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This interview is taken from PN Review 124, Volume 25 Number 2, November - December 1998.

Defining Circumstances: An Interview by Vicki Bertram Eavan Boland

VICKI BERTRAM: Back in 1991 you published a review of two critical studies of Sylvia Plath... in which you lament the lack of serious engagement with her poetry. In it, you suggest that the understanding of her poetry that's depicted in those books is naïve, and that there is no critical model for Plath's work. I wonder if you could say a little bit about why you think Plath has proved such a difficult poet to place, and whether or not you feel that her sex, and the angles which she adopts in her work, is part of that difficulty?

EAVAN BOLAND: When I wrote that review I was protesting at the way Plath, in the posthumous transmission of her work, kept slipping deeper and deeper into a mire of gossip and personal reference. It seemed then - it still does - that the serious critique she deserved as a poet kept being put aside for the more convenient tabloid legend of the woman. This may be understandable as journalism. But it's bad for poetry to allow the categories to become so blurred.

I do think Plath has been a difficult poet to place. And for reasons which are quite revealing about the way we keep making and re-making the history of poetry. I think there are some interesting issues there so maybe I should try to clarify that statement. The truth is there have always been tabloid versions of the poet. Take an ...


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