Sylvia Plath's tragically abbreviated career as a poet began with work that was, in the words of one of her teachers, Robert Lowell, "formidably expert." It ended with a group of poems published after her suicide in 1963 which are, in the nakedness of their confessions, in their black humor, in their ferocious honesty about what people do to one another and to themselves, among the most harrowing lyrics in the English language - poems in which a magnificent, exquisitely disciplined literary gift has been brought to bear upon the unbearable. In these transfiguring poems, Plath managed the rarest of feats: she changed the direction and orientation of an art form.
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