Patricia Clarkson's Bookshelf
By Anne Sexton
When you're in college, you go either to Plath or to Sexton. A friend and I would read Sexton for hours. I would always wonder, How does this middle-aged woman understand me? All of this angst? One poem I always go back to is "Praying to Big Jack." It's for her godchild, 6-year-old Ruthie, who has a brain tumor. Big Jack is God, and Sexton writes, "Banish Ruth… / and you banish all the world." It destroys me. That's the power she has over me. Stumbling on a writer when you're young can change the way you think and feel. Anne Sexton has informed my acting in ways I don't always realize. She put me in touch with an emotional life at a young age. She brought things to the surface—my own fears and rants. I feel as though I'm always playing Anne Sexton in one form or another—in Pieces of April, The Station Agent, my Six Feet Under character.