Sylvia Plath Commentary: (428 words)Like many poets ofthe 20th century, Sylvia Plath was primarily influenced by her ownlife experiences. Her poems are often labeled as confessional poems and aresometimes told by a first-person speaker.
Because Plath was born in the 1930s, she was writing poems in a Post Modernsociety and was heavily influenced by elements of postmodernism. This includedthemes of contradiction, complexity, and ambiguity, as well as a reflection onthe fragmentation of life and opprobrium of the state of society. Plath alsofocused on the oppression of certain societal groups, especially women andtheir conventional place and role in the modern world. Post-Modern art was also known for criticizing traditional conceptsof history.
Plath utilized that view in two of her famous poems, “Daddy”, and”Lady Lazarus”, in which she provided interpretations of the Holocaust andWorld War II. As mentionedabove, Plath famously alluded to many traumatic or significant events thatoccurred in her life, including the death and absence of her father, hersuicide attempts, and her ongoing depression. Although some of her works aremore autobiographical than others (“Tulips” describes an experience in ahospital following surgery, “Morning Song” alludes to the cry of one of her childrenduring the night) Plath attempted to incorporate ambiguity into most of herpoems so that they could still be interpreted as they related to the reader andapplied to their own experiences (“Point Shirley”). However, as Plathprogressed as a poet, her use of ambiguity became less and less apparent in herworks, especially in the last year of her life. Plath’s use ofambiguity in her poems demonstrates her connection to romantic poetry. Inaccordance with romanticism, she also utilized nature and animals as sources ofimagery in many of her poems as she felt that they reflected the human psyche.However, her poems also often displayed modernist characteristics, such asallusions to historical events that required more research or backgroundinformation on the subject to be fully understood. Plath was astrong supporter of the feminist movement and displayed her support through manyof her poems and even her novel, “The Bell Jar”.
Throughout her life, Plathprogressed as a writer stylistically, moving from the use of the ambiguous (presentin “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”), like her mentor Robert Lowell, to a stylemajorly influenced by modernist poetry and more confessional in nature (“LadyLazarus”). Her works will always be viewed as timeless for her ingenious use offragmentation, enjambment, diction, and complex structure in the development ofthemes in her poems. T. S. Eliot Commentary: (442 words)T.
S. Eliot wasborn in 1880 and lived well into the 20th century. Eliot’s poetry isclassified as part of the modernist era, an era that grew out of thephilosophical, ideological, political, and scientific changes that occurred asa result of the Industrial Revolution. Modernist poetry rejected romanticismand put emphasis on formalism, ornate and straightforward diction, and freedomof subject matter. Eliot, along with many modern poets, conveyed the themes ofalienation of the individual from society and the complexity of life in many ofhis poems (especially in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”), and was famous for his use of allusions tohistorical events and other literary works to develop his themes (“TheWasteland”, “Journey of the Magi”).
Collaging bits and pieces of pieces ofdialogue, scholarly ideas, foreign words, formal styles, and tones within onepoetic work was a way for Eliot to represent humanity’s damaged psyche and themodern world. Eliot was also quite famous for his use of fragmentation in hispoems which he used to demonstrate the chaotic state of modern existence. Becauseof the transformation of society that took place throughout the modernist era(especially after the destruction created by World War I), the theme oftransformation from one thing to another was another theme that manifested inmany of Eliot’s works including “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and”Preludes”.
Furthermore, Eliot used the motif of time in order to contrast thedecay of society and humans with the consistency of time and its unchanging,cyclical nature. Eliot’s moralperspectives on society and the role of the individual were greatly influencedby George Santayana and Irving Babbitt, two philosophers who shared similarworld views. Eliot was also part of an ‘elite’ group of poets and believed thatpoems should not be open to interpretation but rather only understood by thosewho put in the effort to research the allusions. That, his opinion, was theonly way to truly understand the poem’s intentions. Although not as apparent asPlath’s autobiographical connections to her poems, Eliot’s own life experiencescan be seen in some of his works,including his religious journey (“Journey of the Magi”) and his disastrousrelationship with Vivienne Haigh-Wood (“The Love Song of J.
Alfred Prufrock”).However, Eliot was adamant about removing himself as much as possible from workand presented his poems in a very intellectual and non-emotional way. Overall, Eliot’sacclaimed use of fragmentation, allusions, and depersonalization throughout hispoetic works was generally meant as a commentary on the state of the modernworld. His poems are timeless and will continue to influence the modern world.
Keats Commentary: (473 words)John Keats was bornin 1795 in London, England and lived through a number of losses, including thedeath of his father in 1804 due to a fall from a horse, and the death of hismother 5 years later due to tuberculosis. He died of the same affliction at theage of 25. However, before his death in 1821, he succeeded in writing andpublishing a plethora of poems which are still famous today. Keats was aromantic poet and believed that poetry was the ‘zenith of all aspirations’ andthe ‘only thing worthy of the attention of superior minds’. He incorporatedmany romantic elements in his works including belief in the individual,reverence towards nature, conflict between illusion and reality, and interestin the supernatural. He was also known for his desire to take a more in depthglance into the inner experience, to explore the power of suggestion on the imagination,and to reflect on the past in a nostalgic way.
As mentioned above, Keats exemplifieda very prominent romantic theme in most of his poetic works: nature as areality and the line between imagination and actuality (a theme very apparentin “Ode to a Nightingale”). Unlike Eliot’sviews on ambiguity, Keats valued negative capability in his works for itsability to give the reader free reign to conjure up their own meanings aboutthe poetry. He achieved this ambiguity through his rich language, diction, andimagery so as to describe scenes that could be easily imagined by his readers(present in “Ode on a Grecian Urn”). “The Eve of St. Agnes”, “La Belle DameSans Merci”, and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” are three examples that demonstrateKeats’ love for ambiguity as either the speaker is never made clear or thecharacters mentioned are not fully developed so as to allow the readersimagination to run rampant.Furthermore, autobiographicallinks to Keats’ life are apparent in some of his poems, especially in “Ode onMelancholy” where the speaker reflects on how to cope with suffering, whichKeats was most likely very familiar with, due to the deaths of many of hisfamily members. Althoughallusions to other time periods, literature, or events were more commonly scenein the modernist era, Keats did allude to Greek mythology in multiple works (“TheEve of St. Agnes”, “Hyperion”).
However, Keats wanted to make his poetry accessibleto anyone and never layered his works with allusions that were too difficult tounderstand. Furthermore, autobiographical links to Keats’ life are apparent insome of his poems, especially in “Ode on Melancholy” where the speaker reflectson how to cope with suffering, which Keats was most likely very familiar with,due to the deaths of many of his family members. Like a true romantic, Keatsplaced beauty and imagination over intellectual and scrupulous themes.