Beautiful and smiling on a Cape Cod beach; August 1952.
Sylvia Plath to be inducted into Cathedral of St. John the Divine American’s Poets’ Corner: The Most Influential American Poet of the Last 50 Years*
New York, NY: The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is pleased to present an evening of poetry and insight in honor of the induction of Sylvia Plath into the Cathedral’s Poets’ Corner. On Thursday, November 4th at 7:30pm, poets and Plath scholars will take part in the celebration. Participants include Poet in Residence Marilyn Nelson; poet Paul Muldoon; Karen Kukil, Associate Curator, Special Collections & Archivist, Plath Papers, Smith College, speaking on her extensive work with Plath manuscripts, both as archivist and editor of the unabridged journals; poet/scholar Annie Finch speaking on the meter and music of Plath’s poetry; playwright/screenwriter/actress Tristine Skyler; and louderArts Project poets Corrina Bain, Elana Bell, Sean Patrick Conlon, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, and Lynne Procope reading Plath poems.
The formal induction ceremony will take place at the Sunday Evensong Service on November 7th, at 4:00pm. The Very Reverend James Kowalski will preside over the unveiling of the stone, inscribed with the line: “This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary,” from "The Moon and the Yew Tree." Poets Carol Muske-Dukes, Rosanna Warren, Kelly Cherry, and Major Jackson will read Plath poems. As well as music by the Cathedral Choir, there will be performances – on both evenings - of Ariel: 5 Poems of Sylvia Plath for Soprano, Clarinet and Piano, composed by Ned Rorem in 1974.
The Cathedral American Poets’ Corner, founded in 1984, inducts one new writer each year. The first inductees were Walt Whitman, Washington Irving and Emily Dickinson. More recent inductees include Louise Bogan, Theodore Roethke, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, Robert Hayden and Tennessee Williams.
The Poets’ Corner is modeled on the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, and in fact we have two poets in common: T. S. Eliot, an American who became a British citizen and W. H. Auden, an Englishman who took American citizenship. No writers are entombed within the Cathedral, as is sometimes the case at Westminster Abbey; rather, stone tablets are carved with names, dates, and a line from each writer’s work.
The Cathedral is proud to be rooted in our local genius. In historic terms—if not in current influence—American literature is still very young. To celebrate American poets and writers fulfills the Cathedral’s mission, and reminds us of the early and continuing verbal ingenuity, insight and dazzle of our countrymen. What constitutes good or great poetry will always be contentious, and rightly so. But we believe there is great poetry being written today, and that great poetry will be written tomorrow. Whenever the energy seems to falter, when our own era seems wan and diminished, new poets come along with something new to say. Walt Whitman wrote, “Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?” This is at the heart of the American experience, and at the heart of the Cathedral’s philosophy.
*And I'll be there. And a hat tip to Peter Steinberg from whose website http://www.sylviaplath.info/ I copied the St. John's press release.