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10-04-2007, 21:24   #1
AdMMM
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My Sylvia Plath Notes

I've been writing/typing out some notes for some of the poets that I'm studying and figured that I may as well post them up here to a) help others and b) get some feedback/criticism. Feel free to use adapt them to your own needs .

This is just my analysis of the poems, I haven't gotten around to tackling the themes, issues and style of her poetry

Sylvia Plath

As poets come and go, few I found were as self revealing as Sylvia Plath. This is one of the primary aspects of her poetry that appeals to me. As a woman in a male dominated society, Plath felt unable to express her feelings and outlooks and turned to writing poetry as a means of escape from what she felt to be an unrewarding life. Her poetry portrays a woman who constantly struggled with depression and mental illness and is a vast collection of pure and raw emotion that I can’t help but admire.

Black Rook In Rainy Weather
(Explores poetic inspiration – those moments that offer a respite from fear)

Black Rook explores the nature of poetic inspiration. It’s the moment that "a celestial burning" takes place and an "angel" descends, "that rare, random descent" when the poet is inspired by a common thing--a "kitchen table or chair," a "rook ordering its feathers," or "the most obtuse objects now and then." The poem beautifully captures what poetry meant to Plath; the brutal honesty of it strips the act of writing to its bare essentials--that amazing moment all poets wait for, the moment of inspiration, when suddenly something is illuminated, and all there is to do is to write a poem about it, to capture that moment in language, to commemorate that blissful interval when they become a vehicle for transcendence. Plath believes that it is these “miracles” that offer a “brief respite from fear” for without them, her life would be intolerable.

Morning Song
(Explores the happy feelings of a mother. Love of her child is the one positive and optimistic subject/aspect of her poetry)

Morning Song explores Plaths’ feelings as a mother. By using a metaphor of a fat gold watch to describe her child, I can see that Plath loves her baby as it implies that is precious and valuable to her (as a gold watch would be). Describing the baby as a “new statue in a drafty museum” portrays the baby as a wonderful new creation in an otherwise desolate (drafty) life. When Plath states that “One cry, and I stumble from my bed” I can see that she is devoted to her baby. She does not want to leave her baby alone or in need for one second she does not want it feeling neglected or unloved. One cry and she is there. The poem ends on an elated note, a happy image of the baby trying to talk – “And now you try / Your handful of notes; / The clear vowels rise like balloons.”






Mirror
(Expresses Plaths fear of appearing to be an old woman. The mirror projects an accurate image but Plath sees a distorted an elderly image of herself)

I think it is important to read “Mirror” several times before you pass judgement on it. Initially I interpreted the poem at face value – a mirror projecting an accurate image back to an ageing Plath that she isn’t pleased about - “She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands”. Then I examined the existence of the metaphor of the Fish and the Lake and immediately thought of a fishbowl and the distorted effect that one usually gets from looking into one. Knowing that Plath was still relatively young when she wrote this poem, I believe that while the mirror is projecting an image of a beautiful young woman, a depressed and delusional Plath is seeing the distorted image of herself and this is the “terrible fish” that she is referred to. She sees herself as an old woman even though we know this is not the case. This highlights her illness and loneliness (Why look to a mirror and not a friend?).

The Arrival Of The Bee Box
(Deals with her suppressed thoughts through a metaphor of a box of bees that she is initially afraid of before gaining the courage and confidence to deal with them)

The Bee Box is a poem that I found to be exploring Plaths self-identity by using the dangerous bees and a metaphor for her inner life. She appears to fear the “dangerous” bees which in my opinion, suggests her fear of whatever may lay in her mind. She is determined to deal with the bees, and ponders “How can I let them out?”. She is struggling to cope with the noise/troubles - “Small, taken one by one, but my god, together! – But realises that she is in control - “They can be sent back / They can die”, “I am the owner”. I am intrigued that mentions herself in a moon suit and a funeral vein as a means of describing the beekeepers outfit. I think that bizarre image of a moon suit is her acknowledging her madness and the funeral veil is representative of her suicide attempts. The last line (“The box is only temporary.”) can be interpreted as her releasing or controlling her fears or perhaps she thinks that her inner-spirit will only be free once the box is broken. I interpret the bees to be her inner-spirit and the box to be the body that he containing it. From this I believe that Plath believes that her thoughts will only be free when she herself dies!




Child
(Poem explores and expresses Plaths wishes for her child and the contrast of what she can actually offer)

Straight away it is apparent how much Plath loves her child – “Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.” – and how she wants him to experience wonderful things – “I want to fill it with color and ducks”. She compares her child to an “April Snowdrop” and a “Stalk without wrinkle” which I think is representative of his fragile beauty. I believe that Plath starts to doubt her ability to provide the “grand and classical” things that she longs to be able to. Instead, she tragically thinks that she can only offer her child a life without hope (“This dark ceiling without a star”). It seems to me as if Plath has lost all hope. She unfortunately doesn’t have either the self-belief or strength to match her imagination. The poem appears to be a complete contrast to “The Morning Song” where we see Plath as being all caring and dedicated mother.

Elm
(Explores the need of Plath to have something to love and her ever present depression)

Plath uses personification to bring an elm tree to life. The first half of the poem is spoken by the tree, the second is spoken by Plath. I imagine that the reference to “My red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wires.” Is a reference to Plaths electro-shock treatment. To me, the poem suggests that Plath is desperate for something to love and her loss of love triggers something sinister inside her (possibly her neurosis) that she’s terrified of. Plath appears to be frustrated – she states that she is incapable of more knowledge yet still has more questions to ask – “What is this, this face / So murderous in its strangle of branches?” – which would have been very stressful and frustrating for her. It appears that she is fearful and hysterical by the end of the poem (repetition of “that kill, that kill”)

Last edited by AdMMM; 10-04-2007 at 21:30.
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10-04-2007, 21:44   #2
Enemy Of Fate
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Hey thanks for the notes.Might have a glance through them, although I doubt i'll do Plath in the leaving because I find her to be a pain in the ass to write about (aside from the overwhelming depression surrounding her) and she doesn't write real poetry (if it doesn't ****ing ryhme, its not a ****ing poem alright?!?!?) which makes it harder to remember quotes.Oh well thanks anyways.

Last edited by Enemy Of Fate; 10-04-2007 at 22:58.
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10-04-2007, 23:16   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Enemy Of Fate
(if it doesn't ****ing ryhme, its not a ****ing poem alright?!?!?)
Well if there's one thing REM have taught us... Nothing ever has to rhyme. EVER
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10-04-2007, 23:49   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve01
Well if there's one thing REM have taught us... Nothing ever has to rhyme. EVER
Yeah but songs and poems are different.
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11-04-2007, 10:16   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve01
Well if there's one thing REM have taught us... Nothing ever has to rhyme. EVER
All credit to total irrelevance... but how is that anything to do with poetry.
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11-04-2007, 10:36   #6
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For Child, I would be more along the lines of thinking that, Plath has lost all hope in the world.
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11-04-2007, 10:48   #7
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good stuff , any chance u posting more notes on various poets
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11-04-2007, 19:12   #8
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wow very good level of english!!
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11-04-2007, 19:12   #9
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deffo writing about plath WHEN she comes up in june
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11-04-2007, 19:20   #10
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heh cool you did the same poems as me. Nice writing and you've clearly given her poetry some deep and individual thought which is important but it's a lot easier to get marks if you speak about two or more poems at a time, although I'm guessing you realise this as you already mentioned your plans to write on her style and themes...

Oh, and of course if that type of note is what you like and what helps you, then go for it, but personally I generally write just the quotes i need to know, arranged into themes i can remember. Of course that could not have been meant as "notes" but simply as a practice at writing about the poems, in which case good work and thanks for giving me an insight into some different ways of reading Plath's work.
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11-04-2007, 21:27   #11
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We're only covering the works of four poets and Plath ain't one of them. I might end up covering one more myself yet just to be safe. Thanks for notes, OP.
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11-04-2007, 21:50   #12
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Love this poet, "Child" is my favourite, really hits me though a lot of it is to do with the time when it was written, I mean its a really disturbing/impacting experience reading the work of someone who ended her life just two weeks later.
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11-04-2007, 22:22   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by md99
Love this poet, "Child" is my favourite, really hits me though a lot of it is to do with the time when it was written, I mean its a really disturbing/impacting experience reading the work of someone who ended her life just two weeks later.
Yeah I'd agree, though poetry isnt really my cup of tea. Very poignant indeed.
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11-04-2007, 23:10   #14
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Lol I love that you got totally different things from some lines than I did, isn't English brilliant

Love Plath, got full marks in my mock poetry q thanks to her showing her face
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12-04-2007, 00:43   #15
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Oaky some of this may appear to be semantics but I disagree with several of the points you make nin relation to Plath.

1. You claim, that for Plath, without her poetry life would be intolerable. But I disagree, instead it would be nothing, a 'colourless, oderless existance'(Poppies in July). And a life of 'total nuetrality'. This suggests that Plath requires disturbance and chaos. That her depression is what fuels her poetry, rather then trying to escape it, she revels in it. Not only that I feel you should mention the religeous nature of this poem, Plath talks about waiting for 'a rare random descent'( just as believers wait for a messiah) and talks of celestial burnings(religeous connotations surely). But contrast this with the image of a black rook, it is certainly not a 'holy' image, instead it is the very antithesis. Again I feel this is an indication of Plath's determination to 'march to her own drum' as it were.

2. In morning song, you stated that the image a 'fat gold watch' indicates the child's worth and importance to Plath. But read it again 'love set you going like a fat gold watch'. The image is materialistic and unchareteristic of Plath. Gold after all is only valuable because we decide it is so. A child should be valuable in its own sake. Plath does not use such images lightly. This bond is fragile and uncertain, this is emphasised by the lines 'I am no more your mother....then the cloud that distills its own image'. Sounds a lot like a denial of responsibility and obvious uncertainty.

I also would recommend the reading of 'Poppies in July'. The poem is one of contrast, between the title(suggests summer and happiness) and the poem itself(one of pain and 'mouths just bloodied') and between Palth's reality and her desired reality- 'i reach out to touch you, do you no harm, colourless odorless'. Her pain is so immense she wishes rather to feel nothing. (N.B the change that has come over Plath is frightening, in her early poems she is terrified of feeling nothing-she fears 'total nuetrality'-now she actively seeks it!!!)

I am certainly not trying to criticise your notes, just offering my own interpretation of plath's poetry(which I greatly enjoyed).

P.S Is anyoe else intending on doing T.S Elliot in the exam(assuming he comes up of course)
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