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Sunday, 10 February 2013

AfterPlath

Apparently, according to a new book, Sylvia Plath, whose morbid anniversary is tomorrow (50 years since her cold Winter London flat suicide), was mentally disturbed from the age of 8 when her father died, and "dated" hundreds of men, sleeping with as many as five or six the same week, during her pre-Hughes time at Vassar in the 1950s; she also "self-harmed" and displayed rages of envy and perfectionism.  There is sexism in the fuss about this - many male poets - including her future husband - have been, or are, sexually voracious; and many poets teeter on the edge of mania, despair, or some unsteady cocktail of ambition, drive, and foreboding loss.

Plath On The Beach
One is hardly likely to forge an entirely new style of poetic utterance otherwise.  Plath, the evergreen poster girl for the madness-genius thin line, continues to sell papers, and books.  She is the flip side of Marilyn Monroe - the sexy, smart suicide herself - indeed, became as iconic as her, or James Dean - other infamous outsiders made world famous by destructive youth-meets-beauty-meets talent smash ups.  Is it merely gratuitous to know she dated wildly, perhaps a nymphomaniac, to use that quaint judgemental slur?  Or that she was perhaps Borderline?  It perhaps clears Hughes of being the main cause of her demise - the latest evidence suggests, as one friend recalls, she was a "time bomb".  Okay, so she was a bombshell, a time bomb, and a genius.  Quite a package.  Someone should stop selling it, and leave the poems to their own power, and the poet to rest in peace, which apparently, she never found topside.

One note, though: Plath's influence has not gone away, which is striking.  She continues to empower young men and women (and sometimes even me), to express powerful feelings, and to do so artfully, or, if artlessly, then originally.  She is, arguably, the woman poet closest to the myth of Rimbaud, or Byron - doomed, young, unique, erotic - and as such, foundational.  One of the greats of the last century, then, despite and because of her strange desires, delusions, and demands.  Pop stars and actresses can pretend to be her, but you can't outdo Plath - you can merely build on her work, likely in combination with other styles and influences.
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