Saturday, April 13, 2013

Anne Sexton Spent Her Grant Money on a Swimming Pool: Here's Why

There was some interest yesterday about Anne Sexton spending grant money to put in a swimming pool, so I thought I'd excerpt that part of the book (With Robert Lowell and His Circle, by Kathleen Spivack).  I only have 40 pages left, and I'm really going to be sad when I'm done!

“Anne had used her fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute of Independent Study (given at least partially to women on the basis of need) to build herself an outdoor swimming pool. This fact did not please the worthy ladies of Radcliffe!  Nevertheless, that swimming pool gave Anne a great deal of pleasure, as well as the frequent presence of friends. At the first faintly warmish days of spring, Anne moved her visitors outside under the weak New England sunlight, sheaves of paper around us, books open to thrilling lines of poetry.  It was cold, but we dove into the chilly water, pushing aside the dead leaves and new pollen that floated on the surface.

“I remember swimming nude in the pool, looking at trees, and drinking Anne’s newest drink discovery, Champale, giggling over vague poetic jokes.  Or drying off, sitting in the sun, reading each other’s poems.  Maxine Kumin and her children would arrive.  Maxine dove into the pool, cool, competent, and graceful.  Anne, on Thorzine, would move a bit into the shade.  The phone rang and was dragged outside.  Anne’s children came home from school.  The Dalamation dragged its puppies outside.  Figures were commented on: hips and waists. I had a baby. Lois got her divorce.  Maxine’s daughter entered Radcliffe.  Anne’s children grew up.  Poems were shared and magazines passed around.  We wrote and wrote and read and read and revised and wrote.  We read aloud to each other.  Steam rose from the pool; the light grew thin; the leaves fell.  And we swam until late October…”

I'm going to file that under "Writing Tips"....  Just a thought, new Guggenheim Fellows!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.