The Plath Special

My blogging friend over at The Plath Diaries doesn’t much rate one of my poets, which makes me a bit sad. Perhaps her good opinion can be salvaged?

When I was fourteen I feel heavily under the dangerous spell of Sylvia Plath, like so many other teenage girls with literary aspirations. Now I think of the [poems that won the Kavanagh Award at 18] as being far too Plath-influenced, though they probably had a valuable, raw quality about them.
‘Sinead Morrissey in Interview with Declan Meade’, The Stinging Fly, 1.14 (2002-3), pp. 2-13, 7.

No? Then I definitely won’t mention Leontia Flynn’s poem ‘Sylvia Plath’s Sinus Condition’… oh wait…

'to tear one's flesh - to push push push / the self-destruct button...'

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6 thoughts on “The Plath Special

  1. Oh Alex! Apologies for not commenting sooner! I am intrigued about Flynn now you have suggested ‘Sylvia Plath’s Sinus Condition’ – perhaps I will have to check out Drives!

    Although I’m afraid even if Morrissey had a Sylvia Plath quotation tattoo-ed on her forehead, it would not change my opinion of her! Indeed, the quote you cite, where Morrissey dispels herself at being too ‘Plath influenced’ although having a ‘valuable, raw quality’ frustrates me because there is much more to SP than just the “blood jet”, the raw-ness. I’m working on a paper at the minute on the relationship between Plath and landscapes, particularly those influenced by the Yorkshire countryside and the descriptions she employs couldn’t be less ‘raw’.

    Maybe you could suggest some Morrissey to me – your favourite poems by her, for instance? I’m always willing to be challenged 😉

    Here’s a lovely warm Plath quote from an early poem called ‘Southern Sunride’ (1956) to finish up:

    “Color of lemon, mango, peach,
    These storybook villas
    Still dream behind
    Shutters, their balconies
    Fine as hand –
    Made lace, or a leaf-and-flower pen sketch”

  2. No worries!

    Yes, Drives has a whole series of poems about great writers and their unusual habits or mental struggles.

    It isn’t really anything original to say my poets were influenced by Plath – there are very few contemporary women poets who aren’t.

    I had a feeling that Morrissey quote would wind you up further. That may have been my intention… I suppose it is frustrating to have one particular view of your thesis poet predominate. Perhaps this is what Morrissey is also frustrated at in her poem ‘Reading the Greats’:

    ‘Ignoring the regulation of Selected Poems,
    with everything in that should be in –
    all belted & buttoned & shining –
    I opt instead for omnivorous Completes

    In fact, what she picks out from the ‘Completes’ is ‘Plath on Aunts’!

    The State of the Prisons is a great collection, by the way. 😉

  3. Almost a year later I’ve come back to this post (found it again by chance via search engine search) and have to cringe. I have a real tendency to make up my mind about poets and decide I don’t like them when in reality, I know very little – certainly not enough to make such a damning judgement as I have done in these comments!

    Well Alex, I did go away and read Leontia Flynn and I think her poetry is just wonderful. It’s the kind of stuff that makes me proud to be a Northern Irish female, because the wit, delicacy, gorgeous expression and themes explored in Drives, and more especially Profit and Loss move me in a very real way. I would actually go so far to say that the contemporary Northern Irish and Irish poetry I’ve come across in the past year or so has spoken to my soul (not to sound too dramatic!) in a way unlike any other type of poetry – even Sylvia Plath!

    Perhaps it’s more to do with my inability or lack of desire to care what people in NI/Ireland had to say because I was so hellbent on leaving.. Now as I mature(???), I’m possibly more willing to get past my original dismissive attitude and enjoy these fascinating poets without prejudice.

    And as for Morrissey…. well, I’m going to hear her read this Saturday and am very excited!

    • I’m really glad that you’ve changed your mind! The fact is that much of academia is based on personal opinion. There is an idea that academics somehow cast ‘the right’ judgement, but those of us at work here know that quite often the judgements cast are neither right nor wrong.

      I’ve never had someone take my reading recommendations quite so seriously – I’m very flattered!

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