Publication Details

Burton, S. (2013). An Introduction to "The Boston Trio": Sylvia Plath with Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton. Plath Profiles, 6 (Summer), 75-84.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Indiana University Northwest – Plath Profiles


In an interview with A. Alvarez for The Observer in 1963, the poet Robert Lowell asserted, "Inspiration's such a tricky word…we all know poetry isn't a craft that you can just turn on and off. It has to strike fire somewhere" (76). The question of the location of this elusive "somewhere" – this inspirational moment in the trajectory of Sylvia Plath's career is one of the main concerns of this paper. This pivotal moment and literary shift is often cited as occurring late in Plath's life, with motherhood and the break-up of her marriage to Ted Hughes providing the fuel for the powerful work of Ariel. However, several years earlier, in early 1959, Plath briefly audited a poetry class taught by the revered American poet Robert Lowell at Boston University. It was here, alongside fellow poet Anne Sexton, that Plath gained new perspective regarding her work and her own position in the emerging currents of American poetry. Plath would later describe the developments occurring at the time in a 1963 radio broadcast, saying of Lowell: "the shift in tone is already history" (Plath, The Spoken Word