****Image of young Sylvia Plath*****
***The image above was found via Google Image search and is not my property or image, nor was it created by me.***
I have always been a fan of poetry, have been writing my own since the wee age of 5. I remember reading a poem in front of the entire school when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. It has always held a special place in my heart. It wasn’t until high school that I started to be able to appreciate poetry on a more profound and intellectual level. My junior year in high school I started writing some very dark and desolate poetry. And that’s when I discovered the work of Sylvia Plath.
Her poetry, while being dark at times, also has a way of illuminating colors, almost making things pop before your eyes visually and you can see what she must have been seeing. The perfect example of this is in “April Aubade,” one of my favorite Sylvia Plath poems. See for yourself:
Worship this world of watercolor mood
in glass pagodas hung with veils of green
where diamonds jangle hymns within the blood
and sap ascends the steeple of the vein.
A saintly sparrow jargons madrigals
to waken dreamers in the milky dawn,
while tulips bow like a college of cardinals
before that papal paragon, the sun.
Christened in a spindrift of snowdrop stars,
where on pink-fluted feet the pigeons pass
and jonquils sprout like solomon’s metaphors,
my love and I go garlanded with grass.
Again we are deluded and infer
that somehow we are younger than we were.
Like so many writers, you can often tell when the high points and low points of her life were by reading her poetry.
This one is so dreamy and fantasy like, and I feel it’s one of her “lighter” works:
The prince leans to the girl in scarlet heels,
Her green eyes slant, hair flaring in a fan
Of silver as the rondo slows; now reels
Begin on tilted violins to span
The whole revolving tall glass palace hall
Where guests slide gliding into light like wine;
Rose candles flicker on the lilac wall
Reflecting in a million flagons’ shine,
And glided couples all in whirling trance
Follow holiday revel begun long since,
Until near twelve the strange girl all at once
Guilt-stricken halts, pales, clings to the prince
As amid the hectic music and cocktail talk
She hears the caustic ticking of the clock.
And, last, but NOT least, this is one of my very top favorites. It emotes a gutwrenching sadness, and I believe this was written in reference to her husband at the time, writer Ted Hughes.
Burning the Letters
I made a fire; being tired
Of the white fists of old
Letters and their death rattle
When I came too close to the wastebasket
What did they know that I didn’t?
Grain by grain, they unrolled
Sands where a dream of clear water
Grinned like a getaway car.
I am not subtle
Love, love, and well, I was tired
Of cardboard cartons the color of cement or a dog pack
Holding in it’s hate
Dully, under a pack of men in red jackets,
And the eyes and times of the postmarks.
This fire may lick and fawn, but it is merciless:
A glass case
My fingers would enter although
They melt and sag, they are told
Do not touch.
And here is an end to the writing,
The spry hooks that bend and cringe and the smiles, the smiles
And at least it will be a good place now, the attic.
At least I won’t be strung just under the surface,
With one tin eye,
Watching for glints,
Riding my Arctic
Between this wish and that wish.
So, I poke at the carbon birds in my housedress.
They are more beautiful than my bodiless owl,
They console me–
Rising and flying, but blinded.
They would flutter off, black and glittering, they would be coal angels
Only they have nothing to say but anybody.
I have seen to that.
With the butt of a rake
I flake up papers that breathe like people,
I fan them out
Between the yellow lettuces and the German cabbage
Involved in it’s weird blue dreams
Involved in a foetus.
And a name with black edges
Wilts at my foot,
In a nest of root-hairs and boredom–
Pale eyes, patent-leather gutturals!
Warm rain greases my hair, extinguishes nothing.
My veins glow like trees.
The dogs are tearing a fox. This is what it is like
A read burst and a cry
That splits from it’s ripped bag and does not stop
With that dead eye
And the stuffed expression, but goes on
Dyeing the air,
Telling the particles of the clouds, the leaves, the water
What immortality is. That it is immortal.
Gathered from Wikipedia, I think this first paragraph sums it up pretty well about Sylvia Plath:
“Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer. She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and they lived together first in the United States and then England, having two children together: Frieda andNicholas. Following a long struggle with depression and a marital separation, Plath committed suicide in 1963. Controversy continues to surround the events of her life and death, as well as her writing and legacy.”
******Image of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath found via Google Image search; image is not my property nor was it created by me.*****
Here is my own take on Sylvia Plath: I believe her life became very sad and troubled for her starting at the age of 8 when her father died. She lost her faith in many things and just sort of existed. During her college years, she was recognized for her writing, but she was losing faith in herself despite her successes. She attempted suicide for the first time and was admitted to a hospital for treatment. Many speculate that this fueled her inspiration for her later work, “The Bell Jar.” Sylvia also had a very tumultuous marriage with accomplished writer Ted Hughes. She found it difficult to both work and have the energy or time to write. It eventually started to take it’s toll on her, as did her husband’s many infidelities. After many bouts of depression and suicide attempts, Sylvia Plath finally succeeded on February 11, 1963.
Gwyneth Paltrow played Sylvia Plath in a movie based upon her life in 2003. I thought Gwyneth did a fantastic job of playing her. It was gut wrenching to watch what Sylvia went through, but it also gives you some perspective on things, how she truly was gifted and how we most likely only witnessed a small tidbit of what she actually could have been capable of.
*****Image of Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath from the movie, “Sylvia” Image found via Google Image search and is not my property, nor was it created by me.******
If you would like to learn more about Sylvia Plath or her poetry, please check out these links!