Poets in the Asylum: The Poets of McLean Hospital

On February 12, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times


I am glad that my proposal to the Mass. Poetry Festival has been accepted. Here is the description of the panel blow – hope you, dear readers, will be able to attend the Mass. Poetry Festival in Salem, Mass. this May!

This panel will present during the Mass. Poetry Festival May  May 2 to 4, 2014

(L to R) Anne Sexton,  Sylvia Plath

(L to R) Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath

Robert Lowell

Robert Lowell








This panel will discuss three noted McLean Hospital associated poets: Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath. All three of these Confessional  poets were psychiatric patients at one time at McLean. Lowell wrote his  canonical poem “Waking in the Blue,” about his experiences at McLean on  Bowditch Hall. Sexton led poetry groups there and was once hospitalized  briefly at McLean; Plath was hospitalized at the hospital and her novel The Bell Jar was based on her experiences during her tenure there.

McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Mass. has been declared a  national literary landmark, because of the  many creative geniuses  afflicted by mental illness that have been treated on its wards. The  panel will discuss each of these poets, ((Lowell, Plath and Sexton)  their experiences as patients, how their experience is reflected in  their work, and how and what they managed to create with such a heavy  burden of psychiatric illness.

Panel members will include Lois Ames author of the biographical note to  The Bell Jar and Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters,  Kathleen Spivack author of  With Robert Lowell and His Circle… and Bob Clawson–confidante to Sexton and manager of her folk/rock band Anne Sexton and Her Kind.

The moderator will be Doug Holder, a poet, counselor and, author of the poetry collection:  From the Back Bay to the Back Ward… Poems of Boston and Just Beyond  and poetry group leader at McLean Hospital since 1982.



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