Plath laid bare what sadly tore her apart

Gorey Guardian - - NEWS -

CON­FES­SIONAL po­etry is the term most of­ten used to de­scribe, and to um­brella a new style of writ­ing which emerged in a post World War 2 United States of Amer­ica dur­ing the 1950s and 60s. It not alone dealt more with the per­sonal, with the ‘I’, but in it, the poet was now pre­pared to ex­pose their own vul­ner­a­bil­ity, in­deed their own raw emo­tion, their own fear.

It is typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with such poets as Robert Low­ell, Anne Sex­ton, Sylvia Plath, pic­tured, and Wil­liam D Sn­od­grass.

Although Wil­liam de Witt Sn­od­grass (1926-2009) is of­ten con­sid­ered by schol­ars to have been the orig­i­nal Con­fes­sion­al­ist, it was never a term that sat com­fort­ably with him, as he felt ex­posed amongst his peers by his ‘self­ness’ in his work, but yet, he con­tin­ued in this style and for­mat, re­fer­ring to it constantly as his ‘weak­ness’.

None­the­less, the in­flu­ence took hold, in­spir­ing oth­ers, and col­lec­tions such as ‘Life Stud­ies’ (1959) by Robert Low­ell (1917

1977) which dealt with per­sonal trou­bles and men­tal ill­ness were con­sid­ered ground breaking ma­te­rial.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) is per­haps one of his more cel­e­brated con­tem­po­raries. She typ­i­fied this new writ­ing that although hugely deal­ing with ‘fear’, had the courage to aban­don self-in­ter­est and cu­rios­ity in writ­ing and fo­cus on self rev­e­la­tion.

Mar­garet Rees from World So­cial­ist re­view ob­served that ‘Plath let her work express primeval fears. In do­ing so she laid bare not only what tore her­self apart but also strongly hinted at the fail­ing ten­sions be­neath the sur­face of the Amer­i­can way of life’. A brave stance in McArthurism Amer­ica!

In her short poem ‘Child’, Plath very sim­ply, but se­verely, charts her to­tal an­guish about the hopes and fears for an in­fant, born into this world, into her world.

She charts her want and her wish for what should be, for the new. But this is smoth­ered in hope­less­ness, the poem never gives even a hint of any faith in pos­si­bil­ity. It re­mains only a wish for the sin­gu­lar, clear, beau­ti­ful... stalk with­out wrin­kle. Her vi­sion, and more im­por­tantly her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of re­al­ity, is a trou­blous one, of wring­ing hands (Yeats’ hands that fum­bled in a greasy till?) and a dark ceil­ing with­out a star. As the re­viewer wrote, she cer­tainly laid bare what tore her apart, sadly.

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