I’ve been doing The Poetry School‘s reading group course (run by Clare Pollard), Out of the Ash I Rise – Reading Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel” since early May, and next week is the last week. It’s been fantastic, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve read quite a lot of Plath’s poetry, as well as The Bell Jar, but I’ve somehow never studied any; which is pretty impressive, considering I’ve got two degrees in American literature.
As well having read lots of Plath’s writing, I’ve read a lot of Ted Hughes’. For all that he was, by all accounts, a pretty shocking husband, he was a great poet. I guess you get away with a lot more when you’re horrendously talented. It’s easy to forget that when Sylvia died, he was the far more well-known poet of the two of them. The course was focused on Ariel, which contains Plath’s most famous poetry, and some of her absolute best. The manuscript for the collection was found on her desk after her suicide, but Ted changed the order of the poems; maybe to change their narrative, maybe to show himself in a better light. Who knows. Though the course used the published version of the poems, it did note that it wasn’t Sylvia’s intended ordering.
So, the ten weeks have been focused around three or four poems each week, each on a theme, with notes to start discussions on the forum, and a prompt for those who want to hone their Plath-esque writing tendencies. I mostly don’t have Plath-esque poetry tendencies, and mostly her poetry intimidates me too much to attempt anything writing remotely styled like it, because it’s perfect. The discussions have been really good; following on from the notes, but because it’s a forum, people have posted all sorts of things. There’s youtube links to Sylvia reading, links to articles about the collection, its ordering, Ted Hughes, Sylvia’s life in London, and their children. People have posted up their own poems, sparked off by the weeks prompts (they are much braver than I am), or written about why a particular poem is important to them. It’s been really interesting. My Evernote is pretty much bursting with links and videos and notes.
Once this course is finished, I want to read her journals, as they match up to the period she was writing Ariel. I’m probably going to do some more Poetry School courses too – I’ve really loved this one.
(I paid for this course, and wasn’t asked to blog about it, I just have really enjoyed it and thought I’d do a little post!)