Does Anyone Remember Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton or Adrienne Rich?

Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. Plath suffered from depression for much of her adult life, and in 1963 she committed suicide. Controversy continues to surround the events of her life and death, as well as her writing and legacy.

Anne Sexton was an American poet, known for her highly personal, confessional verse. Themes of her poetry include her long battle against depression and mania, and suicidal tendencies. On October 4, 1974, after lunch with her old friend, Maxine Kumin, she returned home, put on her mother’s fur coat, poured herself a glass of vodka, locked herself in the garage and started the engine of her car, committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Adrienne Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist. Marilyn Hacker observed that the crowds of hundreds that packed Rich’s readings may not “like, or even totally comprehend, what they hear that is new,” but almost every audience member “will carry, in memory, at least one poem of Rich’s that resonated, that made a difference in her or his life.”

These women poets unraveled their inner thoughts; depression, mania, suicide tendencies, and human damages in poems. Those mind destructive themes made their poems from 1950-1970 widely read and popular for years. When I found Rich’s fox book of poems 1998-2000, the Grating was the one poem I carried in memory that resonated and made a difference in my life. How this happened is in the poem that I wrote, In the Cold Draft of Pending Obituaries.

th43IYFE3Z Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich

In the Cold Draft of Pending Obituaries

by C.E.Robinson – 2014

Try to row deadweight someone without death skills across the Yangtze River, to pilot through current and countercurrent requiring silence and concentration.

                            — From “Grating” by Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012

Adrienne backed into old age, forced to look ahead

at the remainder of her own mortality, with frail, elderly,

legally blind mother still part of her vibrant being.

Full color hallucinations, herself as a woman of twenty

or of thirty or of forty-five, charged with commitments

to explore controversy between poets and visual artists,

writing of longings, intentions, frictions on the front lines of her youth,

to touch the living with extraordinary emotions

from anger to love and hope, especially for her sisters.

She moved through a privileged world,

born into a species of women poets like Anne Sexton

and Sylvia Plath, who shared life’s intricacies at nerve level.

They murdered their minds. She survived.

Her kind of poetry required silence and concentration,

beyond my writing poems of shallow deaths,

disappointment in love, and middle-aged divorce.

I trailed her in age by ten years, clutched early collections,

The Will to Change, Diving into the Wreck,

to an impressionable heart,

coming-home to the darkest source of self-poems

in my mid-twenties and thirties.

Her words in earlier works stayed with me for years.

She asked, “How did we get caught up in fighting this forest fire?

We, who were only looking for a still place in the woods.”

As a woman in her seventies, Adrienne’s themes stepped up brilliantly

in the FOX poems, charged with forward-looking idealism, her critics said.

She stood jubilant in her present fame, courageous in her effort

to keep us on life’s idealistic track.

 In this last book of poems, words worthy of her obituary,

she did persist in her prisoner’s dark journey,

showed brute strength to navigate broken parts

through a terrifying abyss with no wrought iron railings,

and tried to break down the barriers to face her mortality.

As a woman in my seventies, I’m less impressionable

with Adrienne’s poetry collection gathering dust on a bookshelf.

I don’t want to venture that far in my own dark journey,

“get caught up in fighting this forest fire” for a pending obituary.

I want to “only look for a still place in the woods” to write,

and believe I’m as courageous.



About C.E.Robinson

Christine Elizabeth Robinson, a former nurse practitioner ventures into the world of fiction to write books. Published in May 2022, THREE YEARS OF HER LIFE, a historical fiction, comes from her love of researching family history. A background as a published poet, experience in writing fiction, non-fiction and screenplays, is an advantage in her writing career. Christine lives in Southern California. A literary fiction book, in progress, A SONG FOR CLARE, approaches a woman's staggering real-life medical and relationship challenges. Her love of music and talent to sing, saves her.
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23 Responses to Does Anyone Remember Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton or Adrienne Rich?

  1. Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post.

    It was funny. Keep on posting!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Léa says:

    Christine, thank you. This spoke to me on various levels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • C.E.Robinson says:

      Lea, thanks so much for reading this poem and your comment about it. Our writing life deserves a peaceful place! Let’s not get caught up in the trials & tribulations of the passing years! 📚 Christine

      Liked by 1 person

      • Léa says:

        Christine, absolutely. The only sounds in my writing world are a bit of Mozart, soft, and the cats from time to time… Okay, honestly, there is a bit more noise now as some of the vignerons have begun their harvest… My solitude is like the air I breathe. Lea

        Liked by 2 people

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Lovely! Wish I could listen to classical music while I write! I meed to have silence! I can tolerate normal environmental sounds though, so no ear plugs! It’s always been that way so I can concentrate on the visual pictures & words in my mind! 📚 Christine

        Liked by 1 person

      • Léa says:

        That was always the way for me, however, I find if I play it very softly, all instumental, it is okay. But yes, silence is always best. But I do love Mozart and I adore the violin.

        Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Aww, yes! The violin & guitar together my favorite! 📚 Christine

        Liked by 1 person

      • Léa says:

        Then perhaps you enjoy Joshua Bell? I could listen to him again and again… Lea
        Are you back from seeing your son?

        Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Do not know Joshua Bell. I’ll look him up. I just got back this weekend. Jeff progressed so well in his rehab. It was good that I was there to help him & the family. I drove him around in Seattle to his clinic appointments & on Camano Island for the week we were there. He was in a wheelchair, and used a crutch. He could walk with only 50% weight on the fractured right leg. The right shattered elbow was in a compression sleeve iced & heat applied every few hours. It was a lot of work and I know I made a difference paying attention to his needs and including him in how he wanted to progress! We had some good family gatherings too! The great-grand babies first birthday party the highlight! Thanks for inquiring if I was back. Sorry it was a longer answer! 📚 Christine

        Liked by 1 person

      • Léa says:

        If you ever saw the films, Ladies in Lavender or The Red Violin, you have heard Josua Bell as he did the violin solos. If you haven’t seen those films, I highly recommend both. I’m glad you were able to be there for your son and sounds like some nice memories were made as well. Lovely to hear from you and nothing to apologize for. 🎶 Lea

        Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Thanks, Léa! Yes, I saw the Red Violin! A favorite movie! I need to watch it again. I’m off to bed now. Better we continue to chat by e-mail as before! 📚 Christine

        Liked by 1 person

      • Léa says:

        Bonne nuit! Sweet dreams. 🎵

        Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Thanks! Buona Notte! 😴


      • Léa says:

        Merci et ciao! 😁

        Liked by 1 person

  3. dweezer19 says:

    Sylvia Plath’s name has been brought up to me on several occasions but as of yet I have not looked more closely at her work. Thanks for the introduction to these deeply troubled, talented women. Poets are in pain. Since I began writing poetry at a very young age, I have observed that it is far easier to write striking, poignant words about pain than joy. There seem to be not enough ways to put ecstasy into words but the expression for pain is endless. Joy seems indescribable while sorrow is indelible. I need to go find one of these books to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • C.E.Robinson says:

      Cheryl, I bought their books years ago, when I was writing poetry, capitalizing on a painful time in life. Here’s a book list to get you started on the search.
      Sexton – Transformation, To Bedlam & Part Way Back, Words for Dr. Y., 45 Mercy Street, The Death Notebooks, Live or Die. Suicide at age 46.
      Plath – Ariel, Winter Trees, Crossing the Water. Suicide at age 31.
      Rich – The Will to Change, Diving into the Wreck, Poems, Fox (poems 1998-2000). She died of long-term Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2012 at age 83.

      Tragedy and sadness reading many of their poems. 😪 Feminists with a message. Good luck finding their books. 🎶📚 Christine


  4. Ellen Hawley says:

    I admire some of Sexton’s and Plath’s work, but it was Rich who really spoke to me. I was glad to read this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • C.E.Robinson says:

      Thanks, Ellen. Happy you liked the post. Rich spoke to me too. I have her awesome 1976 book, Of Woman Born. Motherhood as Experience and Institution. She said, “I didn’t choose this subject. It had long ago chosen me.” But, it’s her poem Grating that really got to me. 📚 Christine

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ellen Hawley says:

        Of Woman Born spoke to me, but not as powerfully as the poems. But then, I’ve never been a mother. Anyway, you’ve brought me back powerfully to a pivotal time in my life–so much so that I hardly know what to say without writing an essay. To keep it brief and get right to the point, thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Ellen, You got me pulling out Riches books to remember my time back then. Poems 1950-1974, The Will to Change 1968-1970, Diving into the Wreck 1971-1972, fox (1998-2000). Grating is in fox. I’d say write the essay. Pivotal times back then need to be remembered in written words. Happy Writing. 📚Christine

        Liked by 1 person

  5. C.E.Robinson says:

    Ellen, You got me pulling out Riches books to remember my time back then. Poems 1950-1974, The Will to Change 1968-1970, Diving into the Wreck 1971-1972, fox (1998-2000). Grating is in fox. I’d say write the essay. Pivotal times back then need to be remembered in written words. Happy Writing. 📚Christine


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