Who Wrote It: Anne Sexton or Sylvia Plath?

These female poets contemporaries are constantly compared, but true fans can distinguish between their prose. Can you?

Who Wrote It: Anne Sexton or Sylvia Plath?

Poet Anne Sexton would have celebrated her 87th birthday today, had she not committed suicide in 1974 at the age of 45. Her tragic end, and her confessional style of poetry, leads to many comparisons to her most infamous contemporary: Sylvia Plath.

In fact, Plath and Sexton knew each other. They were both students in Robert Lowell’s famous poetry seminar at Boston University in 1959, and Sexton would drive Plath (and her friend George Starbuck) over to the Ritz after class where they would drink martinis. Upon Plath’s suicide in 1963, Sexton wrote a poem called “Sylvia’s Death,” in which she remembered their time together.

(In Boston
the dying
ride in cabs,
yes death again,
that ride home
with our boy) . . . 

O tiny mother,
you too!
O funny duchess!
O blonde thing!

But Plath and Sexton had differing approaches to life and poetry. Though both were American, Plath moved to England where she met her husband Ted Hughes, and despite a brief stint back in Boston, remained in England until her death. Sexton lived in the same area of Massachusetts she’d been raised in her entire life. While Plath’s poetry works in a grand, classical style, Sexton’s voice is more casual, unafraid to speak frankly about taboo topics such as abortion, drug addiction, and menstruation. Though both women suffered from depression, only Sexton pursued regular therapy.

Can you tell the difference between these two poets’ voices? Test your knowledge of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath below, and for more reading on Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, be sure to pick up The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton and The Collected Poetry of Sylvia Plath.


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