Anne Sexton

Series SUNY Series, Feminist Theory in Education
Author(s) Paula M. Salvio
Publisher State University of New York Press
Published 2007
Pages 151
Price £12.00
ISBN 9780791470985
Reviewed by Mrs Margaret Simms
Review published 28 February 2008

In her search for tactics and strategies for teaching and writing, Paula M. Salvio finds herself haunted by the woman whose life and work she was destined to study. The woman, Anne Sexton, suffered mental illness and addictions on one hand, yet on the other was acclaimed an extraordinary poet and dedicated teacher.

There are many strands to this book ‘Anne Sexton Teacher of Weird Abundance’, inclusive of pedagogical tactics, student-teacher relationships, teaching protocols, non-conformist teaching style, psychoanalytic theory and contemporary schooling; each of these calling for a review of its own. However, this review is confined to the impact of the process of researching and writing the book on the author, as it is this that holds for me the most intrigue.

For a number of years Salvio courageously, and I suspect almost addictively, immersed herself in the life and works of Anne Sexton; involuntarily drawing deep emotional parallels between aspects of her own and her subjects’ lives. With an open heart, Salvio shares striking examples, leaving herself open to prying investigation and intrigue.

“What I could not imagine was how my studies of Anne Sexton would turn me back toward memories of my mother and me.”

The process of the work is reminiscent of my experiential study of Human Relations in Education, where study of self and others drilled holes deep in to my personal and professional façade, before reconstructing and rebuilding a new and much improved model of my Self. Similarly, Paula Salvio’s very core appears to have been so aroused and affected by the other woman that Paula herself has caught the vision of a ‘weird abundance’ of tactics and strategies for teaching and writing.

If such a thing as a continuous conclusion were possible, the effect of Salvio’s study would surely be one such phenomenon. For the purpose of the publication of her book Salvio’s study of Sexton is concluded, however the impact of the arousal and reconstruction of her own philosophy and thought, through the study of Anne Sexton’s tumultuous life and artistic expression of self through her poetry and teaching, will continue to affect Salvio’s life and works. Who then will study Salvio?