Anne Sexton and Her Kind Sound Recordings, 1968-1971

The sound archive of the groundbreaking band Anne Sexton and Her Kind, including demo tapes, studio recordings, and live performances
Her Kind Rehearsal. Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin. Papers of Anne Sexton

The Woodberry Poetry Room's collection of Anne Sexton and Her Kind sound recordings features more than twenty distinct recordings by the literary rock ensemble — including some of the only extant tapes of the band's rehearsals, studio sessions, and live performances.

The collection also includes compositions by Anne Sexton, an annotated performance notebook, and administrative files and correspondence related to the band’s formation and evolution. The collection was generously donated to the Poetry Room by Robert Clawson.


Bob Clawson and Anne Sexton
Bob Clawson and Anne Sexton, circa 1967-1968.

Anne Sexton and Her Kind (1968-1971) was a literary rock ensemble featuring the poet Anne Sexton (as lead vocalist and lyricist) and core members Theodore Casher (flute), Bill Davies (keyboards), Steve Rizzo (guitar), and Robert "Bob" Clawson (band manager). During its four years of existence, the Massachusetts-based band performed at a range of concert halls and artistic venues in the Boston area and on campuses nationwide. 

1967: The band’s formation was catalyzed by an innovative poet-in-residence program that writer-educator Bob Clawson initiated at Wayland High School in 1967.

Through a grant from the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, Clawson was able to invite that year's Pulitzer Prize-winner, Anne Sexton, to co-teach his English course. Within months of the first class, one of their students — a football player named Steve Rizzo — shared several musical settings of Sexton’s poems (including “Music Swims Back to Me" and “Ringing the Bells”).

Sexton and Clawson were immediately struck by his arrangements and, together with fellow teacher and pianist Bill Davies, they began to collectively imagine the creation of a band.

1968: By the spring of 1968, rehearsals were well underway, and additional band members were added. According to Kelsey Osgood's "A Band of Her Own," the group was “rounded out" by professional flautist Teddy Casher and “a rotating cast" of drummers (Harvey Simons and Doug Senibaldi) and bass players (Mark Levinson and Hank Hankinson). The band’s primary repertoire featured Sexton’s poems set to a range of musical genres, including country, rock, bebop, jazz, spiritual hymns, and protest folk.

Early rehearsals took place at Clawson’s home in Wayland, Massachusetts, with later rehearsals being held at Sexton’s house in nearby Weston. With the exception of “The Little Peasant” (which was set by Maxine Kumin’s son, Daniel), most melodies were written by Steve Rizzo and arranged by Casher and Davies, with "a great deal of input from the rest of the band."

Anne Sexton print advertisement

Her Kind's first concert took place on July 25, 1968, at Eugene’s II — a Boston bar that served as a fundraiser for Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign. According to Clawson, the filmmaker Fred Wiseman was at that concert, as well as a representative from the DeCordova Museum, who asked them to perform for the DeCordova Festival on September 20, 1968 (the band’s second concert).

1969: In 1969, the same year that Love Poems was published and Mercy Street premiered, the band performed at St. Lawrence College (on March 13) and Jordan Hall/New England Conservatory (on May 24). The Memorial Day performance at Jordan Hall was billed as their “first Boston concert" and boasted an audience of a thousand. In April, the band made its first studio recording at the Fassett Recording Studio in Beacon Hill: this tape was used for radio spots and early publicity. A letter dated June 1969 and subsequent letters to Atlantic Records in 1970 indicate that the band was ultimately hoping to produce a record.

1970: In 1970, the band performed at Albion College, the University of North Dakota, Fargo (May 6, two days after the Kent State massacre), Emmanuel Church/An Evening of Poetry for PAX (June 24), UMass Amherst (July 30), and Boston University (Oct 17). A demo tape was assembled by Bob Clawson (with the assistance of audio engineer David Griesinger) in September 1970. The tape was adapted over the next two years, as new songs were added to their repertoire.

1971: In its final year, the band performed at Springfield College (February 12), Boston University (March 22), and Emmanuel Wheelock College. Additional gigs were offered at Holy Cross College and at the Newport Jazz Festival but Clawson was compelled to turn them down at Sexton's request. Her Kind’s last performance took place at Elmira College (Elmira, NY) on December 6, 1971.

Band Members

All vocals were performed by Anne Sexton, with the exception of “From the Garden” (sung by Steve Rizzo and, later, Hank Hankinson) and “Cripples and Other Stories” (sung by Casher, Clawson, and Sexton). Guitar: Steve Rizzo; Woodwinds (Flute and Clavinet): Ted Casher; Keyboards: Bill Davies; Bass: Mark Levinson and, later, Hank Hankinson (Hankinson replaced Levinson in 1970); Percussion: Harvey Simons and, later, Doug Senibaldi (Senibaldi replaced Simon’s early in the band’s history); and Kazoo: Robert Clawson.

This chronology was compiled by curator Christina Davis, based on archival research, conversations with Bob Clawson, and the On Anne Sexton and Her Kind oral history (2021).

Accessing These Materials

All materials in this collection are available for research in Houghton Library’s reading room.

Playback of the original analog materials is not permitted, without permission of the Poetry Room curator. Digital access copies are available for streaming via the Finding Aid.