
Sep 25, 2007 D'Anne rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is a good "intro" book for anyone who wants to read more of Anne Sexton's work. She wrote some amazing stuff, including one of my all time favorite poems, "Letter Written on a Ferry While Crossing Long Island Sound." That poem was published in To Bedlam and Part Way Back which came out in 1960. In 1967 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Live or Die. In my opinion, her work declined pretty steadily after that until her suicide in 1974. In fact, reading this book straight through (it is arranged ...more
Oct 18, 2008 Katie added it
Recommends it for: for those voices that grow louder and louder. Everyone, I suppose.
I'm sort of in the midst of a love affair with Anne Sexton. I've never seen a poet's work change so much through the course of his/her's life. One minute I'm reading something graceful and funny, and then all of a sudden, maybe but five years later in her career, grim and completely hopeless. The beautiful and tragic part of her is how accurate these transitions are in regards to one's own experience, and for me, the genius of Sexton isn't that her poetry is all that compelling (though it's incr ...more
Eve Kay
May 13, 2015 Eve Kay rated it liked it
I guess it didn't help reading Sylvia Plath at the same time as Sexton. I couldn't help comparing the two constantly. Unfortunately for Sexton, Plath prevailed. I think my advice to readers would be not to read this with any other poets, view it from it's own perspectives not from someone else's.
The poems were good, don't get me wrong. They just didn't have the same depth or agony as Plath's. And I think that's what I crave for the most in my poets.
Jan 28, 2016 Devin rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, poetry
Anne Sexton and a ton of sex. (;
The collection of poems From Transformations (1971) are my favorite.
Jay Moran
Sep 03, 2015 Jay Moran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
After gobbling up everything there was to do with Sylvia Plath during my college years, I found myself searching for other writers who she knew or who inspired her own writing, such as Dylan Thomas (whom she very much admired) and, of course, Anne Sexton. Her poetry hits a tender, sore part of your soul, striking tirelessly, and this collection published by Virago will always be important to me as I can remember vividly carrying this book home with me on the bus, dunking in and out of the poems, ...more
Nov 04, 2010 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-10
I Remember

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began
to snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color—no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of June and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I rememb
Jan 10, 2011 Katherine rated it really liked it
The confessional school of poetry gets a bad rap. Most poets openly deride it thinking it unsophisticated and formally uninteresting. It is (in my opinion) essentially a reaction to modernism in American poetry. It isn't sculptural or remote and that is part of its allure. Anne Sexton isn't as well known as Robert Lowell or Sylvia Plath, but that does not mean her work is any less relevant. Sexton's poems are intense, dark, and well crafted.They are manically beautiful. Even if you hate the conf ...more
Aug 28, 2010 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I haven't read Sexton (except for the anthologized poems) until now. I found myself thinking about Plath a lot, especially when Sexton had poems about suicide using images from the Holocaust or father poems. Sexton's use of form seems different, though (can't put my finger on why), and her later poems have a sort of ... maturity that I guess Plath's didn't get the chance to have. After reading its brief selections, I wanted to read one of her last collections, "The Awful Rowing T ...more
Christopher Sanderson
Jul 25, 2014 Christopher Sanderson rated it really liked it
Top Drawer Stuff, even a bit of Top Shelf Stuff

May 11, 2016 Deft rated it it was ok
Not my style, however, I did like a few of the poems in there, namely "The Fury of Guitars and Sopranos" and "Just Once."
Josie Talbert
I don't like poetry books very much because there is no story line to the whole book. Its just a bunch of random poems and I don't really find them interesting. However, some of these poems were interesting and some were very depressing so I got through this book pretty fast. I abandoned it because I didn't have any reason to read further. Since there was no story line there was no reason to read further because I wasn't interested in reading any more than I needed to.
Jul 05, 2012 Erika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Favorite Poems: "Some Foreign Letters", "Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward", "The lost Ingrediant", "All My Pretty Ones", "The Starry Night", "The Abortion", "The Black Art", "Pain for a Daughter", "The Silence", "From 'The Furies'", "From 'O Ye Tongues'", "The Earth", "Small Wire", "From 'Scorpio, Bad Spider, Die: The Horoscope Poem'"
Oct 05, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it
On my second time through this volume, I find myself wishing I could have been there at one of her live readings...
"...And I/ see you as a young girl in a good world still,/ writing three generations before mine. I try/ to reach into your page and breathe it back.../ but life is a trick, life is a kitten in a sack."
Aug 25, 2007 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Sexton is a powerhouse of rich and deep thoughts and feelings. Her poems are mostly lovely and always evocative. There's a lot of pain here, but also plenty of light and sweet memories. Pay close attention to the rhyme schemes--I've never seen anyone do rhyme so deftly I don't notice it.
May 06, 2007 angela rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: you got fire in your belly?
i fucking love this woman. there are times i fear for my future children.. that i may bite their little cherub heads away from their fat necks and eat their insides. but as any good mother would, i'd surely sing to them as sweetly possible before their greasy eye lights went out.
Feb 09, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I love it. Very Inspiring and thought provoking. Many of them prompted me to pick up my pen and write. Not poetry, but prose. I think it is a must read for female writers and I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys poetry. Sylvia is still my favorite female Poet though.
lee lee
Jan 19, 2008 lee lee rated it really liked it
many people say sexton is not a good as poet as plath; but i really like her work. too much to write here...i'm planning on writing a critical essay about either her self-portrait poems or her poems about grief. if i ever do, i will post in in the "my writing" section. :)
Aug 09, 2010 Cari rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2010
Hit or miss for me. Never found any of her poems to be bad, just meh. Some were amazing and took my breath away; others made my eyes glaze over while my mind wandered. Despite skimming a few, quite a few more have the page corners turned down for future re-reading.
Apr 06, 2013 Esther rated it liked it
Probably not the wisest idea to be dipping into this at the same time as reading Jeanette Winterson's memoir about a dysfunctional childhood. The Double Image is powerful and the more personal poems are the ones I found the most interesting.
Bryce Emley
Sep 27, 2010 Bryce Emley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was a loose 4. some of the poems i thought were kind of bad, but that may be because i'm not smart enough to get them. otherwise there's enough brilliant stuff to even it out to four stars on some guy's Goodreads.
Nov 24, 2011 Olivia rated it it was ok
Some of her work is nice. It's okay when you get past the fact that she comes off a cocky, soulless bitch. I wouldn't read this on my own. She had a place in the era she wrote in, but that place is gone.
Jun 12, 2009 Alton rated it really liked it
Got this book and after reading it went out and got her collected works-that is the better purchase though this one is strong in offering an introductory look at her work. You won't be disappointed.
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  • The Blue Estuaries
  • Adrienne Rich's Poetry and Prose
  • Collected Sonnets
  • Selected Poems and Three Plays
  • What We Carry
  • Contemporary American Poetry
  • Crossing the Water
  • The Selected Poems
  • Red Suitcase
  • Eight American Poets: An Anthology
  • Five Decades: Poems 1925-1970 (Neruda, Pablo) (English and Spanish Edition)
  • The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms
  • The City in Which I Love You
  • Selected Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • The Best of It: New and Selected Poems
  • Migration: New and Selected Poems
  • Selected Poems II: 1976 - 1986
Anne Sexton once told a journalist that her fans thought she got better, but actually, she just became a poet. These words are characteristic of a talented poet that received therapy for years, but committed suicide in spite of this. The poetry fed her art, but it also imprisoned her in a way.

Her parents didn’t expect much of her academically, and after completing her schooling at Rogers Hall, sh
More about Anne Sexton...

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“Just once I knew what life was for.” 14 likes
“It was as if a morning-glory had bloomed in her throat, and all that blue and small pollen ate into my heart, violent and religious” 9 likes
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