Anne Sexton perceived Icarus as the crazy poet, unbound by the limitations of prudence and propriety, boldly transcending all restrictions, gloriously plummeting into the sea, consumed by his burning creativity:
“…who cares that he fell back to the sea ?
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down
While his sensible daddy goes straight into town”
As attractive as Icarus’ rise towards the sun might seem, crashing nips his poetic career in the bud. Not willing to compromise the combustible ecstasy of unbound creation with the pragmatism of a sober innovation created within reasonable limits, Icarus remains an unfulfilled creative potential.
In her first meeting with Sexton, Anne Wilder identified the hunger and fear imbedded in Sexton’s creative urge, and observed her desperate need of a safety net: “It was like Icarus plummeting not to destruction in the sea, but into a haven, my lap…[my] heart”, she wrote to Sexton in August 1963. Sexton agreed heartily, “to be caught is not to fall”, she responded. To be caught means to fall into safety rather than into ruin, to hold the rope at both ends: recklessly ignoring danger, transgressing limitations, while simultaneously enjoying the safeguard of a protector, an Icarus catcher.
Anne Sexton, “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph”.
Diane Wood Middlebrook, Anne Sexton: A Biography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991).