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Arisa81
07-28-2004, 05:41 AM
I've been reading about her life as well as some of her poems the last few days. Quite an interesting person she was.

I haven't read any of her books yet, but I have a whole list that I want to check out. I think her short life interests me more than her actual writings, but they are intertwined as I have been finding out.

Has anyone here read any of her works? What do you think of them?

veingloree
07-28-2004, 02:16 PM
I like 'Ariel'.

evelinaburney
07-28-2004, 03:34 PM
I have a book of Plath's letters called _Letters Home_ which offers really interesting insight into her state of mind, and her life as a writer. Some good writing tips in there as well. Check it out!

Arisa81
07-28-2004, 09:25 PM
I am planning to read Letters Home as well as The Journals of Sylvia Plath :)

I will check out Ariel too, I don't think I have come across that one yet.

Has anyone read The Bell Jar?

veingloree
07-28-2004, 09:48 PM
The bell Jar was useful as a way of understanding that I wasn't the only person to get depressed. But as a book I found it's main virtue was brevity.

Arisa81
07-29-2004, 07:34 AM
Her depression also fascinates me, as I have suffered from it too. And her also being a writer with depression adds to the interest. That seems to be a common trait in artsy people, I've noticed.

plnelson
09-19-2007, 05:05 PM
Has anyone here read any of her works? What do you think of them?

I like "Daddy", but frankly, Sylvia Plath is the poster girl for the crazy, whacked-out poet.

Look, I've seen the academic studies (e.g., Andreasen)- the scientific research is pretty clear that creative writers and poets really DO have more mental problems than the general population. And this pattern is underscored if you go to enough poetry workshops and conferences - the makers of antidepressants and mood stabilizers could cleanup bigtime by setting up a table next to the one where all the books and literary journals are sold.

But poets such as Plath and Virginia Woolf and Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton (incidentally Sexton, Lowell and Plath and all "alumni" of the same mental hospital - McLean, near Boston) have given "permission" for some poets to wear their mental problems on their shirt like a registration badge at a trade show. They're like, "Sure, I'm about as stable as a house of cards on a camel, but I'm also a poet, so get over it!"

plnelson
09-19-2007, 05:20 PM
(incidentally Sexton, Lowell and Plath and all "alumni" of the same mental hospital - McLean, near Boston)

Last year I was at a poetry conference where the 2004 winner of the Pulitzer prize in poetry, Franz Wright read some of his works, including poems he had written while he was a patient at McLean! Nevermind an MFA - of you really want to give your writing career a boost, convince a shrink you're nuts and tell him the only place that can help you is McLean!

Uncarved
09-19-2007, 05:27 PM
I've been reading about her life as well as some of her poems the last few days. Quite an interesting person she was.

I haven't read any of her books yet, but I have a whole list that I want to check out. I think her short life interests me more than her actual writings, but they are intertwined as I have been finding out.

Has anyone here read any of her works? What do you think of them?


Letters Home
Bell Jar
Journals
unabridged Journals
(and I've about five more works about Plath)
She was phenomenal to me. I actually tried to emulate her, wanting to be her when I was younger. Needless to say I was a very depressed and f*cked up child. :)

Kate Thornton
09-19-2007, 05:56 PM
Although I have not suffered from depression, and my childhood was picture perfect, I grew up on Sylvia Plath (well, "Ariel" & "The Bell Jar" anyway - her journals were published *much* later.) I remember her death in 1963. In 1969, Assia Wevill, the woman for whom Plath's husband, Ted Hughes, left her, also killed herself. Suicide was as fashionable then as now, and of course, the literary tabloids went wild.

The whole idea of "confessional poetry" was new to me at the time - Sexton & Lowell were not my cup of tea. I was really more of a Stephen Spender fan...odd, he knew Ted Hughes, so there's always this sort of connection between poets, maybe all poets of any given era.

plnelson
09-19-2007, 06:14 PM
She was phenomenal to me. I actually tried to emulate her, wanting to be her when I was younger. Needless to say I was a very depressed and f*cked up child. :)

Did you try burning a pile of some other writer's manuscripts in your backyard? Plath gathered up a pile a manuscripts Ted Hughes had been working on and burned them.

Silver King
09-19-2007, 06:38 PM
This thread is most deserving of the Poetry forum, where it will now reside in splendor.

rhymegirl
09-19-2007, 07:36 PM
The Bell Jar is one of my favorite books. I read in it college and have re-read it many times. I think her poetry is interesting.

Kate Thornton
09-19-2007, 08:43 PM
Did you try burning a pile of some other writer's manuscripts in your backyard? Plath gathered up a pile a manuscripts Ted Hughes had been working on and burned them.

One of the drawbacks of marriage to a philandering poet is that the urge to burn up his manuscripts (or other choice parts) must be absolutely overwhelming at times.

plnelson
09-19-2007, 09:25 PM
One of the drawbacks of marriage to a philandering poet is that the urge to burn up his manuscripts (or other choice parts) must be absolutely overwhelming at times.

I don't doubt it. And he's not off the hook with the burning thing, either - he claims to have destroyed the last volume of Plath's journal, allegedly out of respect for their children.

And as you note, he really was quite the philanderer, cheating on Wevill, as well. I don't know what the other womens' personality traits were or whether any of them also committed suicide.

I'm a happily and faithfully married (22 years last month!) man, and my wife is definitely on the normal, stable end of the personality spectrum. But the women I sometimes find myself attracted to are often on the bohemian, weird, slightly psycho end of the spectrum. I don't know why. I recently wrote a ( fictional! ) poem about having an affair with goth poet who had a fixation on death.

steveg144
09-19-2007, 09:54 PM
My mother subjected me to "The Bell Jar" and "Ariel" back in the early 70's when Plath was having one of her periodic bursts of popularity. Self-absorbed, navel-gazing dreck. But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. :tongue

Kate Thornton
09-19-2007, 10:09 PM
I don't know why. I recently wrote a ( fictional! ) poem about having an affair with goth poet who had a fixation on death.

That's the poet part of you! The writer is all of us has the ability - sometimes the obligation - to get up and get out and do stuff we would never do or think or feel, but which the writer must experience, if only through the medium. Our writer minds stretch out in ways we don't always understand.

Kate Thornton
09-19-2007, 10:11 PM
My mother subjected me to "The Bell Jar" and "Ariel" back in the early 70's when Plath was having one of her periodic bursts of popularity. Self-absorbed, navel-gazing dreck. But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. :tongue

Naw, I think you might have it right - "confessional poetry" never did do it for me, but Plath's life was very interesting. I really liked reading about her more than reading her poetry.

William Haskins
09-19-2007, 10:38 PM
Did you try burning a pile of some other writer's manuscripts in your backyard? Plath gathered up a pile a manuscripts Ted Hughes had been working on and burned them.

too bad she didn't immolate that bastard while she was at it.


This thread is most deserving of the Poetry forum, where it will now reside in splendor.

yeah the last thing we need is culture in office party.

Silver King
09-20-2007, 12:28 AM
yeah the last thing we need is culture in office party.
Oh but there is culture, only it's one of lunacy and debauchery and YouTube videos and the wanton display of hirsute avatars. Come to think of it, Sylvia Plath would fit right in. I'll ask Rob if he wants to move this thread back to Office Party.

Cathy C
09-20-2007, 12:35 AM
She was actually my Senior Project when I was in Advanced Placement English in high school. I was able to do something really nifty because she was such a well-known poet in the UK. Our local library happened to have (astounding, considering I went to school in a podunk town in Colorado) all of her BBC tapes of her poetry readings. I went through all of her poetry and cut out stanzas to tell her life story and then did a new tape of all of the BBC tapes so that she recited my poem. :D I was pretty proud of that effort and got an A+ for the class. I saved the poem. Wish I would have saved the tape.

KTC
09-20-2007, 12:40 AM
I've read everything Plath wrote that is available to the masses. I love her fiction and her poetry. Wasn't all that into her journals, but read them just to gain insight.

My all-time favorite is Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams. Great short story. I loved the premise...I felt like a voyeur reading it.

rhymegirl
09-20-2007, 12:58 AM
Oh but there is culture, only it's one of lunacy and debauchery and YouTube videos and the wanton display of hirsute avatars. Come to think of it, Sylvia Plath would fit right in. I'll ask Rob if he wants to move this thread back to Office Party.

You're funny, silver king. Now say something poetic.

ddgryphon
09-20-2007, 06:24 AM
Well, I honestly find both Plath and Sexton brilliant and am a huge fan of both. So, maybe I'm out of touch. I find them very accessible and, though not always, quite affecting more than affected.

I had the odd circumstance as part of a graduate class to go through Plath's actual journals and found Hughes edited versions somewhat odd or at odds. Plath was a little neurotic, but her early journals mark her as a creative caring girl with a ton of hope. Her early works were also masterful in their attention to form and detail.

Later, after the madness and treatments set in, she was as much a wreck from treatment as she was from illness. Her poetry reflected this shadow that she lived under and it fell apart in ways I find hard to describe. But even in that there are flashes of brilliance and truth.

I've seen confessional poets berated here before and I think it is probably typical of the next generation of poets, like rebellious teenagers, to reject the previous generations work in favor of their own idiosyncrasies. Make no mistake, their work was brilliant, if marked with insanity. I've never subscribed to the belief that "artists" need to be nuts to be good. I've also never felt that "artists" were special in that only they can do what they do. They are people who follow talent that, in America at least, is rarely favored with being well paid or even respected.

So, while they may represent the "damaged artist" I think their work is much more than that. Sexton's Transformations and 45 Mercy Street are particular favorites. Plath's early work I find better than her later work, but it is all quality. Don't cheat yourself by dismissing all of this work by labeling it. You'll find a great variety within the narrow definition their work is given.

aspier
09-20-2007, 03:21 PM
I've been reading about her life as well as some of her poems the last few days. Quite an interesting person she was.

I haven't read any of her books yet, but I have a whole list that I want to check out. I think her short life interests me more than her actual writings, but they are intertwined as I have been finding out.

Has anyone here read any of her works? What do you think of them?

I have the complete poems in digital format - want it?

plnelson
09-20-2007, 09:19 PM
I've never subscribed to the belief that "artists" need to be nuts to be good.

I don't think anyone is saying that they "need" to be nuts, but there has been a fair amount of scientific research on this and for some reason a much higher percentage seem to be nuts than in the general population.

But what I'm really obecting to (and, as I said, I like some of Plath's work) is that being "nuts" has become, in the last few generations, part of our culture's artists' archetype. I'm a painter and I paint in a style known as "classical realism" - my inspirations are the late Renaissance and Baroque painters, as well as the Pre-Raphaelites. Most major painters of those periods were not "nuts" in some sense that they wore on their sleeves. Most of them led normal middle or upper-middle class lives, some had prominent and respectable sponsors, many, especially the Dutch and British painters, made their living painting merchants and other members of the emerging middle class. They were, in a word, conventional.

It was only in the 20th century that a really widespread perception among the public that the artistic soul was a tortured one started to really gain traction. And, interestingly, this coincided with a period when the work created by poets and painters started to become inaccessible to people with normal sensibilities. So the art itself seemed to reflect the artist's mental illness. In the last few decades in the visual arts the big fad has been "outsider art" which usually consists of badly-done work by people with no formal training responding to the voices they hear in their heads or the mood swings of whatever affective disorder they suffer.

Mentally-ill people deserve our pity. Putting their mental illness on display for our entertainment as museum visitors or readers of poetry, seems cruel, like making a dog "talk" by whistling or playing high-pitched sounds that cause them to yelp in pain.

Magdalen
09-20-2007, 09:24 PM
Sylvia, I was really into her at one point. And I foolishly "shared" her with a friend at the time and so that's how I lost all my Sylvia Plath books. She & Ted remind me of a twisted kind of Elizabeth & Robert Browning?? A "lost" poem "Ennui" was posted last fall on Blackbird online poetry. It didn't sound finished to me.


Are Sylvia and Ted both gone now?
Well that rates a
Poem
Oh! unless I’m wrong,
(Ever so sorry
Ted)
I think. Anything can be a poem,
Sounding like anyone can
P
Lay the violin.
Oh! Doing it
Well, now
Danm, there’s the hell in that.

Anyone can
Poem (somedays anyone will).
The way it looks
And what it says,
The first
Dozen thrills,
Each separate sense and non-sense portion
Veiling and revealing poetry
In motion make it worth the stay.
Coining words that corner on a dime
Each of us poets, hum the last rhyme.


So let a few devices help along the way! *

*heed the acrostic

rhymegirl
09-20-2007, 09:33 PM
I have my own unique way of looking at Sylvia Plath's observations in The Bell Jar, I guess.

When I read it the first time, I was struck by the way the narrator was right on target with her perceptions and observations about the world. We do a lot of seemingly pointless and repetitive things in our everyday lives. Tasks that need to be done, yes, but what's the point sometimes? Animals go about their lives in true simplicity. Wake up, go eat something, find shelter, make sure they are keeping themselves safe from enemies, eat again, scurry about, maybe play a little, eat again, find shelter, go to sleep. No bills to pay, no pampering in front of a mirror, no going to the store to buy food, no going to bars, no driving, no watching TV. Simplicity.

When I read that book, I didn't think of her as being nuts. I thought of her as someone who sees the world only too clearly. There is evil in the world, there are horrible people, there are crimes committed every day. Sensitive people are only too aware of the bad things in life. Yes, of course there are good things, too. But for some people it's the continuous stream of ugliness and negativity that make them feel it's all just too much. Maybe you're a soldier who has witnessed horrible things, seen too much death, for example.

So I thought of her as being quite in touch with reality. She just saw everything just a little too clearly.

plnelson
09-20-2007, 11:04 PM
I have my own unique way of looking at Sylvia Plath's observations in The Bell Jar, I guess.

When I read it the first time, I was struck by the way the narrator was right on target with her perceptions and observations about the world. We do a lot of seemingly pointless and repetitive things in our everyday lives. Tasks that need to be done, yes, but what's the point sometimes? Animals go about their lives in true simplicity. Wake up, go eat something, find shelter, make sure they are keeping themselves safe from enemies, eat again, scurry about, maybe play a little, eat again, find shelter, go to sleep. No bills to pay, no pampering in front of a mirror, no going to the store to buy food, no going to bars, no driving, no watching TV. Simplicity.

I don't see that what we do is any different than what animals do. Animals forage, graze, hunt, and build nests; we work, go shopping, and pay bills to ensure food, shelter and security. The goal in both cases is the same. And WRT pampering in front of a mirror, have you ever watched a bird preen itself or a cat groom itself? And WRT "going to bars" - animals are at LEAST as preoccupied with finding mating partners as humans. And then there's TV - our cats love to sit in the window and watch the birds flit about in the trees, sometimes they're so engrossed they'll pass up a tasty treat or a petting - we call it "kitty TV".

If we think the lives of cats and dogs and birds and apes is "simple" it's only because everything looks simple from a distance.

Uncarved
09-21-2007, 04:05 AM
Did you try burning a pile of some other writer's manuscripts in your backyard? Plath gathered up a pile a manuscripts Ted Hughes had been working on and burned them.


Worse....I did all of what I'd written up to that time in a huge effigy. Sigh.

ddgryphon
09-21-2007, 06:32 AM
I don't think anyone is saying that they "need" to be nuts, but there has been a fair amount of scientific research on this and for some reason a much higher percentage seem to be nuts than in the general population.

I really wasn't saying that to be argumentative, I think we are probably on the same page. I compose--accessible music that isn't overly complex. So, I'm not a serious composer or artistic. They threw that at Leonard Bernstein and he wrote some of the most engaging music of the last century. Oh, he can conduct but his music sounds like broadway not the concert hall.

If they'd pull their heads out of their arses they'd realize that Mozart was the broadway of his day. He built most of his work on simple folk music. Music doesn't have to be complex and obtuse and ugly to be good.

I feel the same way about paintings, prose, and theatre. I think Sylvia and Ann towards the end were a bit how you paint them--though Sylvia more than Ann. Sylvia just completely collapsed and that was a shame. It's like listening to a once great singer after they've lost their voice. A shadow of what made them brilliant.

In one of Sylvia's last collections she wrote: "gray blanks approach us/they move in a hurry" chilling, harsh, accurate--but lacking the previous structure she had used so clearly, it doesn't sing. It is stark, like a flat translation from one language to another. After the treatments and insanity she was less of an artist--and possibly unable to speak as a fully functioning artist.

Anne Wrote in one of her last pieces (probably not meant for publication) "all in all, I'd say,/the world is strangling,/and I, in my bed each night,/listen to my twenty shoes/converse about it." This is in no way near the quality of what she wrote at her best, but it is still pretty powerful stuff--if difficult to understand.

Their later work was similar to watching one of Judy Garland or Elvis Presley's last live appearances: sad, still captivating, but clearly ebbing towards the black.

I agree, I don't think our mentally ill should be made a spectacle of (but we do tend to make entertainment out of it--how else do you explain a Howard Stern or America's Funniest People for that matter? World's dumbest Crooks is very high in the independent ratings. We make entertainment out of our mentally ill.)

I, like you, have a problem with the idea that you have to be unstable to be an artist. I've argued that artists need to be more stable than your average worker, because they have to keep producing and stay fresh, without losing their ability to make money. It is a difficult balancing act, and not one the ill could readily do.


Man, I'm rambling--too tired. I'll see if this makes any sense tomorrow.

P.H.Delarran
09-21-2007, 06:38 AM
I have the complete poems in digital format - want it?
I do!
I am embarrassed to admit I have little familiarity with Plath.
I have one collection of Sexton's stuff, which I enjoy, but it was put together after her death.

rhymegirl
09-21-2007, 04:17 PM
I don't see that what we do is any different than what animals do. Animals forage, graze, hunt, and build nests; we work, go shopping, and pay bills to ensure food, shelter and security. The goal in both cases is the same. And WRT pampering in front of a mirror, have you ever watched a bird preen itself or a cat groom itself? And WRT "going to bars" - animals are at LEAST as preoccupied with finding mating partners as humans. And then there's TV - our cats love to sit in the window and watch the birds flit about in the trees, sometimes they're so engrossed they'll pass up a tasty treat or a petting - we call it "kitty TV".

If we think the lives of cats and dogs and birds and apes is "simple" it's only because everything looks simple from a distance.

No, I think you missed my point. Obviously, as humans there are certain tasks we must perform on a regular basis in order to live, in order to maintain our lives. I'm not saying we shouldn't go to work or go to the store to buy food or pay our bills.

I'm saying that we as humans do a lot of extra stuff besides the basics--things that may not really be necessary, but we just think they are. Look at celebrities--Sarah Jessica Parker and her shoes. She was on Oprah one day talking about her hundreds of pairs of shoes in her closet. Do you know how many pairs of shoes I own? No more than six. And would I BUY hundreds of pairs of shoes even if I could afford them? No.

And why not? Because there is no point to it. I don't NEED hundreds of pairs of shoes. That's the kind of thing I mean. Simplicity. We humans have basic needs, of course. But when we think we need fancy things or a surplus of things in order to be happy, that's the craziness to me.

There are many things that people buy which they don't REALLY need. I think there's a part in The Bell Jar where she tosses all of her fancy clothes(from her job in New York) out the window or over the balcony, something like that.

I thought that Plath saw the phoniness, the pointlessness of some of what humans do. That's what I was talking about. We do a lot of things to compete with others, to try to live up to some ideal, to impress others. And why? There are people living in countries where there is very little and yet they're still happy. So their happiness must come from something besides material things.

ColoradoGuy
09-21-2007, 05:56 PM
I heard a unique voice in The Bell Jar I heard only sporadically in the poetry, even though I now and then take it down off my poetry shelf for another shot. My daughter went to Smith College and ended up living for several years in Plath's sunny, second floor corner room of Haven House. I read a few of her poems again sitting there on the floor--they still felt the same. So much for ghosts.

johnnysannie
09-21-2007, 08:44 PM
Sylvia Plath and I share the same birth day (day not year!!) so I became very interested in her and her work in my teens. She published her first poem at eight - and so did I, although mine was on the "kids" page of the local daily newspaper.

Although I am not as into poetry as I once was - lack of time more than loss of interest - I still find her poetry exceptional and brilliant. She uses words so well and conveys emotion. Reading her poetry is not relaxing but stimulating and moving and thought provoking.

"Lady Lazarus" remains a favorite.

plnelson
09-21-2007, 09:21 PM
No, I think you missed my point. Obviously, as humans there are certain tasks we must perform on a regular basis in order to live, in order to maintain our lives. I'm not saying we shouldn't go to work or go to the store to buy food or pay our bills.

I'm saying that we as humans do a lot of extra stuff besides the basics--things that may not really be necessary, but we just think they are. Look at celebrities--Sarah Jessica Parker and her shoes. She was on Oprah one day talking about her hundreds of pairs of shoes in her closet. Do you know how many pairs of shoes I own? No more than six. And would I BUY hundreds of pairs of shoes even if I could afford them? No.
I have no idea who Sarah Jessica Parker is so I have no idea whether she can justify all those shoes. But I have hundreds of poems that I'm sure other people would consider superfluous. Anyway, I don't watch TV so I'm not haunted by the lifestyle choices of celebrities.

But all the examples you gave in your previous comments represented behavior we share with animals. (I studied ethology -animal behavior- in college under Melinda Novak)


I thought that Plath saw the phoniness, the pointlessness of some of what humans do. That's what I was talking about. We do a lot of things to compete with others, to try to live up to some ideal, to impress others. And why?
You don't think animals compete with each other? All social animals (including humans) establish elaborate social and dominance hierarchies. Animals compete for mates, territories, nesting sites, and position in the hierarchy. The means of competition can range from actual fighting to non-contact displays of aggression to appearance to dances, calls, or nest-making ability. (and plenty of other things besides, for example bonobo's offer oranges for sex and the best offer wins).

I just got back from Bermuda, so if you want a really good example of a show-offy activity designed simply to impress others, check out Bermuda Fire Worms. From my blog -

55 minutes after sunset on the third night after the full moon in the summer, the females of the species Odontosyllis enopla rise to the ocean’s surface in the shallow waters of the reefs that fringe the island. They swim in slow, sensual circles, glowing phosphorescently. When the males see them they shoot like flaming rockets out of their burrows in the ocean floor and join the females in a passionate frenzy of flashing green sex.

Impressing others is the name of the game. Have you ever watched red-tailed hawks in their mating ritual? I see these all the time over my garden. A pair of them will catch a thermal and ride it high in the air. Then they'll separate vertically and the one on top tucks its wings in and dives at full speed toward the bottom one. At the very last moment the bottom hawk flips upside down, exposing its talons. The diving hawk veers off, missing by inches. They repeat this over and over, showing off their flying ability and reflexes. Only if they are both suitably impressed do they fly off as a couple to make nooky.

Want yet another example? Humans try to impress people with big houses and cars. The Australian brush turkey male builds a huge elaborate nest and then marches around it making booming and thumping noises hoping to attract a mate (like human guys with loud stereos in their cars) . If the female is sufficiently impressed they mate and she lays her eggs there. He gets stuck taking care of them.

There are very few things humans do that other animals don't do. Creative writing and poetry may be one of the few behaviors unique to humans. (BTW, professionally I'm an engineer and I know we're not the only animals to do engineering - ask anyone at MIT what their school mascot/symbol is)

mkcbunny
09-23-2007, 01:15 AM
Plath's poem get to me, but I've never read The Bell Jar.

Good think philandering poets now have computers, backup discs, and other safeguards against the traditional bonfire.

dclary
09-23-2007, 02:19 AM
Plath's poem about pregnancy was the first poem I ever truly respected as poetry, and not just a poem, if you get my meaning.

Arisa81
09-23-2007, 04:49 AM
Wow, I forgot I even started this thread.
Well, since then I have read (and own) The Bell Jar and Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams. I also read many of her poems. I like The Bell Jar. I find her very interesting as a person. I love reading biographies about her and such.