Sunday, December 12, 2004


Erica Jong has an interesting essay/review in the NY Times this week. She writes about what Plath meant to her an others when they first read her poems:

The impact is almost unimaginable now. In 1963 we still had a literary culture. Reading poems to oneself was not as rare as it is today (for all the poetry slams and hip-hop). To young women who wrote, this work was galvanizing. Sylvia, whoever she was, had a fully evolved voice. It wasn't wry and reeking of the bittersweet 1920's like Dorothy Parker's or romantic-ironic-transcendentalist like Edna St. Vincent Millay's. Perhaps some of its confessional candor was nudged by Robert Lowell. Perhaps Anne Sexton had contributed something of her own dark menstrual madness. The voice wasn't influenced by the hymnal rhythms of Emily Dickinson's meditations on death and love. It was something unto itself.
She also writes about the myth of Plath and the bravery of Plath's daughter, Frieda, to publish a restored edition of Ariel:
The reticence of the dutiful daughter (Frieda is in her mid-40's) trying to make sense of her family history is riveting. Frieda still wants to bring her parents back together again; all children of ruptured love stories want to. She speaks of the distortion of Plath's character and work by strangers and in her stunning self-control you feel her pain. ''The collection of the Ariel poems became symbolic to me of this possession of my mother and of the wider vilification of my father,'' she calmly says.
It is by no means a groundbreaking essay but it does provide an interesting perspective for readers of Plath.