The Risk Of Suicide In Poets And Their Works

Poetry has always been a medium for the subjects we least like to discuss. It’s a way to describe our innermost thoughts without saying exactly what we mean, and that’s why it’s so special. A poem is always open to interpretation, and that means that many readers will never truly understand the mind of the poet. But that’s okay. This style of writing is meant to be fluid.

Many readers believe that a number of writers who have committed suicide left clues in their poems–Sylvia Plath chief among them. According to research on the subject, writers who have committed suicide veer toward subjects of social detachment and narcissism, in stark contrast with writers who lived to a ripe old age or died naturally.

Writers are known to commit suicide at a greater rate than average, poets in particular, so it might not come as too much of a surprise that depressed writers tend to choose darker words and explore darker subjects than happy writers. According to the same research, struggling writers often stick to the first-person point of view, using the word “I” at higher rates.

Today, poetry is used as a medium in order to prevent suicide. It is used to explore our feelings of grief after a loss or teach others about options to cope with depression.

There are those who believe it’s the nature of poetry that causes depression among poets. When you write, you most often do it alone. As a species, we most often focus on the negative over the positive. Poetry is a means of personal expression, and therefore it focuses on the bad over the good. Then again, poets also have increased rates of mental illness. Is creativity a predictor of depression or other mental illness?

Poets tend to die an average of six years earlier than those in other professions. This is due to increased rates of alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, and all the health concerns that result. Whether or not this is causative is open to debate. Perhaps those who are depressed are simply more likely to turn to poetry as a means of coping.

THE SYLVIA PLATH EFFECT ON POETRY

It is generally admitted that poetry is one of the great art forms in the world, as it is painting with words. And some of the best word painters have been men – but only because their careers are longer and thus their portfolios thicker.

Turns out, this is not a sexism thing nor is it something having to do with the “patriarchy.” There is apparently a mental pathology that seems to dictate that female poets – for all their equal brilliance with the written word – will generally have a shorter career in poetry, and life as a whole.

Sylvia Plath was one of the great young female poets of her time but had her life cut short by depression, as she committed suicide in 1963 at the age of 30 by putting her head inside an oven and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning while her children slept in nearby bedrooms.

A number of studies look at writers and poets of both genders, and even prominent women in various career fields, to determine if there was something to the curious case of a number of female poets who died or were committed to mental institutions for various disorders. The research in the several studies all came to pretty profound conclusions – female poets or creative writers actually had a higher likelihood of mental illness than male counterparts or even women in other career fields. And frankly, it wasn’t even close, which was all the more remarkable.

In 2001, a psychologist by the name of James Kaufman developed the phrase “Sylvia Plath effect” to describe this phenomenon of female creative writers falling victim to mental illness at a higher rate than other women and male creative writers.  There has been some pathological research that seems to locate some indicators of those who have higher risks of mental illness, but so far there is no real determination as to whether the mental illness creates the poets, or whether being a woman and what happens to bring about the mental illness. The “chicken or egg” dilemma is still being discovered and researched.

It is unfortunate that the Sylvia Plath effect is not based on a phenomenon of great female poets coming out of the classes from which Sylvia Plath is taught – but instead, it describes the odd phenomenon of the high mortality rates of female creative writers (which an exception being the long and storied career of modern poet Maya Angelou). If your daughter has aspirations of becoming a poet or creative writer, it might be a good idea to take her in for a psychological evaluation, just to make sure she’s not susceptible to the Sylvia Plath effect.

Considering The Symbolism Of “The Raven”

As we get ever closer to Halloween, one of the favorite activities of some families is to read some of the classic works of Edgar Allen Poe.

After all, who else in American literature has such scary and macabre stories and poems, focused on death and lost love? Edgar’s our man when it comes to Halloween.

One of the favorite Halloween poems is “The Raven,” which was successfully spoofed by the animated show The Simpsons during a Halloween special.

Poe developed quite a legacy with his short stories and poems, all revolving around death, lost love and the macabre in general. “The Raven” is one of those poems that can be analyzed to be about either death or lost love, or perhaps both. The symbolism can be interpreted in a number of ways, and let’s take a quick look at a couple of these symbols and what they could mean.

The Raven

Of course in a poem known as “The Raven,” it would only make sense to spend a little time discussing the title character. The raven tortures the narrator of the poem, especially with his incessant “nevermore” reply. But what does the raven mean in the poem?

The narrator refers to “Lenore” a few times in the piece, and the raven is asked about Lenore. While the Lenore symbolism will be discussed in a minute, the raven could either be seen as death (due to the dark color of the bird, which is often correlative to death) or could be symbolizing the Grim Reaper taking away Lenore, that lost love. Another idea has to do with Lenore not being an actual person but a symbol of love, where the raven is a reminder to the narrator that death is coming and overrules any positive emotion in this mortal existence.

Lenore

Lenore is clearly a symbol and is not referring to an actual person. At least, that seems to be the idea, because Poe takes no effort to explain anything about her.

We know from Poe’s biography that he did have a true love lost in his life, a woman whom he was infatuated but was forbidden because she was married to someone else. Then she died quite young and it tore Poe’s heart.  Perhaps Lenore is a memory of that lost love, and the raven represents death which took her away from the narrator and tortures the narrator’s heartbreak.

Another possible explanation is that Lenore could represent life eternal, or hope and optimism, while the raven is reality of death and the finality of mortal existence, and as much as the narrator wants to “focus” on what is possible with Lenore, the raven never fails to dominate the room, showing that escaping death can never happen. It’s like paying taxes.

Flight of the Raven

Which direction “The Raven” actually goes is up for healthy debate, but it seems pretty clear that both of Poe’s favorite themes – death and lost love – are showing in colorful words straight from the heart of Poe, one of the great writers in American history, and the darling of Halloween.

Analyzing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 With The Seasons

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

As the sonnet opens, it’s quickly a question that is addressed to the beloved. The comparison of a summer’s day addresses the answer in the next eleven lines of the sonnet.

By the 2nd line, the speaker has stipulated the differences between the young man, and the summer’s day. Quickly it’s addressed that the young man is more lovely and even more temperate than the summer day. This shows the extremes of the weather and differentiates the differences in the young man through the rough winds of life.

Regardless of the season, the young man is going through something and the author works to show the variances. Just as summer is fleeting, so are seasons in the young man’s life.

It leads on to withering autumn. It’s too hot, it too dim, it’s too cold, it’s too warm, it’s too windy and so on all describe various seasons in the young man’s life.

In the final refrains of the sonnet, it’s clearly pointed out that the beloved is different in that their beauty will last for eternity vs the seasonal beauty that is short-lived (for the season) and must move on to another season.

It goes on to state that the eternal summer shall never fade it shall never die. That in the couplet, the beauty will always be. It won’t fade or disappear.

It won’t perish as the poem has preserved it for all eternity. It’s going to last forever. As long as men breathe, as long as eyes can see, as long as ears can hear and as long as eternity exists, it will be.

As the beloved explains, everything in life has its own personal season, just as we do. The author is careful to weave it in such a fashion as to allow each line to stand alone, this isn’t always the case with a sonnet.

In the sonnet, everything is defined from time to seasons, to age. The ending of the sonnet shows that everything has its own season and there is beauty in all seasons of life. The author shows how they can defy time and eternity by simply accepting what the season is as it is.

Clearly, the author shows thought and intent with this sonnet as they go through the story in comparing it to seasons and life. Not nearly as famous as Romeo and Juliet, it still has its place in history to transfer death deeds in estate planning.

Paradise Lost: Analysis

The poem “Paradise Lost” is built around the premise of God, his creations, and man’s disobedience.

It takes a look at the way God’s creations were disobedient and how it came back to create a trail of events that are now etched into history. This is the premise of the poem, and it branches out from there using principal characters such as Satan.

This analysis will dive deeper into why the poem was penned, its main intentions, and how it was able to relay these convictions through the written word.

Hierarchy

In general, most readers will take a look at the development of disobedience as seen with Adam and Eve.

This is normal and is a big part of the poem, but there is more to the context in place. This is where it is time to start looking at the causes of these realities and why they came to be.

For example, everything is structured based on hierarchy.

This includes heaven, hell, God’s place, and the rest of his creations. Everything is in place for a reason, and if something disturbs this order, it tends to lead to a lost paradise.

For those who do obey God, they are respecting the hierarchal setup that’s in place.

This is why Satan’s disobedience is seen as the most significant turning point in biblical history. This was the first creation that let God down and continued to do so forever. There were no external pressures or anything of that sort in his way.

Everything was done at his own volition.

Fortunate Disobedience

With Adam and Eve, the disobedience is present, but it is viewed differently.

For example, it is seen as one that is great because it highlights the hierarchy and where humans stand. Those who do obey God can see his mercy in a way that otherwise would go amiss.

This is why the disobedience becomes a slight positive and one that can be leaned on during the poem.

It shows a way back for those who are human. It is a way to learn about God and his place in the hierarchy from a perspective that would not have been possible in other circumstances.

This is seen throughout the poem and is a big part of why it’s penned.

Mixed in are themes such as light and dark or contemplation to illustrate how the human mind works in the hierarchy.