Sylvia Plath's Poetry

Powerful Essays
Sylvia Plath's Poetry

Wrapped in gaseous mystique, Sylvia Plath’s poetry has haunted enthusiastic readers since immediately after her death in February, 1963. Like her eyes, her words are sharp, apt tools which brand her message on the brains and hearts of her readers. With each reading, she initiates them forever into the shrouded, vestal clan of her own mind. How is the reader to interpret those singeing, singing words? Her work may be read as a lone monument, with no ties to the world she left behind. But in doing so, the reader merely grazes the surface of her rich poetics. Her poetry is largely autobiographical, particularly Ariel and The Bell Jar, and it is from this frame of mind that the reader interprets the work as a complex, crushing, confessional web that most truly describes the mythic Sylvia Plath. Her two most significant volumes of poetry, The Colossus and Ariel, flesh out her poetic lexicon: wading through the deep, patterned labyrinth of her poetry with her life as a guide.

Title piece to her first collection of poems, “The Colossus” is a daughter’s attempt to reconstruct her dead father in the fallen statue at Rhodes: “…his death nine days after her eighth birthday left an imprint upon her imagination that time did not erase or soften” (Butscher 3). Because Plath never really knew her father as a healthy man (Stevenson 12), she likens him to this decrepit stone which, as an archaeologist, she must piece together “with gluepots and pails / of lysol” (Plath C. 20). In reality, she must function as an emotional archaeologist in order to reconcile her loss, to revenge herself on her father for leaving her. She attempts, continually, to prove herself to him; as a child she continually showcased her artis...

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...Colossus. 1998. New York: Vintage International; New York: Alfred Knopf, Inc., 1962.

Rosenblatt, Jon. Sylvia Plath: The Poetry of Initiation. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989.

Van Dyne, Susan R. Revising Life: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

“Fueling the Phoenix Fire: The Manuscripts of Sylvia Plath’s

‘Lady Lazarus’” . Sylvia Plath. Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989. 133-147.

Works Consulted

Broe, Mary Lynn. Protean Poetic: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath. Colombia: University of Missouri Press, 1980.

Plath, Sylvia. The Journals of Sylvia Plath. New York: Anchor Books, 1998. Strangeways, Al. Sylvia Plath: The Shaping of Shadows. Cranbury: Associated University Presses, 1998.
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