Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Sylvia Plath - 50 Years After Her Death
She's still going strong.
From a piece in the Independent...
Plath is a defining voice in 20th-century poetry. For women poets she was also a turning-point, a new vocal role model, but purely as poet she is part of the tradition for the whole poetic community. Most of today's leading poets, men included, would be different if she hadn't written. Each in a different way would be thinner, and have less sense of linguistic possibility – of where a voice can go, freedom, blaze and reach - without her.
Some react against her work, as you do. That is how tradition works, but they still have to reckon with her and are enriched by doing so. Her greatest work has offered one touchstone for how words behave in a poem: the tone, pitch and dramatic burn; freedom, balance, and that exhilarating delight in language. In the image of her poem "Words", the linguistic units in her work are axes, "After whose stroke the word rings./ And the echoes!/ Echoes travelling/ Off from the centre like horses.// The sap/ Wells like tears, like the/ Water striving/ To re-establish its mirror/ Over the rock…"
But Plath had a complicated, painful and much mythologised life, and this life can film the poems over with peripherals.