As much as she modeled herself upon the myth of spontaneous creativity, Sexton was well aware of the unavoidable drudgery of re-writing and revising, the inescapable daedal craftsmanship that gives integrity and order to the topsy-turvy icarian enthusiasm. Icarus’ flight into the sun can be seen as the uninhibited, chaotic stage of creation, a stage Sexton also referred to as “milking of the unconscious”. In this primal phase, the poet turns off the inner daedal-voice that constrains creativity within known boundaries, completely immersing herself in the raw material produced by the foolhardy unconscious: “You have to turn off the little critic while you are beginning a poem so that it doesn’t inhibit you. Then you have to turn it on again when you are revising and refining”.
Practical Daedalus, Sexton’s “little critic”, can be regarded as the phase of aesthetic structuring, the reconstitution of order. Order and chaos are explored and expressed through poetry: “it’s within a woman to create, to make order, [writing poetry] puts things back in place…things are more chaotic, and if I can write a poem, I come into order again…the world is again a little more sensible and real” (interview with Patricia Marx, 1965).
J.D. McClatchy, Anne Sexton: The Artist and Her Critics (Indiana UP, 1978).