This week and next I'm posting a short series of links to classic 20th century poets reading their work aloud. To go back and hear these long-past poets' voices gives us contemporary readers/listeners a bit of insight into the charisma and personality that, along with their writing, played into making these people famous figures in the literary world. Plus, I'm a stickler for the classics.
Anne Sexton was, and still is, my favorite poet. The Awful Rowing Toward God was the first book of poetry I read front to back and it really stuck with me. The first time I heard a recording of her reading her poetry aloud, I got goosebumps all over my body. She has an incredible, chilling voice, a cigarette-husky drawl that accentuates the eeriness of her poems. Listen to her read one of her definitive poems, "Her Kind," originally published in her first collection To Bedlam and Part Way Back in 1960.
Sexton was a histrionic and famously disturbed woman who apparently used to fall into bizarre trances after giving a reading like this. I've read her biography by Diane Middlebrook, which, like many biographies on writers/ musicians/ etc. shed a not-so-pretty light on Sexton. Sexton was suicidal, in and out of hospitals, a distracted mother, unfaithful to her husband, dramatic, selfish, a bit vain and quite bizarre. But a fascinating woman, and a wonderful poet.