The first time I encountered Sylvia Plath’s poetry was in my dorm’s Bayview laundry room. After buying her final book, “Ariel,” on a whim, I read it all in one sitting. I remember being floored by the precision and beauty of the final line of “Morning Song,” written about the loud cry of her newborn: “The clear vowels rise like balloons.” As an amateur poet struggling to make his poetry impactful, this line seemed shot from a high-caliber rifle. Not only did it perfectly describe a baby’s rising cry, but it also seemed to describe the entire poem that came before it, with its chain of clear syllables rising up from the page to meet me. It wasn’t until I was half finished with the book that I learned of Plath’s untimely suicide. After an initial shock, I continued to read, but my attitude toward her work had changed. Rather than reading her words as she presented them, I couldn’t stop imagining what she was doing and what she was feeling as she wrote them. Rather than appreciating the beauty of the lines “The dew that flies / Suicidal,” I could only focus on the suicidal voice that spoke […]
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