Mrs. Sexton's body of work evinces a definite progress in personalization. This progress made a giant leap when, in 1971, appeared Transformations, a rich collection of seventeen long poems. Each begins with a contemporary observation or application of the "moral" of some fairy tale, then segues into a contemporary recasting of the fairy tale itself. These "transformations" of Grimm's tales into grim parables for our time are deftly done, and in them Mrs. Sexton continues her practice of transforming the dross of commonplace experience into pure poetic gold—and vice versa, for shocking effect. The ancient is remythologized into the modern…. (pp. 89-90)
By transforming the stories into the language and symbols of our own time, she has managed to offer us understandable images for the world around us. The tales focus on the psychological crises of living, from childhood dependence through adolescent trauma, adult frustrations through the deathbed. (p. 90)
While technically not "confessional" poetry, these verses of Transformations do at times strip the poet bare, as when she uses the wolf's deceptions in "Red Riding Hood" as occasion to reveal that she, too, practices such masquerades:
Quite collected at cocktail parties,
mean while in my head
I'm undergoing open-heart surgery.
In her fifth book then, as in her first, Anne Sexton is domesticating our terrors. With outstanding artistic proficiency, she renders the particular pain of her life into universal truths. (p. 91)
Robert Phillips, "Anne Sexton: The Blooming Mouth and the Bleeding Rose," in his The Confessional Poets (copyright © 1973 by Southern Illinois University Press; reprinted by permission of Southern Illinois University Press), Southern Illinois University Press, 1973, pp. 73-91.