For me, reading Plath can be a way of shifting an embryo poem from its cavern into the articulated air. Between the terrible furor of her imagination and the stiletto precision of her language there remains, always, a palpable, vibrating cord. It is alive; its tremors are frightening. Here, for instance, is a stanza from "The Arrival of the Bee Box":
I lay my ear to furious Latin.I am not a Caesar.I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.They can be sent back.They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.
"Furious Latin." "Box of maniacs." "Simply." Here is a poet who comprehends the infinitesimal powers of her grammatical elements. Without using a single unusual verb, she nonetheless composes a stanza that is crammed with frustrated energy. Reading Plath is, if nothing else, a lesson in the subtle ancient art of the modifier.
So this week I copied out Plath poem after Plath poem. I avoided all the famous hysterical ones: "Lady Lazarus," "Daddy," etc.--those pieces in which topic overshadows linguistic substance. I didn't want the tabloid Plath; I wanted the poet. They are, of course, the same woman; but her legend often leads readers to cloak the drama of words with the drama of anecdote . . . as if the words themselves aren't her true sword and blood.