22 January 2008

Is Poetry Dead Stylish?


I'm going to argue in favor of There's-a-pretty-good-chance. How chic is martini-damp Anne Sexton--poor dear--in this photo? I never got quite as into her as I did Sylvia Plath. (Ted Hughes appeared in one of my dreams when I was 19. He asked me to call him dad. But that's all that happened. I swear.)

How can you not be ravished by the sweep and scale of Assia Wevill's--god, poor dear!--life? You know who she is--the hussy Ted Hughes went off with (herself married to a poet)...who, in turn, killed herself (and her daughter with Hughes) the same way Sylvia Plath did. To say Wevill had a very interesting life is quite the understatement. Her family fled Nazi Germany for British-ruled Palestine, and she spent the war years (her teenage years) in Tel Aviv. Successive marriages got her to UK, Canada and UK again. Wevill was a beautiful, intriguing woman, but also very talented--working as an advertising copywriter and producer, and helping Hughes translate Yehuda Amichai's poetry from the original Hebrew (under her birth name Assia Gutmann.)

Even nowadays, poets like Jorie Graham up their glamor factor by being shot by Annie Leibovitz.

Though happiness hardly makes for electrifying poetry, nothing romanticizes the hard livin the muse puts you through like pill-popping poets and their lovely excesses.

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