And the answer: Anne Sexton.
Published in 1960, Sexton wrote this deeply personal book about her life experiences, including her asylum stay at the St. Mary of Bethlehem Hospital in London. Colloquially called "Bedlam," any asylum became known as bedlam and the word’s meaning extended to include any sort of noisy chaos. Today, the hospital has moved and changed its name to Bethlem Royal Hospital. Despite its dark past, it is now a modern psychiatric institution.
One of the most popular poets of mid-20th century America, Anne Sexton was recognized for her confessional, deeply raw texts that spared no emotional intensity in a changing American landscape. After working as a model and librarian, the inspiration behind many of her most famous works arose when Sexton began suffering from postpartum depression after the birth of her first child. The struggle resulted in her first stay at a psychiatric hospital, where she met the therapist that would encourage her to begin writing. Ultimately, Sexton found writing to be a profound outlet for her struggles. Sexton joined writing groups in Boston, forming relationships with other writers such as Maxine Kumin, Robert Lowell, George Starbuck, and Sylvia Plath.
Sexton began publishing her works in the early 1960s. To Bedlam and Part Way Back was published in 1960, and received immediate praise for its intimate yet raw portrayal of her mental breakdown. Sexton’s third book of poems, Live or Die (1966), won the Pulitzer Prize, and was followed by several other notable collections.
At the time of her death at age 46, Sexton’s work was enormously popular. Sexton was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Frost Fellowship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, the Levinson Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters traveling fellowship, the Shelley Memorial Prize, and an invitation to give the Morris Gray reading at Harvard. Learn more about the life and legacy of Anne Sexton here.