Myles's Reviews > Collected Poems

Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
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's review
Aug 08, 2015

it was ok
bookshelves: poesy-and-drama, literary
Read from October 10, 2011 to February 02, 2012

I know--I'm a cretin. As much as I love some of these poems, as a whole, this book is exhausting.

I firmly believe that Sylvia Plath was a great artist, in prose as well as poetry. The Bell Jar is one of my favorite novels. Nor do I think that her personality or the legend of her life overpowers her work. What personality could dim the power of "Conversation Among the Ruins", "The Colossus" or "Lady Lazarus"? They are some of her most well-known poems, but they stand out even in this massive collection. This collection though, however complete it is, is also flawed.

First of all Ted Hughes should have done nothing more than authorize the publication of the book and smooth any paths the editor needed smoothed to get access to all of Plath's papers. Hughes himself admits in the introduction that much of his chronological ordering is guesswork. The tone in the mostly unilluminating end notes seemed off as well. I think this job might have been too much and too personal.

I'd rather have had a collection arranged more...organically? I'm grasping at a word that escapes me. But, there was little to gain by having the poems arranged the way they were, starting with her first "mature" piece (the aforementioned "Conversation") and lumping all of her juvenalia in the back. The arrangement only exacerbated the problem of Plath's poetry being inseparable from her life and diminishes some poems by having poems working similar themes lumped side by side, blurring them together.

I know this book is not really meant for people, like me, new to Plath's larger body of work, but I feel that a fresher pair of hands (and ears) could do wonders for a new edition. Rebuild it all from the ground up. I think my feelings about the book will improve in time, but for now I'm just glad to be able to reshelve it and get it off my desk where I have gotten far too many "Feelin' OK guy?" comments (some of them serious!) to laugh at anymore.
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message 2: by Richard (new)

Richard I know the opening remark was humorous self-deprecation, but I thought this was a very intelligent and perceptive review.

Myles Thanks Richard, I feel that there must be a better way of presenting such a huge body of work.

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