Monday, February 11, 2013

Met only in words: Sylvia Plath, 50 years later

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Here is a brief article on Sylvia Plath's final days.

I put that here, at the beginning, because it's not the drama of suicide that is important in Plath's death. Suicide is indeed terrible. Please ask someone for help. No one wants you to die.

What we lost, however, was our finest modern practitioner of the sound of the English language. Had she not killed herself, Plath would still be with us, alive and likely kicking at the ripe old age of 80.

What we have instead is a controversial collection of Plath's last work, butchered by her estranged husband, Ted Hughes, and "restored" by her daughter, Frieda. While I prefer vastly the thematic arc of her original intent (moving from "Morning Song" to The Bee Cycle, specifically ending with "Wintering": from "love" to "spring"), the "manic woman" that Plath became in the American consciousness was, essentially, cemented by Hughes. 

This results in an awful lot of eye rolling when I name Plath as a great poet. People know her, if at all, as a violent, lost soul, the author of "Daddy" or "Lady Lazarus." 

At Literary Magnet, my new literary magazine, I've said a bit more about the way I learned to love Sylvia Plath.

What I'd like to say here, though, is that as poets and lovers of poetry, remember the words Plath placed together. Study them. Live within those sounds--the only place she remains.

As people, simply love each other and don't, in the words of Jillian Becker, "endure long remorse" for something that could have been done.

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