Sylvia are more autobiographical than others (“Tulips” describes

Sylvia Plath Commentary: (428 words)

Like many poets of
the 20th century, Sylvia Plath was primarily influenced by her own
life experiences. Her poems are often labeled as confessional poems and are
sometimes told by a first-person speaker.
Because Plath was born in the 1930s, she was writing poems in a Post Modern
society and was heavily influenced by elements of postmodernism. This included
themes of contradiction, complexity, and ambiguity, as well as a reflection on
the fragmentation of life and opprobrium of the state of society. Plath also
focused on the oppression of certain societal groups, especially women and
their conventional place and role in the modern world. Post-Modern art was also known for criticizing traditional concepts
of history. Plath utilized that view in two of her famous poems, “Daddy”, and
“Lady Lazarus”, in which she provided interpretations of the Holocaust and
World War II.

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As mentioned
above, Plath famously alluded to many traumatic or significant events that
occurred in her life, including the death and absence of her father, her
suicide attempts, and her ongoing depression. Although some of her works are
more autobiographical than others (“Tulips” describes an experience in a
hospital following surgery, “Morning Song” alludes to the cry of one of her children
during the night) Plath attempted to incorporate ambiguity into most of her
poems so that they could still be interpreted as they related to the reader and
applied to their own experiences (“Point Shirley”). However, as Plath
progressed as a poet, her use of ambiguity became less and less apparent in her
works, especially in the last year of her life.

Plath’s use of
ambiguity in her poems demonstrates her connection to romantic poetry. In
accordance with romanticism, she also utilized nature and animals as sources of
imagery in many of her poems as she felt that they reflected the human psyche.
However, her poems also often displayed modernist characteristics, such as
allusions to historical events that required more research or background
information on the subject to be fully understood.

Plath was a
strong supporter of the feminist movement and displayed her support through many
of her poems and even her novel, “The Bell Jar”. Throughout her life, Plath
progressed as a writer stylistically, moving from the use of the ambiguous (present
in “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”), like her mentor Robert Lowell, to a style
majorly influenced by modernist poetry and more confessional in nature (“Lady
Lazarus”). Her works will always be viewed as timeless for her ingenious use of
fragmentation, enjambment, diction, and complex structure in the development of
themes in her poems. 

T. S. Eliot Commentary: (442 words)

T. S. Eliot was
born in 1880 and lived well into the 20th century. Eliot’s poetry is
classified as part of the modernist era, an era that grew out of the
philosophical, ideological, political, and scientific changes that occurred as
a result of the Industrial Revolution. Modernist poetry rejected romanticism
and put emphasis on formalism, ornate and straightforward diction, and freedom
of subject matter. Eliot, along with many modern poets, conveyed the themes of
alienation of the individual from society and the complexity of life in many of
his poems (especially in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”),  and was famous for his use of allusions to
historical events and other literary works to develop his themes (“The
Wasteland”, “Journey of the Magi”). Collaging bits and pieces of pieces of
dialogue, scholarly ideas, foreign words, formal styles, and tones within one
poetic work was a way for Eliot to represent humanity’s damaged psyche and the
modern world. Eliot was also quite famous for his use of fragmentation in his
poems which he used to demonstrate the chaotic state of modern existence. Because
of the transformation of society that took place throughout the modernist era
(especially after the destruction created by World War I), the theme of
transformation from one thing to another was another theme that manifested in
many 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 the
decay of society and humans with the consistency of time and its unchanging,
cyclical nature.

Eliot’s moral
perspectives on society and the role of the individual were greatly influenced
by George Santayana and Irving Babbitt, two philosophers who shared similar
world views. Eliot was also part of an ‘elite’ group of poets and believed that
poems should not be open to interpretation but rather only understood by those
who put in the effort to research the allusions. That, his opinion, was the
only way to truly understand the poem’s intentions. Although not as apparent as
Plath’s autobiographical connections to her poems, Eliot’s own life experiences
can be seen in some of his works,
including his religious journey (“Journey of the Magi”) and his disastrous
relationship with Vivienne Haigh-Wood (“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”).
However, Eliot was adamant about removing himself as much as possible from work
and presented his poems in a very intellectual and non-emotional way.

Overall, Eliot’s
acclaimed use of fragmentation, allusions, and depersonalization throughout his
poetic works was generally meant as a commentary on the state of the modern
world. His poems are timeless and will continue to influence the modern world.

Keats Commentary: (473 words)

John Keats was born
in 1795 in London, England and lived through a number of losses, including the
death of his father in 1804 due to a fall from a horse, and the death of his
mother 5 years later due to tuberculosis. He died of the same affliction at the
age of 25. However, before his death in 1821, he succeeded in writing and
publishing a plethora of poems which are still famous today. Keats was a
romantic poet and believed that poetry was the ‘zenith of all aspirations’ and
the ‘only thing worthy of the attention of superior minds’. He incorporated
many romantic elements in his works including belief in the individual,
reverence towards nature, conflict between illusion and reality, and interest
in the supernatural. He was also known for his desire to take a more in depth
glance 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 exemplified
a very prominent romantic theme in most of his poetic works: nature as a
reality and the line between imagination and actuality (a theme very apparent
in “Ode to a Nightingale”).  Unlike Eliot’s
views on ambiguity, Keats valued negative capability in his works for its
ability to give the reader free reign to conjure up their own meanings about
the poetry. He achieved this ambiguity through his rich language, diction, and
imagery 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 Dame
Sans Merci”, and “Ode on a Grecian Urn” are three examples that demonstrate
Keats’ love for ambiguity as either the speaker is never made clear or the
characters mentioned are not fully developed so as to allow the readers
imagination to run rampant.

Furthermore, autobiographical
links to Keats’ life are apparent in some of his poems, especially in “Ode on
Melancholy” where the speaker reflects on how to cope with suffering, which
Keats was most likely very familiar with, due to the deaths of many of his
family members.

Although
allusions to other time periods, literature, or events were more commonly scene
in the modernist era, Keats did allude to Greek mythology in multiple works (“The
Eve of St. Agnes”, “Hyperion”). However, Keats wanted to make his poetry accessible
to anyone and never layered his works with allusions that were too difficult to
understand. Furthermore, autobiographical links to Keats’ life are apparent in
some of his poems, especially in “Ode on Melancholy” where the speaker reflects
on 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, Keats
placed beauty and imagination over intellectual and scrupulous themes.