Sylvia Plath was born on October 27th, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts to German immigrants. Her father was a Biology professor and her mother was his student. When Sylvia was eight years old, her father died of complications with diabetes. Although he was authoritative and stern, she was deeply hurt by his passing. This traumatic experience led her to write one of her most well-known poems “Daddy”. This becomes somewhat of a pattern in Sylvia’s life. Anytime she goes through some type of trauma, she writes, and it becomes wildly famous. Sylvia struggled with what is now known as manic depression since she was in her teens. Her first breakdown happened as an undergrad. She attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. This suicide attempt led her to become institutionalized and receive electro-shock treatments. From this breakdown, came the novel ‘The Bell Jar’ which was released in 1963, the same year she died. This is the only novel Plath released. It is a semi-autobiographical novel based on her experiences and troubles with her emotional and mental health, as well as issues within her marital and family life. In 1956, she met and married her husband Ted Hughes. Together they had two children. In 1962, Hughes left her for another woman. She again became deeply depressed and “wrote most of the poems that would comprise her famous book, ‘Ariel’”. As mentioned above, a year later, she wrote ‘The Bell Jar’ and shortly after committed suicide by inhalation of cooking gas in the kitchen of her home. Plath had a lifetime of traumatic events and mental issues. Her condition can be argued to be a blessing as it gave her the inspiration and motive to write poems that made her wildly famous. Her style of writing is associated with the confessional movement which is when poems became a bit more personal in their context. It is interesting to know that Plath received a Pulitzer Prize in 1982, although posthumously for work published by her ex-husband called ‘The Collected Poems’. She is most known for ‘The Bell Jar’, ‘Ariel’, ‘Colossus’ and ‘The Collected Poems’. It is important to know Plath’s personal life in understanding her poems and writings. “Her work is singled out for the intense coupling of its violent or disturbed imagery and its playful use of alliteration and rhyme”.
“Sylvia Plath.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/sylvia-plath.
“Sylvia Plath.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, 21 Aug. 2014, www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/sylvia-plath.
Walt Whitman was an American poet and journalist. Whitman came from a family of nine children, and was raised in Brooklyn and Long Island during the 1820s to the 1830s. Whitman taught himself to read and fell in love with literature when he was 12 years old after learning printer’s trade. Whitman worked as a printer in New York until his work district burnt down. When he was 17, he began his career as a teacher until 1848, which was when he started his full-time journalism career. He was an editor for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, but was fired for supporting the antislavery faction of the Democratic Party.
On his own, Whitman printed and sold Leaves of Grass, anonymously. It was his first work and though it went unappreciated, Ralph Emerson called it ” the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom ” America had seen yet. It’s the book that Whitman is most known for. He made constant revisions to it until finally finishing it in 1881. Whitman used it to express his own personality into his writing, something that majority of writers didn’t do. Whitman displayed his belief that poetry is a form of wisdom for mankind through his verses. Whitman used his book to reflect American life for the middle class and the poor.
People like Walt Whitman because his work is untraditional and open. He used his work to discuss real world scenarios and circumstances.He wrote poems to preach about equality and to talk about the lives of everyday Americans. It made people feel like their was a writer that identify with them. He changed the very style of poetry and though his work is old, it’s still relevant to today’s time.
1. “Walt Whitman”, Poet|Academy of American Poets, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/walt-whitman
2. “Walt Whitman”, Biography & Facts, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Walt-Whitman
3. “Walt Whitman”, How Walt Whitman Changed The World of Poetry & What You Can Learn From It, https://www.neboagency.com/blog/lesson-walt-whitman-audacity/
Anne Sexton is an American poet and playwright well known for her confessional poetries that deals with dark and personal themes. Erica Jong states “She is an important poet not only because of her courage in dealing with previously forbidden subjects, but because she can make the language sing…”. Sexton began her writing career in 1955 with encouragement from her long-time therapist, Dr. Martin T. Orne, as her depression was worsening and Sexton had multiple suicide attempts. Sexton’s work would gain noteriety as she won multiple awards, most notably The Pulitzer Prize for her book “Live or Die” and an off-broadway production of her only play, Mercy Street. In 1975 Sexton committed suicide by Asphyxiation from carbon monoxide in her garage. Her daughter and literary executor, Linda Gray Sexton, will release her last works posthumous before working with Diane Middlebrook to write her biography, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton. The biography spurred controversy as it was revealed that Sexton had frequently abused her daughters as well as sexually assaulted Linda. It was also brought light that Dr.Orne has tapes of his sessions with Sexton and released them for the biography. Though an admittedly dark turn of event, Sexton’s work are still widely renown and her works have inspired countless confessional poets to explore their inner demons.
- “Anne Sexton.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/anne-sexton.
- Wagner-Martin, Linda. “Anne Sexton’s Life.” The Modern American Poetry Site,University of Illinois, http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/index.htm.
- Hausman, Ken. “Psychiatrist Criticized Over Release Of Poet’s Psychotherapy Tapes.” The Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/20090321225256/http://dianemiddlebrook.com/sexton/tpn9-6.html
Sylvia Plath was an American Poet and was seen as “one of the most dynamic and admired poets of the 20th century” (Poetry Foundation). She was a novelist and a poet who wrote confessional poetry. Her novel was called The Bell Jar. Shortly after her novel released she killed herself in 1963. Previously, around the 1950’s Plath did attempt suicide for the first time and failed at it. She was sent to a mental health facility in which she received treatment. Sylvia Plath was married to Ted Hughes and had two kids (Freida Hughes and Nicholas Hughes). Her husband ended up having an affair with another woman. According to Poetry Foundation, Plath had written a journal entry that was written on June 20th, 1958 that said: “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric current: joyous positive and despairing negative – whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” You could assume that from this journal entry she suffered from depression or some mental disorder. I believe that her depression drove her to kill herself. I think that maybe it was over the affair or maybe she dealt with so much problems within her life that she didn’t know how to cope with it. I believe that writing made it easier for her too write how she truly felt until she no longer knew how to deal with it. Writing was her career but it was her way of living as well.
- “Sylvia Plath.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 28 Apr. 2017, www.biography.com/people/sylvia-plath-9442550.
- “Sylvia Plath.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/sylvia-plath.
Here are the directions for Blog Post #2, which will be due Mon, November 26.
Blog post #2 researching a poet