- Anne Sexton: 45 Mercy Street
There are many of us who write. They are often for different reasons like informing, persuading, entertaining or just expressing mere feelings or thoughts. That is what poetry is like. It is a type of writing that can be used to describe a vast number of things. Poetry has helped me to express my thoughts and worries to myself, when I cannot express it to others.
Back in high school, I learned about people who used poetry to manage their mental illnesses. They used their condition as a base for creativity in their work, which often served as a coping mechanism. For instance, Anne Sexton, a well known poet in the 1960's, was first advised by her therapist to write poetry after a manic episode.
Sexton was a personal, confessional poet. Her first works were comprised of her psychiatric struggles. In writing groups, she was always told to write about her thoughts and dreams she had.
One of Sexton's poems, "45 Mercy Street," explains her struggles to find peace within herself. She had tried relentlessly to overcome her depression. This excerpt explains how she seems to improve in her health, but it ends up getting worse.
Sexton found solutions to help herself, but they always became futile to her well being.
In an interview, she describes the influence W. D. Snodgrass had on her and her works.
“If anything influenced me it was W. D. Snodgrass’ Heart’s Needle.... It so changed me, and undoubtedly it must have influenced my poetry. At the same time everyone said, ‘You can’t write this way. It’s too personal; it’s confessional; you can’t write this, Anne,’ and everyone was discouraging me. But then I saw Snodgrass doing what I was doing, and it kind of gave me permission.”
I think that Sexton was able to have some sort of freedom through her poetry since she was always entrapped by mental suffering. In a similar way, I use poetry to escape the issues I deal with and the judgement that may come with them. I use it to create my own truth, and that in turn sets me free.
However, poetry does not have to be the only form of writing for self-expression and freedom. Go ahead and write books, short stories, documentaries, biographies and auto biographies. As long as you are able to express what you want to put across, without any bounds, it is all that matters. Writing is not dead!