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Sylvia Plath inducted into American Poets’ Corner

“This is the light of the mind / Cold and planetary.” Those lines, from Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Moon and the Yew Tree,” testify to the heartbreaking isolation and loneliness the American poet seemed to carry with her for much of her all-too-brief life. They are now also the engraved epitaph on her plaque at American Poets’ Corner in New York’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The plaque was unveiled at a ceremony last Thursday, just over a week after what would have been the poet’s 78th birthday.

On The New Yorker‘s Book Bench blog, Jessica Ferri writes about the induction ceremony, which included a live performance of several Plath poems by the New York troupe louderARTS and the playing of a BBC radio interview with Plath. According to Ferri, one of the most startling moments of the evening came when The New Yorker‘s poetry editor, Paul Muldoon, read “Daddy,” arguably Plath’s most famous poem:

The idea of a male poet (and father) reading lines like Every woman loves a Fascist / the boot in the face, the brute / the brute heart of a brute like you, struck me as awkward, but in execution Muldoon’s Irish lilt intensified the unique rhythm and oo sounds of the poem “ illuminating its brilliance in a new way.