Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton Poems

Anne Sexton was a well-loved confessional poet who won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1967. The winning collection, Live or Die, is commonly considered to be her best. Her poetry engages with themes of depression, relationships, and suicide and is regularly read alongside her fellow confessional poets Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell. Read more about Anne Sexton.


by Anne Sexton

‘Rowing’ by Anne Sexton is a moving and unforgettable poem about depression. It was written two years before Sexton took her life in 1974.

'Rowing' is a classic example of Sexton's confessional style, often addressing difficult subjects like mental illness, sexuality, and suicide. Her poetry is known for its frankness and emotional honesty and has significantly influenced American poetry.

A story, a story!

(Let it go. Let it come.)

I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender

into this world.

First came the crib

Red Roses

by Anne Sexton

‘Red Roses’ by Anne Sexton is a story of child abuse told by a narrator, but with the vernacular, that represents the emotions and thoughts of the child undergoing the abuse.

This poem by Anne Sexton is considered by many to be a powerful and haunting example of her work, showcasing her characteristic frank and direct style. The poem deals with themes of childhood trauma, familial love, and the lasting impact of abuse, demonstrating Sexton's ability to explore complex emotions in a raw and honest way.

Tommy is three and when he's bad

his mother dances with him.

She puts on the record,

"Red Roses for a Blue Lady"

In Celebration of My Uterus

by Anne Sexton

‘In Celebration of My Uterus’ by Anne Sexton is an uplifting poem about the meaning of womanhood. The poem explores Sexton’s perspective on feminine identity.

This is one of Sexton's unique poems due to its celebratory nature. Considering the poet usually wrote sad poems, this poem highlights a rare change in writing style and tone. It also represents a happy moment for Anne Sexton; she battled with her mental health at the time.

Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

and of the soul of the woman I am

and of the central creature and its delight


Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward

by Anne Sexton

‘Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward’ showcases the heartbreaking moment a mother is separated from her child as she is too unwell.

This poem is typical of Sexton insofar as it engages with some of the themes which defined her career, including motherhood and mental health. It is also typical of her deeply personal and confessional style.

Child, the current of your breath is six days long.

You lie, a small knuckle on my white bed;

lie, fisted like a snail, so small and strong

Pain for a Daughter

by Anne Sexton

‘Pain for a Daughter’ by Anne Sexton is about a mother’s internal conversations while witnessing her daughter’s metamorphosis into a young adult.

Anne Sexton is considered to be one of the most important and influential poets of the 20th century. Her poems are known for their raw honesty, their exploration of difficult topics, and the use of vivid imagery and symbolism. In comparison to her other poems, 'Pain for a Daughter' is a more personal and intimate work. Sexton often wrote about her own experiences as a mother, and this poem is no exception.

Blind with love, my daughter

has cried nightly for horses,

those long-necked marchers and churners

that she has mastered, any and all...

Explore more poems from Anne Sexton

Her Kind

by Anne Sexton

‘Her Kind’ by Anne Sexton is a thought-provoking poem in which a woman discusses and celebrates her individuality and all the things that set her apart from others.

The Firebombers

by Anne Sexton

‘The Firebombers’ by Anne Sexton is an unforgettable poem. In it, the speaker addresses America and the murders the country commits. This includes the deaths of women and children.

The Moss of His Skin

by Anne Sexton

‘The Moss of His Skin’ by Anne Sexton is an unforgettable poem about a young girl who is buried next to her father.

The Starry Night

by Anne Sexton

‘The Starry Night’ by Anne Sexton is an ekphrastic that explores Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. It delves into the emotions that a speaker interprets in the painted elements.

The Truth the Dead Know

by Anne Sexton

‘The Truth the Dead Know’ by Anne Sexton is an emotional poem that speaks about traditions and attitudes around death, as well as Sexton’s response to loss in her own life.

The Witch’s Life

by Anne Sexton

‘The Witch’s Life’ is a poem about understanding the process of aging and becoming someone that you never expected to in your youth.

Wanting to Die

by Anne Sexton

‘Wanting to Die’ by Anne Sexton is a poem about the poet’s desire to take her own life. It was written close to ten years before she committed suicide. 

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