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Baker's Dozen

A Life Turning Pages: Robert Forster's Favourite Books
Aug Stone , April 8th, 2020 09:22

The Go-Betweens founder takes Aug Stone through his 'eclectic even to himself' reading tastes


Anne Sexton - The Complete Poems
I hadn't been a great reader of poetry before this. I had read Sylvia Plath and I knew the history of 20th century poetry so I knew who these people were. This came out in the late 90s when I was living in Highbury Grange in Islington. Again, this is a London book for me. On Upper Street in Islington, about a 15-minute walk from where I was living, there was a famous book shop called Sister Write and I used to go in there and get books. I knew who Anne Sexton was and I got this collected poems and it just completely knocked me out. It's like what we talking about with On The Road and The Catcher In The Rye, it was just powerful. There was no 'you have to know your Greek mythology to read this, you've got to know the history of 16th Century poetry to get my references'. There's no academia in it. It's just like, BANG! And her life - she was a Boston housewife and a model, and she had a nervous breakdown in this American suburban life in the mid-50s. She went to her psychologist who suggested she write something down as therapy, and she starts writing these poems in the late 50s that are just raw. She was a friend of Sylvia Plath. Plath gets it off Sexton, know what I mean? Sexton's the original. Robert Lowell ripped it off Sexton. And in the first two years she writes all of her best poetry. It's just got this power, this cut-through, this energy. It's really wild. Someone like William Burroughs wouldn't even get close to this. It's powerful life and death stuff. I read it in my late 20s and didn't think poetry could be like this. It's very very wild, very romantic. It's something that you read when you're younger, like Plath. You read it in your 20s and early 30s, which is how old they were when they were writing this, and it fits perfectly. I still enjoy it. I still love it, I can see all of it. But I don't relate to it the way I did when I was that age, when it was like fireworks. And a biography of her came out around that time which I read, I read her letters. I had a few years when I was reading her all the time.