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.
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.