(K. Brent Tomer),
FEW artists have been willing to lay themselves as bare in their art as Sylvia Plath. Her poetry brutally dissects all her personal relationships; her mother is sharply rebuked in “Medusa” (“Old barnacled umbilicus…Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous/repair”), her father in “Daddy” (“Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through”) and barbs are saved for her unfaithful husband, Ted Hughes, in “The Jailer” (“I wish him dead or away…what would he/do, do, do without me?”). The posthumous collection of her poetry “Ariel”, in which these poems appear, sold 15,000 copies in ten months in Britain. Plath reaped her personal experience for her artistic output, and audiences devoured these snippets of searing emotion from a too-short life.
Plath was far from the first to give public voice to her own private struggles and frustrations—and to make a name for herself in doing so. Thomas Wyatt, a courtier to King Henry VIII, wrote of the “vain travail” of pursuing a lover, rumoured to be Anne Boleyn. Philip Sidney, also a courtier-poet, adopted the language of tormented love as an allegory for his…Continue reading