The 1950s and 1960s were viewed as the start of not just the age of “hippies” but also an age of different revivals and movements that Plath was involved deeply in with her poetry: the revival of the occult and the confessional movement. The revival was seen as a back seat to many of the other movements happening during the ‘50s and 60s and some even say Plath just used it as a metaphor in her poetry. However, with her personal level written poems from the confessional movement combined with the occult we see a deeper side to her life and what was happening in her’s and everyone else’s lives.
Plath and the Movements
In the 1960s the revival for the occult was beginning. The largest piece of the revival can be seen from the creation of new religions such as Neo-Paganism and Wicca, a religion formed by Gerald Gardener in Europe . These religions held heavy belief systems in the use of magic and myth. This was an age, as author Margot Adler puts it, which was a “ferment of ideas and ideals and of creative risk-taking” (Guiley 3). This gave way for more creative thoughts and could incorporate the supernatural not with just a metaphor but more symbolic spiritually in writing.
Though not directly involved with the movement, Plath can be seen as influenced by it especially in her poem “Ouija,” which spoke of summoning a god of some sort. Living with Ted Hughes, Plath would use a Ouija board to ask questions such as the title of their next poem or the name of their children. She would constantly refer to the spirit within the board as Pan whose “family god was named ‘Kolossus’” which shared a name with her later written poem “The Colossus” (Sylvia Plath's Spirit Guide). The use of the board was never seen as out of the norm in her daily life as Ted Hughes and visitors would come to use the board. In one of her journal entries she complains that there were “two people arguing over a Ouija board” while she was working on her poetry (Plath). She never delved deeper into the subject of the board as she mentioned it briefly in her journal like one would a piece of furniture or a book as it was so common place. The occult was a daily past time in her life which heavily influenced Ted Hughes and herself when it came to their poetry or just simple conversations with the spirit “Pan.”
Another large movement in the world was the Confessional Movement for poets during the 1950s and 1960s. This post WWII movement used “personal experience as themes of their poems” instead of what used to be more academic or based on the natural world around the person. Those involved included Plath’s fellow classmate, Anne Sexton, and teacher, Robert Lowell. Before the movement many academic poets were influenced by poets such as Elliot but soon “revolted against tradition” and then “developed their individual styles” (Masal). At the time of the movement there was no name for the personal writings until critics later coined the term confessional.
Plath began writing in a more...