Anne Sexton is one of the most charged and memorable personalities in American literature. Her image as a taboo-breaking, glamorous New England housewife-turned-poet has made her a cultural icon for two generations in the United States and beyond. Her image has led many conservative critics to dismiss much of her work as extreme and sensationalistic while overlooking Sexton's incomparable flashes of imagery and insight. At the other extreme, her image has drawn many readers who admittedly read little poetry before Sexton's, expanding the audience for American poetry. In between these two extremes fall readers who, for many reasons, see Anne Sexton as a key player in the emergence at mid-century of a more personal and direct type of poetry, often referred to as confessional poetry, a term coined in 1959 by the critic M. L. Rosenthal in his review of Robert Lowell's groundbreaking collection of personal poetry, Life Studies (1959).Less
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