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Thread: Sylvia Plath

  1. #1
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    Sylvia Plath

    Plath is one of my favourite authors, and I was wondering your views on her.

    Also, I am trying to find a poem by her, but I can't remember what it is called - she finds a dead snake and describes it in great detail. Can anyone help?

  2. #2
    somewhere else Helga's Avatar
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    on the ice in the middle of the sea
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    I love her work, I only have her book 'Ariel' but I have looked at a lot on the internet.

    I am sorry I don't know the poem you talked about, do you remember any lines of it?...
    I hope death is joyful, and I hope I'll never return -Frida Khalo

    If I seem insensitive to what you are going through, understand it's the way I am- Mr. Spock

    Personally, I think that the unique and supreme delight lies in the certainty of doing 'evil'–and men and women know from birth that all pleasure lies in evil. - Baudelaire

  3. #3
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    I cannot recall which poem you search for, Raven, but I will continue looking.
    Meanwhile, a few of my favorites by Sylvia Plath:

    The Moon and the Yew Tree

    This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary.
    The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
    The grasses unload their griefs at my feet as if I were God,
    Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility.
    Fumy spiritious mists inhabit this place
    Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
    I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

    The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
    White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
    It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
    With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
    Twice on Sunday, the bells startle the sky -
    Eight great tongues affirming the Resurrection.
    At the end, they soberly bong out their names.

    The yew tree points up. It has a Gothic shape.
    The eyes lift after it and find the moon.
    The moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary.
    Her blue garments unloose small bats and owls.
    How I would like to believe in tenderness -
    The face of the effigy, gentled by candles,
    Bending, on me in particular, its mild eyes.

    I have fallen a long way. Clouds are flowering
    Blue and mystical over the face of the stars.
    Inside the church, the saints will be all blue,
    Floating on their delicate feet over cold pews,
    Their hands and faces stiff with holiness.
    The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
    And the message of the yew tree is blackness - blackness and silence.



    You do not do, you do not do
    Any more, black shoe
    In which I have lived like a foot
    For thirty years, poor and white,
    Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

    Daddy, I have had to kill you.
    You died before I had time---
    Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
    Ghastly statue with one gray toe
    Big as a Frisco seal

    And a head in the freakish Atlantic
    Where it pours bean green over blue
    In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
    I used to pray to recover you.
    Ach, du.

    In the German tongue, in the Polish town
    Scraped flat by the roller
    Of wars, wars, wars.
    But the name of the town is common.
    My Polack friend

    Says there are a dozen or two.
    So I never could tell where you
    Put your foot, your root,
    I never could talk to you.
    The tongue stuck in my jaw.

    It stuck in a barb wire snare.
    Ich, ich, ich, ich,
    I could hardly speak.
    I thought every German was you.
    And the language obscene

    An engine, an engine,
    Chuffing me off like a Jew.
    A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
    I began to talk like a Jew.
    I think I may well be a Jew.

    The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
    Are not very pure or true.
    With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
    And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
    I may be a bit of a Jew.

    I have always been sacred of you,
    With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
    And your neat mustache
    And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
    Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You----

    Not God but a swastika
    So black no sky could squeak through.
    Every woman adores a Fascist,
    The boot in the face, the brute
    Brute heart of a brute like you.

    You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
    In the picture I have of you,
    A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
    But no less a devil for that, no not
    Any less the black man who

    Bit my pretty red heart in two.
    I was ten when they buried you.
    At twenty I tried to die
    And get back, back, back to you.
    I thought even the bones would do.

    But they pulled me out of the sack,
    And they stuck me together with glue.
    And then I knew what to do.
    I made a model of you,
    A man in black with a Meinkampf look

    And a love of the rack and the screw.
    And I said I do, I do.
    So daddy, I'm finally through.
    The black telephone's off at the root,
    The voices just can't worm through.

    If I've killed one man, I've killed two---
    The vampire who said he was you
    And drank my blood for a year,
    Seven years, if you want to know.
    Daddy, you can lie back now.

    There's a stake in your fat black heart
    And the villagers never liked you.
    They are dancing and stamping on you.
    They always knew it was you.
    Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.


    Love Letter

    Not easy to state the change you made.
    If I'm alive now, then I was dead,
    Though, like a stone, unbothered by it,
    Staying put according to habit.
    You didn't just toe me an inch, no--
    Nor leave me to set my small bald eye
    Skyward again, without hope, of course,
    Of apprehending blueness, or stars.

    That wasn't it. I slept, say: a snake
    Masked among black rocks as a black rock
    In the white hiatus of winter--
    Like my neighbors, taking no pleasure
    In the million perfectly-chiseled
    Cheeks alighting each moment to melt
    My cheek of basalt. They turned to tears,
    Angels weeping over dull natures,
    But didn't convince me. Those tears froze.
    Each dead head had a visor of ice.

    And I slept on like a bent finger.
    The first thing I saw was sheer air
    And the locked drops rising in a dew
    Limpid as spirits. Many stones lay
    Dense and expressionless round about.
    I didn't know what to make of it.
    I shone, mica-scaled, and unfolded
    To pour myself out like a fluid
    Among bird feet and the stems of plants.
    I wasn't fooled. I knew you at once.

    Tree and stone glittered, without shadows.
    My finger-length grew lucent as glass.
    I started to bud like a March twig:
    An arm and a leg, an arm, a leg.
    From stone to cloud, so I ascended.
    Now I resemble a sort of god
    Floating through the air in my soul-shift
    Pure as a pane of ice. It's a gift.


    By the way, I found a site featuring much of Plath's poetry:

  4. #4
    No, sorry I don't remember it.

  5. #5
    Actually, I think I may have just found it...could it possibly be Snakecharmer?

  6. #6
    Good morning, Campers! Jay's Avatar
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    Hello there, welcome
    Maybe it'll help if you posted the poem
    I have a plan: attack!

  7. #7
    I'm not quite sure if this is the poem Raven is talking about, but:

    As the gods began one world, and man another,
    So the snakecharmer begins a snaky sphere
    With moon-eye, mouth-pipe. He pipes. Pipes green. Pipes water.

    Pipes water green until green waters waver
    With reedy lengths and necks and undulatings.
    And as his notes twine green, the green river

    Shapes its images around his songs.
    He pipes a place to stand on, but no rocks,
    No floor: a wave of flickering grass tongues

    Supports his foot. He pipes a world of snakes,
    Of sways and coilings, from the snake-rooted bottom
    Of his mind. And now nothing but snakes

    Is visible. The snake-scales have become
    Leaf, become eyelid; snake-bodies, bough, breast
    Of tree and human. And he within this snakedom

    Rules the writhings which make manifest
    His snakehood and his might with pliant tunes
    From his thin pipe. Out of this green nest

    As out of Eden's navel twist the lines
    Of snaky generations: let there be snakes!
    And snakes there were, are, will be--till yawns

    Consume this piper and he tires of music
    And pipes the world back to the simple fabric
    Of snake-warp, snake-weft. Pipes the cloth of snakes

    To a melting of green waters, till no snake
    Shows its head, and those green waters back to
    Water, to green, to nothing like a snake.
    Puts up his pipe, and lids his moony eye.

  8. #8
    Good morning, Campers! Jay's Avatar
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    If it is what Raven wanted s/he's resognise it or not, and people might enjoy reading it even if it's not what Raven was looking for
    I have a plan: attack!

  9. #9
    I’m surprised to see Plath discussed so little on this forum. In Annie Hall, Woody Allen describes her as an:

    "Interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college-girl mentality."

    Perhaps that’s the problem. Plath’s poetry is as misrepresented by those who idolise her as it is by those who dismiss her. To many teenage, predominantly female admirers, Plath is the literary equivalent of Kurt Cobain. To many others, she is merely a death-obsessed neurotic. The most difficult task for anyone coming to her poetry for the first time is to try to ignore both camps and focus on the poems themselves. Yes, Plath writes about pain, suffering, her obsession with her father and death, but she does so with clarity and precision.

    ‘Ariel’ is a remarkable work full of pain, tenderness and darkness. Harsh and dark though her poems are, they precisely and unflinchingly record those moments when no one and nothing can reach us. She is a forensic witness to the inevitability of our own demise. In The Night Dances a mother watches her child asleep and moving around in its cot. These moments seem to be the beautiful gifts of innocence. They create in her a sense of fullness of being which, momentarily, lightens “the black amnesias of heaven.” But it is only momentarily. The contrast between the cold blankness of space and the baby’s movements (“their pink light/ Bleeding and peeling”) makes us aware of the fragility and vulnerability of such “blessings”. And that is why the ending is just right in its ambiguity. The ‘light’ of the night dances can never be destroyed and will nowhere be forgotten. But “Nowhere” can also imply that they touch and melt in the nothingness that is all there is. In other words, perhaps the blessings are nothing, that they are too insubstantial too wipe away the “black amnesias” for long.

    The Night Dances

    A smile fell in the grass.

    And how will your night dances
    Lose themselves. In mathematics?

    Such pure leaps and spirals ----
    Surely they travel

    The world forever, I shall not entirely
    Sit emptied of beauties, the gift

    Of your small breath, the drenched grass
    Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.

    Their flesh bears no relation.
    Cold folds of ego, the calla,

    And the tiger, embellishing itself ----
    Spots, and a spread of hot petals.

    The comets
    Have such a space to cross,

    Such coldness, forgetfulness.
    So your gestures flake off ----

    Warm and human, then their pink light
    Bleeding and peeling

    Through the black amnesias of heaven.
    Why am I given

    These lamps, these planets
    Falling like blessings, like flakes

    Six sided, white
    On my eyes, my lips, my hair

    Touching and melting.

    Great poem.

  10. #10
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    I love Plath we discussed her in class on time and now i love her. I don't know if i can help you but a friend of mine is doing a report on her and i can ask her for help on it i'll ask her and get back sometime soon.

  11. #11
    Scatterheart. Astrid's Avatar
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    She's extraordinary, and one of my biggest inspirations in a literary sense. Her life and her works were both beautiful things... sad and stunning. I like a lot of her poems, but "Daddy", "Mad Girl's Love Song", "Suicide Off Egg Rock", and "Edge" are my current favourites. It's wonderful to see others who appreciate her.

    Does anyone here like Anne Sexton? Her style is quite different, but she's often sided with Plath when it comes to pain-stricken, descriptive poets. I think they actually took a writing class together once.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Astrid
    "Daddy", "Mad Girl's Love Song", "Suicide Off Egg Rock", and "Edge" are my current favourites. It's wonderful to see others who appreciate her.
    What do you make of the last four lines of ‘Edge’?

    "The moon has nothing to be sad about,
    Staring from her hood of bone.

    She is used to this sort of thing.
    Her blacks crackle and drag."

  13. #13
    This thread, and others , has convinced me to buy a book of Plath's poetry tomorrow to add to my collection. Something with Nightdancers, Balloons and kindness, if I can find one. I hope you're all happy at driving me to such spendthriftiness!

    btw can anyone shed any light on whether the Bell Jar is worth reading? I've heard mixed things, but of course those things are from people, who are a mixed bunch.

  14. #14
    Buy Ariel – it’s not very long and if you read nothing else by Plath, that slim volume will leave you with a very good idea of what she’s about. My own view of The Bell Jar is that it was written when she was very young and that this shows.

    PS I love your placement of the second comma in that last sentence.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by The Unnamable
    PS I love your placement of the second comma in that last sentence.
    Now. Is that irony?

    The comma, as all commas, implies a pause. With the pause present all people are included in the clause, "who are a mixed bunch." Without the pause the implication is that only the people that I have heard these things from constitute the "mixed bunch". I certainly intended the former.

    If this is wrong, appo-polly-logies and please feel free to correct my grammar. My degree is in mathematics and teaching, not english.

    And if you're not being ironic, for heaven's sake explain why you have broken the habit of a lunchtime and caused me such confusion?

    I will see if I can get hold of Ariel. Thanks.

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