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  • The journals of sylvia plath by Sylvia Plath

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    Date of issue: April 1982

    The author of the book: Sylvia Plath

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    Book Title: The journals of sylvia plath

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    Last download: 7 days ago

    Edition: The Dial Press

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The Problem of Sylvia Plath, Her Poetry, and the Necessity of Her JournalsBecause of her suicide at the age of 30, many critics have labeled her either immature or hysterical--while other critics have taken it upon themselves to defend her integrity. Those who have championed her work find they do so at personal cost. Unfortunately, her personal life, and the circumstances surrounding her death have had an adverse effect on how she is read.Quite instinctively, one knows the implications that may be drawn when acknowledging a liking for her poetry. By announcing your admiration for Plath, you may find yourself under suspicion for morbidity, bad taste and even doctrinaire feminism.However, if you believe Plath is one of the more important poets of the 20th century and that she's had a lasting effect on lyric poetry, one cannot deny the import of her work. Although, beware, her work is seen through many lenses. Even admiring lenses can cloud one's judgment. Many admirers make the mistake of imagining Plath to be a Phaedra--a spurned woman, a dangerous woman, and a victim. But the speaker in her poetry is just as multidimensional as Plath was herself. Despite the fact that she wrote from the emotional realities of her life, one cannot stress enough, how important it is to separate the person from the creative result. It is because of this confusion between the two, that the Unabridged Journals bear the burden of illumination. They are a significant contribution to our understanding of Plath and Plath scholarship.The journals allow us to see Plath’s joyful, backbreaking work. They allow us to see the methodical revisions, the many thoughtful ways in which she crafted her poems. They allow us to see the seams and underpinnings necessary in the making of lasting poetry.Though Plath's sensibility is dark, and though she twists nature to her own effect, like so many other poets and fiction writers, there is something uncommon about her work and the strength and momentum that builds poem-to-poem. There is a forcefulness of the persona speaking through her work, and then too, there is her strong inclination toward wholeness and harmony; although, many only see the jaded and sardonic undercurrents.Yet, one of the most important aspects of her work, an aspect that has often been neglected, has to do with the idea of the spirit derailed from its source, and how that spirit is always trying to find its way back to the source. The speaker is constantly in flight, searching for a means of return. This is the dilemma of the soul. It is the dilemma of the artist in his or her calling, and that spiritual pull between the real world and the state of imagining which becomes, through physical and mental exertion, its own state. It is because of this that I maintain that Plath was brilliant and that she created her final poems with genius. Her final book, known as Ariel, was a swift achievement. Many of the poems written in the final months of her life were characterized by a propulsion, or forward momentum, a gallop toward an end. Like Shakespeare’s Ariel, the spirit of Plath’s work appears to be driven toward an understanding of enslavement and the necessity of freedom. The work speaks to the alchemy of person-hood and art formation. For Plath, this was a quest for liberation, and a means to end her suffering. There is a dichotomy between the mechanical and mathematical aspects of poetry and something outside reason. Plath merges form with associative lyricism until the scaffolding of her old style falls away and we are left with Ariel.To know Plath more closely, one may want to read her journals. They give the reader a glimpse into the ways she worked and into the associative powers of her mind. The journals allow the reader to separate the person from the persona. It gives a sense of the ordinary, and humanizes the writer. One sees the struggles she endured, in her daily life, as an imperfect person in the pursuit of her art. And it is "One Art," like Bishop's art, in its own way, so precisely crafted and yet as soon as it is mastered—lost. Unfortunately, some of her journals went missing or were destroyed. But the journals that remain allow a close reader to see some of her ideas before they appeared in print. They give a sense to how she may have approached her work. There is no doubt Sylvia Plath's art was a labor of love. Her euphoria and intensity in the creating of it is tangible. It is important to read the journals, and her poetry as it is appears on the page, and to remember, all art is artifice. All true artists create not just a world, but a mythology within which they exist. Although Plath's mythology may at times be off-putting due to a kind of forcefulness and rancor, it is a distinct voice full of human emotion. The world she creates is recognizable, but only as far as a dream may be recognizable. In truth, what we encounter cannot be Plath herself. Her final poetry is a brilliant invention, prepared by a writer in pursuit of her very best. It is a visionary form: a reality that seems more real, only because of its extreme divergence. Great poets trick their listeners and readers by making the art form feel more real. Perhaps this was her “call,” as Sylvia Plath said so herself. But the call of the reader is to recognize the trick and then to commend the art for brilliant illusions.

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