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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sylvia Plath 1932 - 1963

Today is the anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death in 1963. It’s hard for me to understand that all these years later in some quarters the debate still rages as to the significance she plays in modern poetry.

One may or may not particularly like Plath’s poetry, but what poet’s work is universally appreciated. Many people cut their poetic teeth on Plath’s poems. I was one who was captivated by the powerful genius that propelled her language. It is not surprising to me that her poetry was particularly meaningful to many women, but it did surprise me that it could and did transcend gender in my case. While Plath was not the singular poet who inspired my interest in poetry to the extent that I too wanted to be a wordsmith, but she was certainly one of the cornerstones in building up that interest. I may not have found others to help cultivate that interest were it not for Plath.


I realize that one opinion far from constitutes a universal truth, but there is significant agreement among many that was a major force in poetry. I realize that many detractors maintain that Plath’s status is due in large part to her almost mythical life & death with emphasis on the latter. Obviously no one can ascertain the amount of attention drawn to Plath solely on the bases of her infamous death. What I don’t often hear from her detractors is specific arguments about her poetic form, syntax, subjects, devises, etc. Oh, a few will offer critical judgment of the confessional style that many believe her poetry tends to fall into, but those individuals will typically use that argument across the board for the likes of Berryman, Sexton, Lowell, Snodgrass, Starbuck, Snodgrass, et al.


It is hard to fault Plath’s craft; her ability to formulate and process language onto a page with a minimum of words and a maximum of authority over those words. Her work has earned her a spot among the major poets of our time. Her death is simply a sad footnote.


The Collected Poems (P.S.)  
Ariel: The Restored Edition
Crossing the Water
Collected Children's Stories (Faber Children's Classics)
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