This will be a reading plus using reading to develop own writing course, focusing mainly on Plath's poems and methods, and not on the speculative psychology of her life. She has a wonderful sense of sound, and a wonderful way of shaping free verse. She is also often a poem of implied meanings and concrete imagery, and there is behind many of her poems a narrative, often related to aspects of Shakespeare's The Tempest. I'd hope to link some readings of particular poems with themes in the other courses, as well as deal with the whole idea of 'confessional' writing and what exactly this 'confessing' is.
In a review of Plath's first book, The Colossus, the poet Roy Fuller, praised Plath for her technical skill. It's worth remembering her references to the time she spent on this, writing villanelles, for example, a form which requites great formal skill to pull off. The question many developing writers need to ask is how the time spent on learning to write the traditional forms translates itself into and enhances the writing of free verse for which, in some sense, there seem to be no rules expect feeling right and trying very hard. Of course there are 'rules' but often these are not easily definable, let alone teachable. We have to beware of the fallacy of looking at free verse as a model and then convincing ourselves that really all this rhyming and metering is 'out of date' now and we don't need to trouble ourselves.
Still more do we have to beware of convincing ourselves that in some way the formal aspects of poetry - whether metrical or other - are in some way a restraint up our 'freedom' in saying what we want to say.
It's informative in this context to look at this or that formal fondness a poet shows. We can see, for example, in Plath's use of vowel harmonies, quite a kinship to Wilfred Owen and to Dylan Thomas. And what about her use of the first person, the different tones of voice, that come from her poems, some almost child-like and even spoilt, others almost losing in the sense of 'I' in empathy.
Sylvia Plath's Poems