Saturday, December 8, 2012

from the archives: the lure of plath

originally posted on independent study, 7/29/09

When I was fourteen, I used to think Plath's life was a template: live romantically, write a beautiful novel with fashion and numbness and pills, write poetry, angry and curious and angled, fall in love with a poet, marry, have two children, and by thirty, have achieved enough to die.

It's awfully morbid, my introducing Frank and Plath as my touchstones, a quick succession of poor role models, as timelines go.

But again, here we have a writer who started something in me: a curiosity to learn more of the life behind the words. To learn the words entirely, a comprehensive study of poet both publicly and privately.

I have yet to read every Plath poem and I still haven't opened one of her biographies, but I do have a shelf at home, collecting dust. I have a bookcase of critical studies on other poets' work, of biographies and memoirs and collected letters.

This is my place to center all that, to pause.

And this autumn semester, I opted for an independent study with MDB, who is retiring after this semester, and this study will fulfill a literature requirement for my MFA. I felt I ought to pause and take a close look at poets whose work I know only peripherally but ought to know more intimately: founding American poets Emily Dickinson, Edna St Vincent Millay, and Elizabeth Bishop.

But why stop there, of course? Why not center myself, study as many poets as my lifetime permits?

There are two issues I seek to resolve with this space: 1.) My memory is a bit more faulty than the average nearly-thirty-year-old. It's a bit disturbing, actually, just how much leaks out, and it's strange what sticks and what doesn't. Here's my attempt at making more of the good stuff stick. 2.) I need accountability. I have a charming tendency toward distraction, finding myself trotting off to knit a small army of dishcloths or photograph the entire baking process of a zucchini loaf. My distraction holds hands with my procrastination, and I hope to sever that, if only briefly, if only here.

I intend to take a close look at the lives and work of the poets. I intend to keep that experience here, preserve it, let it become a way of seeking out what came before.

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