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Praise for Riding with Anne Sexton

“In Jen Rouse’s Riding with Anne Sexton, the struggle to mend is not separated from the urge to break; things, houses, a heart, a body, a mind, a spirit, a poem. In many ways the poet is living down to her wounded word-sister, not up. Yet in refusing to either glorify her own wounds or to make a total heroine of her double, Rouse takes Sexton (and herself) to task, opening up a dialogue between them like so many stitches, the blood spilled here is not mere metaphor alone. Like Jacob wrestling with his angel, Rouse is in a love-hate combat with Sexton and the precarious inheritance her suicide implies. What does it mean to survive another ‘us’? To ingest a body of pain-work without disappearing inside of someone else’s fate, to map on one’s own skin the kindred bramble-trail of another, and in time to shed that skin until it is one’s own that comes through the fire. To move beyond mere survival the poet opens her heart to breaking, finding that light, even in mental anguish, has a way of moving in between the darkest of spaces.” –James Diaz, author of This Someone I Call Stranger

Riding with Anne Sexton is part love letter, part elegy, and wholly an examination of the creative self through the trope of the suicidal woman poet. Rouse’s Sexton is no delicate, doomed butterfly, but a bold moth soaked in bourbon and swagger. Both serious and at times joyfully comic, this collection examines the muse as both spark and all-consuming fire, offering both inspiration and endless frustration. –Kristy Bowen, dancing girl press

After Sylvia Plath committed suicide in 1963, Anne Sexton penned the poem “Sylvia’s Death.” In it, she wrote: Thief!— / How did you crawl into, / crawl down alone / into the death I wanted so badly and for so long. For years, I remembered it wrong; remembered someone telling me she’d actually said: “That bitch. Her death should have been mine.” I felt that way reading the poems in Riding with Anne Sexton—they should have been mine. They are at once painfully personal and weirdly universal, or at least, universal for anyone who has ever been half in love with easeful death, anyone who has made art from pain, anyone who has been fiercely alive even in the midst of all that. Jen Rouse has given the madness-muse a name. Her name is Anne. Her name is Jen. Amen. –Jessie Lynn McMains, Bone & Ink Press


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