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My recent poetry obsession is not one poem, but a collection! Sylvia Plath’s Poetry Collection.
I’ve liked Sylvia Plath for a long, long time, since I read The Bell Jar as a teenager. What I LOVE about this collection of her poetry is that it is chronological. So though she was always pretty morbid, we can really see her progression (or regression? Depends on your opinion, I suppose) as the years go on. Because we know she killed herself on February 11th, 1963, and her final poems are dated, we can see she was writing up until just a few days before her death. Sometimes three or four poems a day.
Which leads me to another point, which is that my girl could have maybe thrown some of these out. The intro explains that unlike a lot of artists, Sylvia kept everything she wrote. Even if she couldn’t get a poem to exactly where she wanted it, she got it to a point she was comfortable with and moved on. SO. I’m into her for the gruesome, macabre shit, but to find said shit, you have to get through a lot of poems about birds. Like a lot. So I end up feeling like: Sylvia, girl, birds are gross. Tell me more about how you feel like a cow that’s been gutted.
You may love poems about birds just as much as you love poems about carpet drenched in blood! If you’re that person, definitely pick up a copy of Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems.
Here are some highlights for your perusal:
Excerpt from “Street Song” (1956):
By a mad miracle I go intact
Among the common rout
Thronging sidewalk, street,
And bickering shops;
Nobody blinks a lid, gapes,
Or cries that this raw flesh
Reeks of the butcher’s cleaver,
Its heart and guts hung hooked
And bloodied as a cow’s split frame
Parceled out by white-jacketed assassins.
Who hasn’t felt that way after a break up?! I mean.
Excerpt from “Spinster” (1956):
And round her house she set
Such a barricade of barb and check
Against mutinous weather
As no mere insurgent man could hope to break
With curse, fist, threat
Or love, either.
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Y’all! Something about this poem was so deeply, unsettlingly beautiful for me. I reward my mirror for its faithful service with tears and agitation sometimes (maybe often). Do you?
In 1962, Plath wrote a group of poems about bees. Yes, bees. I mean, it’s not really about bees. But it’s about bees. Whatever! Read it. To write them all out here would be insane, as they’re each fairly long. Look them up if you like:
“The Bee Meeting”
“The Arrival of the Bee Box”
Stings, independent of this little collection, is one of my all-time favorite poems.
My favorite stanza from “Stings”:
They thought death was worth it, but I
Have a self to recover, a queen.
Is she dead, is she sleeping?
Where has she been,
With her lion-red body, her wings of glass?
On the real, when I’m miserable and know I need to turn shit around, I say to myself: “I have a self to recover, a queen.” And it genuinely makes me feel better. Try it.
There is SO much content in here. So much we could go over. But because I’ve already given you a lot to mull over, I’ll leave you with two final poems.
Excerpt from “The Fearful” (November 1962):
The thought of a baby-
Stealer of cells, stealer of beauty-
She would rather be dead than fat,
Dead and perfect, like Nefertit,
Hearing the fierce mask magnify
The silver limbo of each eye
Where the child can never swim,
Where there is only him and him.
Only three months away from her death and you can see how sad her poetry has become. It is worth pointing out, I think, that she had two babies at this time. One two years old, and one still under a year. I would think any mother writing this way about children may need some intervention.
The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
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.
This was written on February fifth, 1963. Just six days before her death, and was, as far as we know, her final poem.
Here’s a link in case you’d like to purchase Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems on Amazon!
*I only link up books I’d give 5 stars to, and believe in 100%*
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!