Anne Sexton, Poet of the Psych Ward

Illustration of Anne Sexton by Shannon Levin
Illustration of Anne Sexton by Shannon Levin

Anne Sexton
(1928–1974)

The poet Anne Sexton’s career was a direct result of her struggles with madness. After having her first child in 1953, Sexton suffered from postpartum depression, which resulted in a subsequent breakdown and stay at a neuropsychiatric hospital. It was during her treatment that a therapist suggested she begin writing as a way to process her thoughts. Her poems about mental illness were assembled in her first book “To Bedlam and Part Way Back,” which was released in 1960. Her experiences defined much of her award-winning work, establishing her as a highly respected confessional poet. However, her career success did not assuage her psychiatric troubles, and she committed suicide in 1974 at the age of 46.

 

Shannon Levin is an illustrator and designer living in St. Louis. She illustrates for projects that elevate the representation of individuals who don’t often get the credit they deserve, with the hope that they help educate and inspire her viewers. She loves to draw funky people doing funky things as well as bright colors and amorphous shapes. @great_sneeze

This feature originally appeared in the Madness issue. Read also about Literature’s Most Famous Madwoman or check out more Women in History.