Entries tagged with cultural poetics
To Toussaint L’Ouverture
Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon’s earless den;
O Miserable Chieftain! Where and when
Wilt thou find Patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There’s not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man’s unconquerable mind.
Sylvia Plath, collage, 1960.
Like many who identified with the epochal chasm between The New American Poetry and mainstream verse of the 50s and 60s (whose benchmark anthology was Hall, Pack, and Simpson’s New Poets of England and America), I have been skeptical about Sylvia Plath; the cult of her suicide; the Plath, Sexton, Lowell, Berryman quadriviate; and any kind of confessionalism. As mainstays of workshop writing, these figures set in place terms for the personal lyric that is as close to a norm for verse culture as we have had—to the point that it becomes a cultural norm. But in the period since Plath’s mainstream and feminist reception in the 60s and 70s, much has changed. Lyric poetry has come under pressure from Language writing, and revisionist contextual and gendered readings have opened up Plath’s poetics, allowing one to see her negativity as critical and cultural, not simply formal and expressive.