On Anne Sexton: Tennessee Williams, Marian Seldes, and Marlon Brando
She walked--erect and proud--into the wild and dark water of the writer's imagination every day, threw up the words, and waited for them to fall in a pattern that made some sense, some connection. In this role as writer, she was bolder than I ever was or could be. She told me to look for, to find, to believe that there was God in the machine that was the typewriter. Sanity, such as it is, rests in the use of that machine, and the talent that is poured into it. She was fearless as a writer, but paralyzed with the big fear of life and what it presented, delivered, insisted upon. When the fear became too much, she walked--erect and proud--into that garage and that car and took the final Eucharist, the final fuck-you to fear. Was she wrong? Was she reckless? Could she have been helped? Who are we to say? She was a genius and a friend. A poet in a world that calls the erratically cogent poetic and gifted. She swam in the worst waters and gave us art. Suicide, I am loath to admit, may be an act of art--not merely the petulance the prim among us would like it to appear.
She told me I had walked in her shoes: I had entered her death. And then I made a gift to her of ballet slippers, because she had not brought the correct shoes to walk the sidewalks of New York. And so we were connected by our feet, our voyages. She had the most beautiful gaze--intense but feeling. I felt some sadness from her, but I always believed she would triumph over it, but I always believe--perhaps foolishly--that talent heals things, repairs people. She worked so intently and happily on her one play [Mercy Street], which I was able to walk, to live through. She was so sweet and gifted, and it breaks my heart--should break everyone's heart--that the gift wasn't strong enough to make the life bearable.
Raw and mean, by which I mean that the sympathy-free approach to the writing was mean--there was no coddling: She and the reader were plunged into the words, the feeling, the lesson immediately. A life shouldn't end in such a violent suicide, but the work that preceded her self-murder--that is how we should live and how we share: Bold and pure and utterly true. But what is the price? There are prices on everything--the cheap and the easy; the glittery and the fun; the bold and the brilliant. But our budgets are different, and the withdrawal can sometimes be fatal.
© 2015 James Grissom