Beware the Plath copycats


If generations of gloomy boys could pretend they were the next TS Eliot, then there have been plenty of gloomy girls who have their very own role model in Plath. And a very powerful role model: unlike Eliot, she succeeded in killing herself. Cue thousands of lines of self-pitying poetry without the command and talent of Plath’s.

I regularly introduce poetry to freshman English majors. Some who write angsty poetry as a form of literary self-therapy are surprised to learn that there’s a difference between the “I” who speaks in the poem (through a fictional character), and the identity of the poet who created the fictional character in order to achieve some artistic effect in the mind of the reader (rather than to achieve a verbal exorcism of personal demons).