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Plath knew what she meant

I hadn't read enough female poets. I've been working to change that. Starting last year I borrowed poetry collections by Mary Oliver, Wisława Szymborska, Maya Angelou, and (because I randomly found a book of hers on the library shelves) Marilyn Nelson. Several weeks ago I picked up a complete collection of Sylvia Plath's work, mostly organized by year with a juvenilia section in the back of the book.

It's vivid work. I don't know how much of it I "get," but it's vivid. It's felt. But I'll admit that I've found it daunting, enough that I really slowed down my reading of it. At one point, I took a break and read one of her juvenilia poems instead, figuring it would be more straightforward and understandable. It was, and it was still vivid.

I remind myself: Sylvia Plath knew what she was doing, and what she was saying. She wasn't randomly putting words together like the South Park manatees. I've also been impressed with Plath's sense of structure, something I'm working to learn more about in poetry, including mine.

So for now, I'm pacing myself: a few Plath poems a night, where I mouth the words in order to better pay attention to them, and, I hope, get more meaning from them. I doubt I'll reread the whole collection, as I did with Mary Oliver and Maya Angelou, but I want to get more from what Plath wrote.

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