Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 250

Much has been written about the relationship of Plath’s personal life and her work. Although her poems at first glance seem to be about impersonal subjects, they often seem to contain a personal connection. Indeed, critics often find it difficult to interpret Plath’s poems without drawing conclusions based upon her suicide and earlier breakdown. One of her most ardent supporters, A. Alvarez, however, cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the autobiographical aspects of Plath’s poetry. While he praised her exploration of the themes of death and suicide, he added that he “was not in any sense meaning to imply that breakdown or suicide is a validation of what I now call Extremist poetry. No amount of personal horror will make a good poet out of a bad one.” In the case of Plath, he noted: “The very source of her creative energy was, it turned out, her self-destructiveness. But it was, precisely, a source of living energy, of her imaginative, creative power.”

“Blackberrying” did not appear in print until long after Plath’s death. In a 1985 retrospective survey of Plath’s poetry, Stanley Plumly wrote enthusiastically, “‘Blackberrying,’ it seems to me, brings together the best vocal and most effective visual impulses in Plath’s poetry. It gives the speaker her role without sacrificing the poem’s purchase on the actual impinging natural world. It enlarges rather than reduces. Its ceremony comes from one of the poet’s most disguised sources, the small moment, the domestic life.”

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Essays and Criticism