writer, editor, girl of the creative persuasion.
My project is extended, circular and labyrinthine. It is an electronic elegy that I do not believe could be a book, because a book is too linear. I need it to resist closure. Death is final, sure, fine, but in grief there is no such thing as closure. There is ebb and flow of emotion, and there is learning to live with the gaping wound, but there is no close. The acute distress does ease with time, and you might emerge stronger from having lived through the loss, but that doesn’t mean you are ever ok with it. A cousin asked me if I had closure the day we had my brother cremated, and I almost punched him in the face. I might still punch him in the face, if the mood strikes.
This searing personal essay sent white hot sparks shooting through my brain, activating my own, more-quiet kind of grief (the kind of grief not fully shadowed by so complete a loss, but more of a sense of absence), bringing it to the surface like blood to a fresh-scraped wound. Circular. Labyrinthine. Not linear. All of these. Yes. Yes. Yes.
In the United States, [Plath] is also undergoing a kind of resurrection and image overhaul, spearheaded by young women and by poets, male and female, like Mark Wunderlich, who created a class at Bennington College a few years ago called ‘The Problem of Plath.’ When he announced the course description, he recalls: ‘My colleagues all thought I was insane. They thought I was going to attract every depressive at Bennington; that every cutter on campus would sign up for this class.’ In the event, 50 undergraduates — out of a student body of 600 — applied (most of them reasonably well adjusted). Plath ‘is one of the first poets a lot of young women find who they can really claim as their own,’ he said. ‘What she does is give them permission to express a particular kind of rage that is not self-annihilating and is not simply bitchy. It’s something deeper and more significant and more important.’
While I find the theme of this article interesting* (i.e., the interest in Plath resurfacing, and our perception of her is shifting), I was put off within the first paragraph:
“…Plath’s estranged husband, the poet Ted Hughes, published a version of “Ariel” in 1965, ordering and choosing its poems as he saw fit, assuring her posthumous fame — and directing the shape that fame would assume.”
The accreditation to Hughes as the guarantor of Plath’s fame — is this justified? Why are people compelled to attribute her posthumous fame to his ordering of her poems, and not her poetry itself? This is puzzling and does not sit well with me. Plath’s poetry garnered her attention because Plath the Poet was good. I feel as though the phrase does, in some way, serve to undermine her work — it suggests that were it not for a Famous Literary Male to vouch for and provide public validation for her work, it would not have garnered the attention it’s received, or stand squarely in the literary canon as it does today.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this article. Or maybe it’s just, you know, systemic literary sexism. The sexism is written into the criticism, into the history. It feels inescapable.
*So while this wasn’t necessarily a thing I read and loved, I still found it thought provoking enough to warrant mention on this blog.