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Recalling a pioneer in poetry

Anne Sexton celebration today

Though a formal celebration of Anne Sexton 's poems and what would've been her 78th year will take place today at the Forest Hills Cemetery , she is often remembered in quieter ways.

Atop the granite ledge of her hillside grave, visitors have placed stones, flowers, pens, and notes for the Newton-born Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who committed suicide in 1974. Cecily Miller , the director of the cemetery educational trust, mentioned seeing an "AA coin" on the Sexton stone recently. "We don't always see her fans," said Miller, "but we have evidence they visit throughout the year."

A less somber procession will gather in the cemetery's Forsyth Chapel this afternoon to hear Sexton's words spoken by friends, including a former student, a lover, and the manager of the rock band that often performed at the stage-frightened poet's readings. The local poets return for their fifth consecutive performance .

"Anne wrote very stimulating poetry," said Suzanne Berger , a Somerville poet and former student of Sexton's at Boston University in the early 1970s. "You don't think of her poems as 30 or 40 years old. They speak to us today."

Berger will play up Sexton's role as teacher in her reading today. "She was very vibrant and very serious inside the classroom. She launched a lot of poets."

"Celebrating Anne Sexton" takes place at 2 p.m. today at the Forsyth Chapel in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. Admission $5. RON FLETCHER

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