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“Bodied Forth in Words”: Sylvia Plath’s Ecopoetics

From: College Literature
36.3, Summer 2009
pp. 1-27 | 10.1353/lit.0.0071



Plath demonstrates a combined interest in the texture of the natural world and the texture of language, which in her poems enacts and does not merely represent that world. Her unfortunate categorization as a “confessional” poet as well as critics’ obsession with her biography have resulted in, on one hand, an underestimation of Plath’s engagement with the “real world” beyond her subjectivity, and on the other hand, an insufficient consideration of the craft and formal properties of her poems. She was, from an early age, drawn to the natural world, although she was equally fascinated by the sounds of language. Plath’s sense of irony and linguistic awareness, that is, puts her in a different category from that of a mere nature lover. Her poetry derives its power from the generative friction between speakers and a nonhuman world that resists figurative appropriation. For Plath, this resistance is itself to be figured forth, creating the formal reverberations with which her poems still startle us.