The audience at poet Mary Sexson’s reading on Sunday evening was small but appreciative. Sexson — who was accidentally introduced as the late Anne Sexton — was the featured reader at “Evening with the Muse,” a monthly event sponsored by the Writers’ Center of Indiana (812 East 67th Street). I first heard Sexson read at Book Mamas (9 Johnson Avenue) and definitely wanted to hear more of her work. She writes in a style that’s warm and comforting and just, well, yummy.
Sexson invoked a palette of colors when reading “Painter’s Secret,” an homage to NUVO Managing Editor Jim Poyser in his previous incarnation as a house painter. I imagined a half-finished room awash in dropcloths and splatters while she pondered the writing ideas that Poyser must have scratched onto the walls with pencil, the same that were covered by plum and mustard paint. She shared poems written on vacation while relaxing near a lake, what it was like to tackle linear equations at middle age (a necessity for her work as a teacher who didn’t have to take math in college), and read from a trilogy of poems about the shockwaves that went through her family after her brother’s suicide. Turns of phrase like “…this grief that bursts the spirit’s sleep” made visual that which she experienced as a young girl. I could see the muted colors of a living room with the curtains drawn and Sexson standing over the shadow of her mother, crying for her son. Perhaps it was that young girl’s need that made the poems Sexson wrote as a young mother and, later, a new grandmother even more profound. In “Being Your Mother,” she talked about breastfeeding her newborn during a storm: “I rocked you right there under a breaking sky.” In “Tender and Close,” she sits with her daughter and the first grandchild outside a coffeehouse and says she has “unbound her love again as deep as the first time.” The crowd sighed and smiled. It was bliss.
Sexson is the author of 103 in the Light, Selected Poems 1996-2000, which was published in 2004 by Restoration Press. Contact her via her Facebook page for information about upcoming appearances.