Plash’s early poems like “Point Shirley’ and “Hard Castle Crags” are purely autobiographical in tauter and confessional in character. But her best poems like “Daddy’, “Lady Lazarus” have deeper connotations. As Bernstein puts it: They deal with extreme emotional states and sometimes with the theme of individual suffering as inner registration of outward turmoil. One can recognize the experience of the poet in them, whether by internal hints or by clues from their context among other poems, but they often leave the lateral details unspecified, to be supplied by implication or by other writings. Bernstein 50) This method of self-deterioration makes Sylvia Plat something different room other confessional poets. Though she belonged to the same generation and handles the same sort of material as the other Confessionals, her attitude to poetry (only way of surviving for her) and her poetic strategy differ to a great extent from theirs. Two important features keep her apart from them. A poet moving between the two sides of the Atlantic, keenly responding to the broader social, political and cultural framework of her time, she is unable to keep her interest centered narrowly on herself.
Secondly being influenced by American and European traditions of poetry, re sense of self-hood differs essentially from the day-to-day identity of the poet as a person as he / she is projected in confessional poetry. The difference in poetic strategy can be best exemplified by contrasting poems by the Confessionals and by Plat on the same subject. The Confessionals and Plat share a common history of mental breakdown and treatment. This is a theme they all have dealt with in their poems.
The difference in treatment is clearly observed while comparing other Confessional poems on the subject with Plash’s “Poem for a birthday. ” While Confessional poetry depends mainly on the factual biographical details that help to project the true self in alienation, Plash’s “Poem for a birthday’ is a spiritual biography that delineates the poet’s quest for a whole self. In Plash’s poem about her hospitalizing after a mental breakdown, the external landscape of the hospital is exchanged for the enclosed arena of the tortured mind.
We move into a world of pure being not subordinated to its spatially and temporally bound surroundings. The struggle for a pure UN-fragmented self-hood takes place on a deeper psychic level, he poetic mind regressing into a preconscious state and ultimately finding new life through death in the final section of the poem “The Stones”: Ten figures shape a bowl for shadow My feelings itch. There is nothing to do I shall be good as new. (Plat, Collected Poems 137). As Ted Hughes tells us, “The Stones” can be read as Plash’s self-recovery in a mental hospital where she underwent electroshock therapy.
The clinical or surgical imagery widely employed in the poem suggests the process of regeneration and self-renewal. The “l” is essentially different from the temporally and socially delineated personality f the Confessionals self. Like Robert Lowell and John Ferryman, Anne Sexton treats the theme in “The Double Image”. She adheres to facts. She gives a close and careful account of her hospitalizing during her breakdown. She gives a detailed analysis of her past history, trying to go to the roots of her problem with the precision of a coolly analytical probing of the self, peculiar to her age.
Plash’s later poems, on the other hand, convey the sense that the future is foreclosed, that no substantial change can be occasioned by experience and that only rebirth or transcendence of re poetry are similarly determined by her mythic system. Personal and historical details as well are subordinate to it. While a Confessional poet might alter certain details to make them more fitting in the spirit of Aristotle observation that poetry is truer than history, Plash’s alteration of details has a deeper significance. Her protagonist in “Daddy’ says, “l was ten when they buried you. But Plat was only eight when her father died. A magical “one year in every ten” cycle, however, conveys her state of being. It is precisely such details of Confessional literalness that Plat most frequently alters or eliminates. Neither Lowell nor Sexton writes poems in the cyclical orderliness, for they do not have the kind of vision to which such considerations are relevant. The details in confessional poems stand on their own, frequently unified only to the extent that they occur within a single consciousness.
But in Plash’s poetry every detail is connected with and intimates her entire vision. To a reader unaware of this unity, Sylvia Plash’s poetry bears more or less the significance in our daily life, in which virtually every image in late poems participates. Without this awareness, the elements of suffering, violence, death, and decay will nearly be seen as aspects of a self-indulgent stance that is merely, albeit brilliantly, nasty, morbid, and decadent, the extremist exhibitionism. Was she a “Confessional” poet this might be the case.
But Plash’s poetry is of a different order and these details are absorbed into a broader system of concerns. Sylvia Plash’s imagination rises to such a prolific surge of images that renders it possible for her to give an objectively and universal appeal to her personal and subjective experiences. What is very particular about Sylvia Plash’s poetry is her ability to transform her autobiographical details and personal experiences artistically into a kind of deterioration where she acts out her existence in the guise of various personae and their encounters with the others.
Most of Plash’s poetic experience is nothing but a traumatized version of her personal experience. The abundant use of autobiographical material can be viewed as a creation of her own personal mythology through which she defines herself in a series of postures either by way of identification with the society or by claiming an ambivalent and an antithetical relationship with the society. She externalities her mental status, the sense of blackness and loss, her apprehensions, her alienation and isolation through identifications with the world of nature.
The world of nature becomes symbolic of Plash’s ceaseless struggle against the hostile forces. It contains the dark outlines o mythology, historical and biblical characters play their part. In this world, the yew tree stands blackly. Her father, a German, also figures darkly, often referred to persons and to concentration camps. All these provide the reserve from which Sly Plat draws the imagery, symbols, and references for her poetry. The prominent poems of Plat are autobiographical; they describe her personal experiences and personal relationships.
For example, the poem “Daddy’ written in 1962 refers to he father’s affection for her. Sylvia Plat is more successful than other confessional poets of her time. Plash’s work shows extraordinary sense of urgency to convey to t reader to the feelings of her sick mind which we do not find in other confessional writers. Plash’s life is her work and her work is her life. Plash’s poems are uninhibited free from moral, literary and social constraints, which are part of an outworn system She sheds the smug attitude of her contemporaries, and comes out boldly.