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To me, a reader unsatisfied with this collected edition would be hard to understand. The volume is physically compact and includes all the poems from 1956 to her death. According to Ted Hughes, the editor, these are the ones the poet wanted to preserve. Hughes has also included fifty earlier poems under the heading "Juvenilia". He describes the juvenilia, accurately in my opinion, at times "intensely artificial", but "always lit with her unique excitement... And that sense of a deep mathematical inevitability in the sound and texture of her lines was well developed quite early. One can see here, too, how exclusively her writing depended on a supercharged system of inner symbols and images, an enclosed cosmic circus." I would call this an accurate summary. I have been reading Plath in conjunction with "Chapters in a Mythology" by Judith Kroll, which for all of the poems explores this cosmic circus very well. The key word here is "enclosed", and as one reads further, the sense of enclosure eventually turns into claustrophobia.
Consumer notes: I bought a "hardbound" copy. It is not really hardbound, but just a paperback cased in uncommonly thick boards.
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I write this from a different standpoint than many of the previous reviewers have. And in doing so, I do not mean to step on the toes of the many devoted Plath fans in the world.
I am, unfortunately, by no means a poetry connoisseur. I enjoy poetry, especially many of the classics, but I know very little about it. Perhaps this is the reason that I don't "GET" much of Sylvia Plath's poetry. Most of the poems in this collection had meanings that eluded me. I was left at the end of them saying, "What's the point?"
I didn't feel that I grew from reading many of the poems. I didn't feel that I learned from them. Her early poetry (the book is arranged in chronological order) was harder for me to get into. Later poems, because of their more personal tone and deeper emotions, were better. Some of my favorites came around the time she had a miscarriage, as I could connect with those on a deeper level, having been there myself. Very late poems, so dark and sad, I just wanted to speed through and to get away from before they could effect me so.
Aside from the content, the style of writing was not one that I really enjoyed. It didn't keep my attention. I know this may make me come across as being either a.d.d. or stupid but, honestly, many people in my generation (think 20-30 years) are going to think the same thing.
For fans of Plath, I'm sure that this is a must-have book. For casual poetry readers, it may not be the best choice.
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Anyone who might have the luxury of reading this volume sans a background of hype on its author is lucky indeed. Perishing a self-inflicted death about a decade before her status left that of human and became one of icon, I've often wondered what Plath would have made of the image she has become in the minds of so many fanatical devotees. In this book, one might be able to set aside the burden of background and concentrate solely on Plath the poet. Or more correctly: Plath's poetry.
Devoid the legend (largely, I think, created from wholecloth by a generation in need of a martyred antihero) one is left with a body of writings that emcompasses a novel (The Bell Jar) and the several hundred poems collected here, all written by Plath over the period of about ten years. What is instantly clear is that Plath was a poet of her era. Her range may have grown with time--time she did not allow herself to possess--but within her life she never strayed from her caste or delivered up a poem that was other than the sort in vogue in the mid-twentieth century.
Sometimes Plath, the poet, wrote memorable, moving pieces, at other times she was not beyond turning out fluff. A few poems within her body of work are downright incomprehensible. Just a few are truly genius, such as "Lady Lazarus" and "Mushrooms". Her description of her favorite horse, Ariel, as "the great lioness of God" is somehow more personal and touching than ten pages worth of her death-centered bitter screaming.Read more ›