Friday, November 03, 2006

Sexton and Plath

There is an interesting article by David Trinidad on the relationship between Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton in the November/December 2006, American Poetry Review ("Two Sweet Ladies": Sexton and Plath's Friendship and Mutual Influence). Relying upon the earlier work of Heather Cam, Trinidad shows how much Plath borrowed from Sexton's poem, "My Friend, My Friend" and bolted into her poem "Daddy". He writes:

"That Plath pilfered so heavily from one of Sexton's poems, albeit a minor one, is a bit of a revelation. Sexton believed Plath hid her 'real' influences. But Plath always wore her influences on her sleeve. Throughout her work, one can detect traces of her idols (Auden, Dylan Thomas, Roethke) as well as her friends and contemporaries (Sexton, Lowell, W.S. Merwin). And of course, quite prominently, Ted Hughes."

At least Plath's borrowing was for a worthy cause--"Daddy" is a wildly compelling piece of work.

My favorite Plath poem is the underrated "Blackberrying". The poem ends with the speaker on a sheep path that leads to a rocky orange cliff above the sea:

That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.

Are there any better closing lines in modern poetry? Some as good, perhaps. None better.

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