Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Legacy of Sylvia

It was 75 years ago today (27 October 1932) that Sylvia Plath was born to Otto Emil Plath and Aurelia Schober Plath in Boston, Massachusetts.

The 75 year figure seem almost unreal to me considering how significant and fresh her poetry remains today. Perhaps it is the manner in which the feminist movement attached itself to her life, death and poetry itself that has made her seem yet a contemporary figure even 44 years after her early death.

Her legacy is often debated. Was her story and poetry hijacked by the feminist movement or did she intend her work to be an early voice for feminism? Would she have escaped her tragic death if not for her split with Ted? How would her poetry stand today on its own merit without the notorious suicide in her London flat?

So many questions, so much speculation, but the fact remains that her work is that of a powerful voice in American literature and I cannot but help believe had she lived a normal lifespan she would have produced more work and that even without the attention brought to her in death, her writing would have found its way to the surface and surely have been recognized for what it was.

Her poetry today has admirers and detractors and in both instances I think it is the same powerful and edgy voice that contributes to both positions. Isn't that the thing about good poetry... how it brings out the feeling that get you right in your gut? That passion, be it positive or negative? Unquestionably she is among the great writers of our time, male or female.
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