Was Sylvia Plath a feminist in the kitchen? What did her poems about domesticity mean to women who were about to revolutionize the world through the women’s liberation movement? What can we learn from her work today?
These are the central questions of our November book club meeting, which will also feature Kate Lebo, a food writer, poet and pie baker in Seattle who will join us in conversation at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at BookWoman, 5501 N. Lamar Blvd.
Lebo is out on book tour for her new book, “A Commonplace Book of Pie,” but it was her short booklet, “The Pie Lady’s Manifesto,” which you can buy for $5 on Etsy, that inspired this book club meeting on Sylvia Plath.
I never had the chance to study Plath’s poems in school, unfortunately, but Lebo’s manifesto helped me understand how Plath’s poems pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for a woman to write, and that the mainstream magazines that published them knew that their readers wanted more than a good recipe for pie.
“Mother/wife/woman-hood vs. Poetry wasn’t a new ‘versus’ when Plath wrote, and it isn’t one she put to rest. In her time, she engaged that conflict by using gloss to attack gloss, by becoming a Mademoiselle-ish beauty who won poetry contests, a housewife who taught at Smith, a mother who won Fullbrights and made fairy palace dishes — and by destroying an appearance of superwomanhood with her suicide. The Ariel poems are subversive because they didn’t leave the home and yet aren’t convenient, easily packaged, or comforting. Within their kitchen, Plath is a priestess and hostess, goddess and mother, cook and child, wretch and witch.”
As soon as I read this paragraph in Lebo’s manifesto, my mental wheels were absolutely spinning with questions and a curiosity to learn more. I’m just now diving into “Ariel” and can’t wait to see what other revelations await.
I hope you’ll join us next month to talk more about Plath’s poems and her legacy and why it matters in 2013.
As always, the book club is free and open to everyone, and you can join the Facebook book club group to chime in on the conversation between meetings. Don’t forget that in December, we’ll be talking about Lucky Peach’s gender issue.