Sylvia Plath Poems – Chosen by Carol Ann Duffy

Plath, Sylvia (Author) and Duffy, Carol Ann (Compiler). (2012). Sylvia Plath Poems. Faber & Faber; London. 

I am not a regular consumer or producer of poetry; given a pile of poems, I would likely think them all of equal stature. It takes someone with a discerning mind and conscious heart to identify poems of great value, and Carol Ann Duffy – Scottish poet, playwright, and defender of womanhood – has succeeded in this excellent compilation of poems by Sylvia Plath.

These words, thrown together on blank pages, evoke beautiful and brilliant images of everything from blackberry picking to stillborn children. Innocence and darkness intertwine effortlessly, as one might expect from the depressed and eventually suicidal Sylvia. I predicted that the poems would contain only darkness; instead I found that many of them were focused on natural themes (stones, poppies, trees) which only hint at darker elements of the human psyche.

And that’s the real fascination with this poetry – it dances along the edge of sadness, without ever subjecting the reader to unpleasant imagery. Carol Ann explains why she selected these particular poems here:

“Here was a uniquely radical, stylised poetic voice which claimed for its subject something that had not previously appeared in ‘the canon’ – the experience of being a woman. Plath wrote about gender, motherhood and marriage, of betrayal and suicidal illness, in poems illuminated – like lightning over the moors – by love and fury. She had been influenced, through the American creative writing workshop system, by the confessional poets Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton; but she saw herself as a poet for whom craft was as important as the exploration of self” (Carol Ann Duffy, 2012).

Or, even more simply, these poems give “life back to us in glittering language” (Carol Ann Duffy, 2012). These poems are also arranged to shadow Sylvia’s progress in life (Carol Ann Duffy, 2012). They thus form a little story in and of themselves. I found myself reading many of the poems aloud – their cadence and style makes them irresistible in the spoken word.

Although not quite like her famous book, The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath offers an exciting introduction to poetry for the curious reader. These poems will touch, shake, and move readers of all ages and walks of life.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. robertlfs says:

    Thanks for the review. Sylvia Plath, and her husband Ted Hughes, were two of my favorite poets years ago. Ariel is certainly a powerful volume to absorb. Two of her poems that I can recite parts of by heart to this day are Lady Lazarus and Daddy.

  2. marialegault says:

    Awesome, Robert! This has been my first exposure to Sylvia’s poetry, but I feel that I will carry it with me always.

    Someday I hope to have a group of people that I may read the poetry with; for now, I content myself with listening to Youtube videos of it being read (e.g.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hHjctqSBwM).

    Good to hear from you – take care!

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