“Who the Hell Cares About Anne Sexton’s Grandmother?”
When we read a piece of fiction, we don’t assume—or at least we know we’re not supposed to assume—it’s a faithful recreation of an event in the author’s life. But what about when we read a poem?
For Poetry, Kathleen Rooney writes about realizing Brian Russell’s poems about a wife’s terminal illness were not actually about the real-life Mrs. Russell, and what effect that had on the way she understood the work.
She uses that experience as a springboard to question her assumptions about the emotional and imaginative value of truth in poetry by all kinds of writers, from Wilfred Owen to Anne Sexton.