I was thinking about Sylvia Plath today, and I realized she may not pass the test of time, despite the impact she's had during and after her lifetime.
It seems looking at her career she was very much a product of her time. That is, her poetry was so powerful because the persona she portrayed was the antithesis to how women were expected to be, inwardly and outwardly. She was violent, aggressive, full of rage, suicidal - anything but the image of a domestic housewife. And this was the 1950s, Eisenhower's post-WW2 years - and I know she was married to a Brit (whose poetry I love) and living in England, but I think the ideals of womanhood were very much ingrained there as well. It was the 1950s that 1960s and '70s feminists were rebelling against. It was the same 1950s our American Beats (Ginsberg, Kerouac) were seen as antithetical to.
The thing is, in the grand scheme of things, is the character of Sylvia Plath so shocking? Medea and Dido were violent women. Now I reach the point where I stopped contemplating earlier...
Medea and Dido are portrayed as sort of harpies, and not as the feminine ideal. Then you have Penelope, the faithful, obedient beauty. Perhaps I was wrong in thinking Plath - whose poetry I love, and was first inspired to write by - would be seen as a sort of flash in the pan. I know Vendler thinks highly of her, Bloom on the other hand not so much.
Along with Sexton, Plath did disrupt the status quo. I don't think that's enough for poetic immortality though, but I'm not saying her poems will not achieve it. I'm simply saying, in the end, that her poetry has had a huge impact on the culture at large, and she's influenced countless writers after her, but as I already was well aware prior to posting this, the future is unpredictable, so "time will say nothing but I told you so...if I could tell you I would let you know." (To quote Auden's great villanelle.)