A tradition shared with Plath and Sexton is their tendency to metaphorize the self, instead of nature or a loved one. This has been going on since the early modern period, consistent with society viewed as sexist that time. This can be inferred somewhat in poems of the period such as the opening for “I shall not care” by Teasdale. When I am dead and over me bright April Shakes out her rain-drenched hair, Tho’ you should lean above me broken-hearted, I shall not care. The self is prominent in her work, and the spirit of the woman is made to come out by the poet.
Compared with a postmodern self-view, from Sexton’s More than Myself. Not that it was beautiful, but that, in the end, there was a certain sense of order there; something worth learning in that narrow diary of my mind, in the commonplaces of the asylum where the cracked mirror or my own selfish death outstared me . . . I tapped my own head; it was glass, an inverted bowl. It’s small thing to rage inside your own bowl. At first it was private. Then it was more than myself. The self-view evolved from the Victorian spirit of Dickinson and her counterparts, into the postmodern actualization of contemporary poets today.
More obvious is Plath’s allusion to herself and the mirror. Freedman suggests that Plath’s poem is an allusion to the self. For many women writers, the search in the mirror is ultimately a search for the self, often for the self as artist. So it is in Plath’s poem “Mirror. ” Here, the figure gazing at and reflected in the mirror is neither the child nor the man the woman-as-mirror habitually reflects, but a woman. In this poem, the mirror is in effect looking into itself, for the image in the mirror is woman, the object that is itself more mirror than person.
A woman will see herself both in and as a mirror. To look into the glass is to look for oneself inside or as reflected on the surface of the mirror and to seek or discover oneself in the person (or non-person) of the mirror. (152) The self-image of a woman poet is indicative of her artistic involvement in the presentation of the person as looking for herself and her reflection. Plath shares a place with Dickinson in writers of feminist literature as one of their foremost inspirations. Dickinson alludes to this in some poems about the self.
I had a daily bliss I half indifferent viewed, Till sudden I perceived it stir,— It grew as I pursued, Till when, around a crag, It wasted from my sight, Enlarged beyond my utmost scope, I learned its sweetness right. The metaphors of the self links the postmodern and modern poets together in a fashion of evolution from the modernist’s bonds that held the poet captive by society. In a way the elegant drama of the lives of the women poets served as catalysts for the creativity they possessed.
Dickinson is of course, one of the most famous writers in her generation, however achieving this fame posthumously. Plath meanwhile is comparable—the publication of Ariel two years after her suicide elevated her poetry to new heights. Meanwhile, Kizer’s relationship to the women poets is often described as forcing her to play two roles in some of her poems, like we see in “Pro Femina” I will speak about women of letters, for I’m in the racket. Our biggest successes to date? Old maids to a woman. And our saddest conspicuous failures?
The married spinsters On loan to the husbands they treated like surrogate fathers. Think of that crew of self-pitiers, not-very-distant, Who carried the torch for themselves and got first-degree burns. Or the sad sonneteers, toast-and-teasdales we loved at thirteen; Middle-aged virgins seducing the puerile anthologists Through lust-of-the-mind; barbituate-drenched Camilles With continuous periods, murmuring softly on sofas When poetry wasn’t a craft but a sickly effluvium, The air thick with incense, musk, and emotional blackmail.
It is an allusion to the world that the female poets, ascribed by Finch as sentimentists, live in. “Kizer’s description here leads to an attack on sentimentists like Teasdale and Millay, who’s both childless, married to older businessman husbands, and eventually suicidal. ” (Finch, par. 8) The suicidal tendency of some of these women leads us to wonder if their influence has been brought about by the failure of society to grasp their talents and expressions alive. Meanwhile, they will continue to influence poetry for years to come.
R E F E R E N C E S
Aird, Eileen. “’Poem for a Birthday’ to ‘Three Women’: Development in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath”. Critical Quarterly 21. 4. 1979:63-72 “Anne Sexton. ” Wikipedia. Accessed 10 April, 2007. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Anne_Sexton> Bake, Fred. “Plathetic Fallacies. ” Accessed 11 April, 2007. <http://www. dgdclynx. plus. com/lynx/lynx56. html> “Confessional Poetry. ” Wikipedia. Accessed 10 April, 2007. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Confessional_poetry> Finch, Annie. “Carolyn Kizer & The Chain of Women. ” Poetry Flash. Apr/May 2001. Accessed 10 April 2007.
<http://www. poetryflash. org/archive. 287. Finch. html> Gelpi, Albert. “”The Genealogy of Postmodernism: Contemporary American Poetry. ” The Southern Review. Summer 1990:517-541 Perloff, Marjorie. “Sylvia Plath’s ‘Collected Poems’: A Review-Essay”. Resources for American Literary Study, 11. 2, Autumn, 1981:304 Trinidad, David. “”Two Sweet Ladies”: Sexton and Plath’s Friendship and Mutual Influence”. The American Poetry Review. Nov-Dec 2006. Accessed 11 April, 2007. <http://www. findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_qa3692/is_200611/ai_n17197047/pg_1>