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Post by RonPrice » February 10th, 2012, 10:19 pm

Having given some thought to this now famous poet and, seeing this thread here at studio8, I'll post this personal reflection on her poetry and life.-Ron Price, Tasmania :arrow:

I won’t write about the details Sylvia Plath’s suicide, the furies that bedevilled and killed her in February 1963; nor will I write here about her poetic outpourings and the angst found in her autobiographical voice. There is plenty for readers who have an interest in her life and poetry, especially in studies of her poem The Bell Jar, to read and little need for me to add to the burgeoning mass of analysis and description of her life and work. Her life and work has become, in the last half century become intertwined with Ted Hughes(1930-1998) an English poet and children's writer.

Hughes was routinely ranked by critics as one of the best poets of his generation and Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death. Hughes emerged in 1957 as “the most explosive new poetic talent of the English post-war era by means of his wry poetic chronicling of the everyday and he won the $5000 Galbraith prize in ’59.”1

I joined the Baha’i Faith in October of that year. I was 15 and I was no explosive new talent, except arguably in baseball and, then, only in the small town of Burlington and its 5000 people in the pee-wee league back about 1955. There was no way I’d ever get into the majors, the show, as professional baseball is called in North America.

Some have held Hughes responsible for the death in February of ’63 of the great young star of American poetry, Sylvia Plath—and for the suicide of Assia Wevill, his companion after Plath’s death, some six years later. Like Plath, Assia gassed herself and Shura, her four-year-old daughter by Hughes.

Hughes’ affair with Assia, begun in the summer of 1962, precipitated his separation from Plath in the autumn. Assia Wevill had been with her husband subletting a flat where Hughes and Plath lived at Primrose Hill, London. Plath set up life in a new flat with the children and then committed suicide in February 1963. Hughes and Plath had two children by that summer of ’62: Frieda Rebecca (1960) and Nicholas Farrar (1962) who died by suicide on 16 March 2009 after battling depression.2 -Ron Price with thanks to: 1“The private man, 22 November 2007, The Economist ; and 2Wikipedia, 4 October 2011.

Your life came to an end, Sylvia, just before
I began to have those wounds to my soul
that would require, in time, some healing
process, through art…..You never got any
final healing just an end-of-life narrative
at the age of 30: your head in a gas-oven,
just before I started my studies for exams
for university entrance & my travelling in
and for the Canadian Baha’i community. I
was too busy & not really into poetry back
then. My obsession with death took many
years to develop and, due to chemotherapy,
I was able to slowly work it out over half of
a century. I lost my grip on sanity, recovered
it, lost it again and again—the story is long.

Shock therapy finally lifted my own bell jar1
back in the ‘60s and I breathed easily again
as did you and you lived to write about your
experience as did I: clear and readable with
no visionary thrills, but my account was far
from witty and disturbing as was your story.
Mine had no ungrateful caricatures of those
who tried to help me; my source of energy
was not self-destructiveness. You longed for
a cause to devote your energies to;2 you saw
death as a pathway to rebirth;3 & your poetry
had a psychological vulnerability which poets
like myself found endearing.

Your diaries began the year I was born.4

1 “The Bell Jar is considered by some literary critics to be the most compelling and controlled account of a mental breakdown to appear in American fiction.” (Critical Essays on Sylvia Plath, Lina Wagner-Martin, G.K. Hall & Co., Boston, 1984)
2 Mary Broe, Protean Poetic: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath, U. of Missouri Press, 1980, p.2.
3 David Holbrook, Sylvia Plath: Poetry and Existence, The Athlone Press, 1976, U. of London.
4 1944. You were not a war-baby like me.

Ron Price
4 October 2011 to 26 January 2012
married for 46 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 14 and a Baha'i for 54(as of 2013)

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