I'm reading Plath's unabridged journals right now. I recall reading The Bell Jar in high school and finding it supremely maddening/engaging. I believe this is what depressive artists do to one: make you want to love them and shake them concurrently. I'm still not up to her first suicide attempt, so it's mostly boys, boys, blind dates and her very meaty conflict with self-assimilation. This passage haunts me the most thus far:

--God, who am I? I sit in the library tonight, the lights glaring overhead, the fan whirring loudly. Girls, girls everywhere, reading books. Intent faces, flesh pink, white, yellow. And I sit here without identity: faceless. My head aches. There is history to read--centuries to comprehend before I sleep, millions of lives to assimilate before breakfast tomorrow. Yet I know that back at the house there is my room, full of my presence. There is my date this weekend: someone believes I am a human being, not a name merely. And these are the only indications that I am a whole person, not merely a knot of nerves, without identity. I'm lost. Huxley would have laughed. What a conditioning center this is! Hundreds of faces, bending over books, fans whirring, beating time along the edge of thought. It is a nightmare. There is no sun. There is only continual motion. If I rest, if I think inward, I go mad. There is so much, and I am torn in different directions, pulled thin, taut against horizons too distant for me to reach. To stop with the German tribes and rest awhile: But no! On, on, on. Through ages of empires, of decline and fall. Swift, ceaseless pace. Will I never rest in sunlight again - slow languid & golden with peace? -

She seems to almost have joyfully languished! It's shitty to feel so, but so wonderful to communicate it in the most exquisite knots of language one can construct. Poets are certainly journalers, or at least should be. Another thing I find so striking about Plath's journaling is that she's always angling toward the poem - none of her descriptions are particularly dry, but even the driest of these need only a nudge to attain poemhood. That's the Confessional ethos, I suppose - the poem being a natural derivation of inner-most scribblings. So few do this well, as there's always the danger falling into pure self-indulgence. Of course, I think I've gained in technical adroitness since high school, so I can see the weak spots in Plath's aesthetic. But even the exercise of journaling doesn't seem so much a self-indulgence in this case as it does an unveiling of the ego, unabashedly revelatory as it is, it is at least unabashed.

It's difficult to believe that Plath didn't somehow know that people would be reading her journals, even forty-some years after her death. I'm acutely aware that it's all exploitative, an exploitation of the self, herself by writing it and my reading, and myself by usurping her point of view. Reading others' journals always does seem like a bit of usurpation. Yet, I think that my awareness of this is informed by the contemporary phenomenon of the aloof poet. It's counter-intuitive that any truly contemporary poet could be considered "aloof," because we're all so plugged in (there are at least five different ways I can Google you). And yet not. With the de-privitization of poets and poetry, I think we guard our home lives more jealously. I keep a "poetry" blog and a "personal" blog. The lines are more clearly delineated than ever.


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