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Gwendolyn Stewart--People, Places, and Politics


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This photograph to me captures Anne's duality, and argues against reducing her to her death.

Cover the top part of the picture; look at the legs tortuously twisted together. It is well known that she made a number of attempts to kill herself. Now cover the bottom half of the photograph, and look at the arms and radiant face. She told me she always felt joyous when she was rescued from those attempts. There was of course no final rescue, but I am not convinced that she "really" meant this suicide attempt, that she would not have welcomed another rescue. -- Gwendolyn Stewart

"The high point of the winter for Sexton was the reading arranged for her at Sanders Theater on 7 March [1974] by the Harvard Literary Club. Since this reading was to serve as the Boston debut of The Death Notebooks, she was ambitious for a big turnout. When she saw the mimeographed flyer -- with a typo in the book title -- produced by the Literary Club, she went into high gear. Bob Clawson now owned an advertising agency, so she hired him to produce a poster, using the photograph by Gwendolyn Stewart she had wanted Houghton Mifflin to print on the dustjacket of The Death Notebooks. This was inserted into both the Harvard Crimson and the Boston Phoenix as a flyer, and was also distributed around greater Boston by a flying wedge of friends. ...

"Sexton paced slowly to the stage with Dan Wakefield. While he made a warm introduction, she stood leaning against the wall behind him, stunning in a black jersey top that wrapped her body and a long black-and-white skirt slit to the knee. (The poster did its work so well that later, people who had been in the audience thought she had been wearing the dress in the photograph, which one person remembered as red.)" -- from ANNE SEXTON, by Diane Wood Middlebrook.

"Another of her [Anne Sexton's] reading outfits is on display in a famous photo by Gwendolyn Stewart that was on the cover of Diane Wood Middlebrook's controversial 1991 biography of Sexton.... [T]he image on the front is so glorious and alive, it reveals a lust for life that makes it perfectly understandable why the book's terrible revelations of character deficiencies ... are delivered in a tone that is sad and loving and forgiving.... The photo is all charisma and charm, the poet is shown twisted into place, her legs tightly crossed, her feet in white shoes with a crisscross buckle, her sleek black-and-white dress aswirl in Matisse-style geometry, bangles spangled down her arms, her hands lively and expressive, as if arguing a point or responding with glee to some juicy gossip, a Salem menthol draped between her fingers." -- from BITCH, by Elizabeth Wurtzel.

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