Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath
Tragic, yes, but full of life.
Madeleine Kruhly tunes in "Queen of Sorrows, the spokeswoman for our most private, most helpless nightmares." This is Sylvia Plath, as seen by Joyce Carol Oates. Of nightmares and sorrows, Plath was too well learned. Born in Boston in 1932, she published her first poem at the age of eight, soon after her father's death. Her collections 'The Colossus" and "Ariel" still attract new readers, as does her only novel, "The Bell Jar", which follows a whip- smart woman's spiral into depression. Her work has never gone away: in 2017 the Smithsonian will devote an exhibition to her at the National Portrait Gallery.
At 30, Plath took her own life, setting herself up to be seen through the lens of tragedy, but there is tremendous spark in her poems. She did not always deal in despair, and if she did, it was with supreme, and silver-tongued, awareness. "If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time," she said, "then I'm neurotic as hell."
Two educational, one existential. (1) Going to Smith, a private women's college where Plath was thrilled to be surrounded by "free-thinkers". (2) Moving on to Cambridge on a Fulbright scholarship. There she met Ted Hughes; four months later, they were married. (3) Taking a leaf out of William Ernest Henley's book. Plath wrote in high school, "I am the one who creates part of my fate, and I'll fight destiny all the way. So!"
(1) A dry wit, lending itself to the morbid. "Dying/ Is an art, like everything else./I do it exceptionally well" ("Lady Lazarus"). (2) Subverting the tender, and reclaiming it, against her own intentions. "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 Moon and the Yew Tree"). (3) The direct address. No other poet uses the second person as well as Plath does - the "you" is dynamic and unresolved. (4) A rhythm of repetition. Echoes become an obsession: "I shall not be accused, I shall not be accused./The clock shall not find me wanting, nor these stars" ("Three Women"). (5) Spotting double standards, and calling them out. Plath could not allow for men "to have a double life, one pure and one not" ("The Bell Jar").
Never be perfect, never be predictable. Not that she found it easy: she doubted her abilities, striving to be faultless. And she often felt a stranger, saying in an early diary entry, "I still do not know myself. Perhaps I never will." But Plath did recognize she could be more than others expected, imperfect or otherwise: "I am too pure for you or anyone./Your body/Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern -" ("Fever 103").
(1) Rhetorical questions, to which she even replied, scathingly. "Is it a penny, a pearl-/Your soul, your soul? /1'11 carry it off like a rich pretty girl" ("Stopped Dead"). (2) Unnerving similes. "He hands her the cut-out heart like a cracked heirloom" ("Two Views of a Cadaver Room"). (3) Going from a shriek to a hush, and back. Plath sears and burns, but she falls quiet in the briefest, and most poignant, of moments. See "Nick and the Candlestick" for a striking balance.
Emily Dickinson, for a strong first-person persona and a love of paradox. Anne Sexton, for sheer guts and a weakness for anaphora. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, for fervour and streaks of the macabre.
"Ariel" (1965) is a sure-fire introduction. Once you've devoured it, try "Three Women: A Poem for Three Voices", a haunting radio play set in a maternity ward.
These, from "The Colossus", for their wave-like rhythms and unapologetic tone. "The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue./My hours are married to shadow./No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel/On the black stones of the landing". 
Mỗi đàn bà lấy một tay phát xít.
[Chaque femme épouse un fasciste].
Sylvia Plath: Chuông Tuyệt Vọng [Cloche de détresse. Nhà xb Denoel]. 
"Pauvre Sylvia Plath", nàng Sylvia Plath đáng thương, bài viết trên tờ Lire, số tháng 11, 2004, mở đầu.
Sylvia Plath [1932-1963]: Một thứ Virginia Woolf của thập niên 1960, và cũng tự huỷ mình như Woolf, nhưng chán đời theo một kiểu hoang dại, sauvage, hơn nhiều.
Ngôi sao băng trên nền trời thi ca Mẽo, tuy thoáng hiện rồi mất tích, nhưng để lại dấu ấn trên rất nhiều nhà văn, rất ư là khác biệt trong số họ, như: Adrienne Rich, Erica Jong, hay Philip Roth.
Tên miền của bà [Son territoire]: Sự tự thú [la confession].
Khí giới của bà: Sự hung bạo bất thần [la violence pulsionnelle]
Chuông Tuyệt Vọng: Một thứ tiểu thuyết nửa nhật ký riêng tư, nửa giả tự thuật về mình [mi-journal intime, mi-autofiction], một cuốn sách thờ, và câu văn nổi tiếng kể trên, đã trở thành tuyên ngôn của phong trào giải phóng phụ nữ.

In these poems, written in the last months of her life and often rushed out at the rate of two or three a day, Sylvia Plath becomes herself, becomes something imaginary, newly, wildly and subtly created—hardly a person at all, or a woman, certainly not another "poetess," but one of those super-real, hypnotic, great classical heroines. This character is feminine, rather than female, though almost everything we customarily think of as feminine is turned on its head. The voice is now coolly amused, witty, now sour, now fanciful, girlish, charming, now sinking to the strident rasp of the vampire—a Dido, Phaedra, or Medea, who can laugh at herself as "cow-heavy and floral in my Victorian nightgown." Though lines get repeated, and sometimes the plot is lost, language never dies in her mouth.
   Everything in these poems is personal, confessional, felt, but the manner of feeling is controlled hallucination, the autobiography of a fever. She burns to be on the move, a walk, a ride, a journey, the flight of the queen bee. She is driven forward by the pounding pistons of her heart. The title "Ariel" summons up Shakespeare's lovely, though slightly chilling and androgenous spirit, but the truth is that this "Ariel" is the author's horse. Dangerous, more powerful than man, machinelike from hard training, she herself is a little like a racehorse, galloping relentlessly with risked, outstretched neck, death hurdle after death hurdle topped. She cries out for that rapid life of starting pistols, snapping tapes, and new world records broken. What is most heroic in her, though, is not her force, but the desperate practicality of her control, her hand of metal with its modest, womanish touch. Almost pure motion, she can endure "God, the great stasis in his vacuous night," hospitals, fever, paralysis, the iron lung, being stripped like a girl in the booth of a circus sideshow, dressed like a mannequin, tied down like Gulliver by the Lilliputians . . . apartments, babies, prim English landscapes, beehives, yew trees, gardens, the moon, hooks, the black boot, wounds, flowers with mouths like wounds, Belsen's lampshades made of human skin, Hitler's homicidal iron tanks clanking over Russia. Suicide, father-hatred, self-loathing—nothing is too much for the macabre gaiety of her control. Yet it is too much; her art's immortality is life's disintegration. The surprise, the shimmering, unwrapped birthday present, the transcendence "into the red eye, the cauldron of morning," and the lover, who are always waiting for her, are Death, her own abrupt and defiant death.
He tells me how badly I photograph.
He tells me how sweet
The babies look in their hospital
Icebox, a simple
Frill at the neck,
Then the flutings of their Ionian
Then two little feet.
There is a peculiar, haunting challenge to these poems. Probably many, after reading "Ariel", will recoil from their first overawed shock, and painfully wonder why so much of it leaves them feeling empty, evasive and inarticulate. In her lines, I often hear the serpent whisper, "Come, if only you had the courage, you too could have my rightness, audacity and ease of inspiration." But most of us will turn back. These poems are playing Russian roulette with six cartridges in the cylinder, a game of "chicken," the wheels of both cars locked and unable to swerve. Oh, for that heaven of the humble copyist, those millennia of Egyptian artists repeating their lofty set patterns! And yet Sylvia Plath's poems are not the celebration of some savage and debauched existence, that of the "damned" poet, glad to burn out his body for a few years of continuous intensity. This poetry and life are not a career; they tell that life, even when disciplined, is simply not worth it.
    It is poignant, looking back, to realize that the secret of Sylvia Plath's last irresistible blaze lies lost somewhere in the checks and courtesies of her early laborious shyness. She was never a student of mine, but for a couple of months seven years ago, she used to drop in on my poetry seminar at Boston University. I see her dim against the bright sky of a high window, viewless unless one cared to look down on the city outskirts' defeated yellow brick and square concrete pillbox filling stations. She was willowy, long-waisted, sharp-el-bowed, nervous, giggly, gracious—a brilliant tense presence embarrassed by restraint. Her humility and willingness to accept what was admired seemed at times to give her an air of maddening docility that hid her unfashionable patience and boldness. She showed us poems that later, more or less unchanged, went into her first book, "The Colossus". They were somber, formidably expert in stanza structure, and had a flair for alliteration and Massachusetts' low-tide dolor.
     A mongrel working his legs to a gallop
     Hustles the gull flock to flap off the sand-spit.
Other lines showed her wit and directness.
     The pears fatten like little Buddhas.
Somehow none of it sank very deep into my awareness. I sensed her abashment and distinction, and never guessed her later appalling and triumphant fulfillment.
New York City
And I
Am the arrow, 
The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red 
Eye, the cauldron of morning. 
     Quand "Ariel" parut en 1965, deux ans après que Sylvia Plath s'était donné la mort à Londres, par l’un des hivers les plus froids qu'ait connu l'Angleterre, le poète américain Robert Lowell écrivit un article mémorable dans lequel il déclara en substance: « Ariel est un événement majeur de l'histoire de la littérature. Voici venue la fin des poetesses. » Le chef de file du mouvement dit « confessionnel entendait par là qu'on ne pouvait désorrnais taxer de « poétesse » un auteur de la trempe de Sylvia Plath, le terme au férninin connotant alors tantôt un sentiment de mépris, tantôt une certaine condescendance, en tout cas se révélant péjoratif la plupart du temps (on l'entend encore mieux avec le mot “peintresse », jamais une «peintresse» ne serait Picasso, ni même un petit maitre, et ce encore de nos jours). Il annoncait de cette manière qu'il avait reconnu le génie bouleversant de cet opus composée par une jeune femme de trente ans, et dont la lecture ne saurait laisser personne indifférent ni même indemne, ce volume que Seamus Heaney salua quelques années plus tard, louant « le galop infatigable” du rythme, l'excès romantique au-delà des lecons hien apprises. 
"Ariel"... esprit de l'air de "La Tempete" de Shakespeare que venerait Sylvia, cheval blanc qu'elle montait aux derniers mois de sa vie, après le départ de son époux, le poète Ted Hughes. Seule avec leurs deux tres jeunes enfants, Frieda et Nicholas, dans l'ancien presbytere du Devon qu'ils avaient acheté ensemble après la naissance de leur fille, Plath se mit à écrire à l'aube (quand les somnifères avaient cessé d'agir, et avant le réveil des enfants) ces poèmes dont elle pressentait qu'ils feraient sa renommée, ainsi qu'elle l'écrivit dans l’une des innombrables lettres adressées à sa mère des années durant : I'm writing the best poems of my life, they will make my name... Elle savait bien. Ted Hughes savait aussi. Et elle avait prononcé l'oracle, la chose prémonitoire pour l’un et l'autre quelque part dans son journal, peu de temps après leur mariage le 16 juin 1956 on Bloomsday, le jour de l'épopée de l’Ulysse de James Joyce, elle avait écrit « Ted sera le poète de l'Angleterre et je serai la poétesse (oui, “poétesse") de l’Amérique. Vaste programme! Quand on sait que Ted Hughes allait devenir poète lauréat de lAngleterre à l'instar d'un Wordsworth, quand on connait la gloire, (hélas posthume) de son oeuvre à elle...
Ce n'est pas le lieu ici de raconter Sylvia Plath et Ted Hughes, Ted Hughes et Sylvia Plath, véritables icônes outre-Manche comme outre-Atlantique dont la biographie occulte parfois l’oeuvre ce qui est regrettable. En France on a généralement lu le seul roman publié de Sylvia, “The Bell Jar” (La cloche de détresse) et parfois aussi ses poèmes, quant à Ted Hughes son oeuvre magistrale reste essentiellement à découvrir. 
Sylvia Plath donne avec "Ariel: le meilleur de son art. Véritable élévation, révélation, ces poèmes ont pour la plupart été écrits entre octobre 1962 (après le départ de Ted Hughes) et février 1963— les derniers écrits sont datés du 5 fevrier, ii s'agit des poèmes « Balloons” (“ Ballons ») et «Edge » (« Extrémité»). Sylvia est morte le 11. Elle avait dans un classeur noir rangé les poèmes selon un ordre différent de celui pour lequel opta Ted Hughes devenu, après sa mort, veuf légataire universel et éditeur fervent. On en trouvera la composition originale dans la première des notes en fin de volume (cf page 107). Sylvia avait beaucoup hésité sur le choix du titre: Daddy; A Birthday Present... ? L’ oeuvre étant encore en chantier lorsqu'elle quitta ce monde, on ne peut dire ce qu'elle aurait gardé, ce qu'elle aurait écarté, modifié, quel "Ariel" finalement aurait vu le jour.
Sylvia Plath s'était imposé un défi colossal, véritable gageure qui consistait à réussir sur tous les plans : être une épouse et une mère irréprochable selon les critères de repoque (la femme des années
1950 était peut-être une fée mais d'abord du logis !) et devenir LApoétesse des États-Unis »... En épousant Ted Hughes, elle n'était pas devenue anglaise pour autant même si elle adorait Londres, et le Yorkshire natal de son mari, le Yorkshire même des "Hauts de Hurlevent" qui lui offrit sa dernière demeure. Etait-ce trop? Peut-être. On ne peut pas ne pas penser aux trouvailles inouies qui auraient pu succéder à "Ariel" si seulement Sylvia avait vécu plus longtemps. 
How far is it?
How far is it now? 
Sans doute fallait-il partir. Arriver quelque part.
Ce n'est pas du Cendrars (qu'elle n'avait pro bablement pas lu), ce n'est pas non plus du Stevie Smith qu'elle appréciait beaucoup, c'est une parole surtout désespérée, ou une parole de colère, parole vivante toujours (et donc bien évidernment jamais du discours) et qui ne s'en laisse pas conter. Sylvia Plath avait beau se soumettre au conformisme de son époque, elle n'en était pas moins rebelle et farouche, et son esprit critique ne manquait pas de finesse. Ses poèmes majeurs possèdent une dimension offensive et une subtilite rares. Plath compte parmi les plus grands poètes qui soient, chez elle l'anecdote autobiographique n'est jamais narcissique et la petite histoire se trouve dépassée, inscrite dans l'Histoire plus vaste de nous tous.
V. R.
Chant du matin 
Amour', l'amour a réglé le rythme de ton cceur
    comme une grosse montre d'or.
La sage-femme a giflé les plantes de tes pieds, et
    le pur cri de toi
Pris sa place aussitert parmi les elements.
Nos voix resonnent à la gloire de ta venue. Statue
Dans un musée rempli de courants d'air. Ta
Menace notre sécurite. Nous fentourons comme
   des murs ebahis.
Je ne suis pas plus ta mère
Que le nuage qui distille un miroir où longuement
se refléter
Avant de disparaitre au grée du vent.
Toute la nuit ton souffle de papillon
Vibre au milieu des roses toutes roses. Je m'éveille
   et j'écoute :
Un océan lointain roule dans mon oreille.
Un seul cri et je saute hors du lit, trébuche, bovine
   et florale
Dans ma chemise de nuit victorienne.
Tu ouvres une bouche aussi nette qu'une gueule
    de chat. La vitre
Pâlit et ravale ses étoiles. Alors tu essaies
Ta poignée de notes;
Les voyelles lumineuses s'élèvent comme des bal-
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements. 
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls. 
I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand. 
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear. 
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square 
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Poppies in July


Little poppies, little hell flames,

Do you do no harm?


You flicker. I cannot touch you.

I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.


And it exhausts me to watch you

Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a



A mouth just bloodied.

Little bloody skirts!


There are fumes that I cannot touch.

Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?


If I could bleed, or sleep! —

If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!


Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,

Dulling and stilling.


But colorless. Colorless. 





After whose stroke the wood rings,
And the echoes!
Echoes traveling
Off from the center like horses.

The sap
Wells like tears, like the
Water striving
To  re-establish its mirror
Over the rock

That drops and turns,
A white skull,
Eaten by weedy  greens.
Years later I
Encounter  them  on the road —

Words dry  and riderless,
The indefatigable hoof-taps.
From the bottom  of the pool, fixed stars
Govern a life.


"Fatal Attractions"
Ted Hughes (1930-1998) and Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) are famous as tragic lovers as well as poets, and for many Plath is a feminist martyr.
Hughes was born in a small rural community in the Calder valley in Yorkshire. His parents ran a newspaper and tobacconists shop. His elder brother was a gamekeeper and used to take him up on the moors shooting, where Hughes fell in love with the wild.
Returning to the valley was, he recalled, like 'a descent into the pit . . . This was when the division of body and soul for me began.' The idea of animal life as truer and more real than human, and the association of animal life with killing and masculinity, are constants in his poetry. His father had served in the First World War and was one of only seventeen men from an entire regiment to return from
the doomed Gallipoli campaign. This, too, filled young Hughes's imagination with images of bloodshed.
From grammar school he won a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge, to read English Literature. But he felt that academic study betrayed his poetic self. He had a dream in which a creature with a fox's head came into his room, put bloody pawmarks on an unfinished essay he had written, and said, 'You are killing us.' So in his third year he changed from English to Anthropology — the beginning of his lifelong interest in magic and shamanism. He graduated in 1954, and on 25 February 1956 met Sylvia Plath at a party when, famously, she bit his cheek, drawing blood. They married four months later.
Plath was brilliant and rightly ambitious, though unstable. Both her parents were first-generation German immigrants living in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Her father Otto was a university professor, specializing in bumblebees. Plath's later interest in beekeeping, and her linking of her father with Nazi Germany in the poem 'Daddy', derive from this family history (though Otto had left Germany at sixteen, before the Nazi era, and was a pacifist).
When Plath was four her father's health deteriorated. Fearing he had cancer, he refused to see a doctor. Actually he had diabetes and could have been saved. But he stubbed his toe, gangrene set in, his leg was amputated (hence Plath's reference to his single 'black shoe' in 'Daddy') and he died when Plath was eight. She told her mother 'I'll never speak to God again', and in her "Journals" she seems to blame her father for dying and deserting her.
She won a place at prestigious Smith College, where she worked hard to get A grades. A high-flier, she could not, she admitted, stand the idea of being mediocre, and she was conscious, too, of the need to feel physically desirable. With other top achievers she gained a brief internship on "Mademoiselle" magazine in New York, but found it unnerving. In August 1953 she attempted suicide, taking her mother's sleeping pills and locking herself in a cellar.
She was rescued by chance and received psychiatric treatment at McLean hospital, Massachusetts, later recalled in her acclaimed novel "The Bell Jar". Recovering, she won a Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge, which is how she came to meet Hughes.
Her "Journals" record her reaction to their first meeting: 'Oh, he is here, my black marauder, oh, hungry, hungry.' To her mother she wrote: 'I have fallen terribly in love which can only lead to great hurt. I met the strongest man in the world . . . a large, hulking, healthy Adam. . . with a voice like the thunder of God: At first they were supremely happy. When her Cambridge course finished they
sailed to New York on the "Queen Elizabeth" and she taught for a year at her old college, Smith. In the summer of 1959 they travelled across Canada and the United States, sometimes camping out in the wild. Their first child, Frieda, was born in April 1960.
By that time they were back in England, living in a flat near London's Primrose Hill, and a second child, Nicholas, was born in January 1962. Deciding to move to the country, they bought an old thatched house in Devon, and let the London flat to a Canadian poet, David Wevill, and his beautiful wife, Assia. Within months
Hughes had fallen passionately in love with Assia and walked out of his marriage to Plath. Distraught, she committed suicide in February 1963 by putting her head in a gas oven. Six years later Assia, whom Hughes refused to marry, killed herself and her daughter by Hughes, Shura.
Plath's belief in Hughes as a great poet never wavered, even after his betrayal, and she had worked hard while they were together to promote his career, taking on secretarial work to help pay for his keep and sending his poems to magazines and publishers. Her efforts paid off when he won a big poetry prize she had entered him for (the judges were Auden, Spender and Marianne Moore).
That led to the publication of his first collection, "The Hawk in the Rain", in 1957.
The poems in it, such as 'Wind' and 'Egg-head', take up a persistent Hughes theme - the fragility and misplaced pride of the human intellect that tries to shut out the anarchic, man-slaughtering world of nature. Another kind of violence, his father's war experiences, gets into 'Griefs for Dead Soldiers'. Hughes is interested in violence because (like the Pennine moors he went up to with his brother) it opens the way to an elemental, non-human level where primal energies flow and drive. Any form of violence: he wrote, 'any form of vehement activity invokes the bigger energy, the elemental power circuit of the universe.'
This theme continues in his second collection, "Lupercal" (1960). Plath's favourite poem in it was 'Fire-Eater', which seems baffling at first reading. Why are the stars 'the fleshed forebears' of the hills, and of Hughes's blood? Why is the death of a gnat 'a star's mouth'? Hughes had a keen interest in modern science and what he is referring to is the theory, then new, that the atoms in our bodies, excluding only the primordial hydrogen atoms, were originally fashioned in stars that formed, grew old and exploded countless aeons ago, scattering the elements as a fine dust through space, and allowing planets like the earth to form. So the earth and our bodies are made of star-dust, which is why the stars are 'forebears' of the hills and of Hughes's blood. According to the same theory, the universe is constantly recycling matter and energy, re-grouping molecules, so what feeds the universe is the death of anything in it. Even a gnat's death feeds the stars.
When Hughes looks at nature he sees relentless predators — the hawk in 'Hawk Roosting' (`My manners are tearing off heads'); the thrushes in 'Thrushes' (Nothing but bounce and stab'); the pike in 'Pike' Millers from the egg'). His pliant use of language is Shakespearean, inventing new words, making nouns into verbs. The thrushes are 'attent', a punchier word than 'attentive'; the pike's colour is variegated, 'green tigering the gold' — where the noun 'tiger' becomes a verb. Hughes's aim is to reinvigorate language. 'Words', he warned, 'are continually trying to displace our experience. And in so far as they are stronger than the raw life of our experience, and full of themselves, and all the dictionaries they have digested, they do replace it: But not if he can help it.
In the two months after Plath's death he wrote 'The Howling of Wolves' and 'Song of a Rat'. Both were published in "Wodwo" (1967) and both, as if in self-excuse, are about the inescapable cruelty and pain throughout the whole of nature. Then there was a gap. He started writing again in 1966, and "Crow", subtitled " "From the Life and Songs of the Crow", appeared in 1970 (dedicated 'In Memory of Assia and Shura'). Hughes considered it his masterpiece and many critics agree. Others shrank from its violence and negativity. The Crow of the title cannot be equated with any single concept. He changes from poem to poem — sometimes victim, sometimes tyrant, sometimes hero, sometimes fool. He is mythic in stature, but he demolishes myths — Christianity, humanism, the Genesis creation story and all hopeful and positive takes on life — reducing them to farce and slapstick. "Crow"'s anarchic refusal to conform to any existing stereotype was deliberate. 'My main concern', Hughes wrote, 'was to produce something with the minimum cultural accretions of the museum sort.'
Paradoxically, the inventiveness of "Crow" can be matched, in Hughes's later work, only by his translations from Ovid's "Metamorphoses". Titled "Tales from Ovid" (1997), they are not remotely like conventional translations. Hughes freely adds new passages to the original, and charges Ovid's passionate, disturbing stories with a sensuousness that makes them unmistakably his own.
Plath published only one volume of poetry, "The Colossus" (1960), before her death. Her voice in it is often daring and sardonic, as it is in her later work. But the "Colossus" poems are less original, imitating Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Marianne Moore and Roethke. She owes her lasting fame to the poems she wrote in the months after Hughes had left her, which were published by him in 1965, titled "Ariel".
Her letters to her mother tell how she is writing 'the best poems of my life', at the rate of a poem a day, getting up at 4.00 in the morning while it is still dark (like writing in a train tunnel or God's intestine'), and breaking off only when the children wake.
The winter of 1962-3 was one of the coldest on record, and the cold is felt in the poems (for example, 'Nick and the Candlestick' with its 'panes of ice', or the bee-poem Wintering'). In Devon she had joined the village beekeepers, but the poems are about her rage and resentment, not beekeeping. The 'terrible' queen bee in 'Stings', with her lion-red body', is a female avenger, like the speaker in 'Lady Lazarus':
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
'Stings', like many of these late poems, incorporates bits of recent autobiography. Plath's letters record how Hughes had put a hand-kerchief on his head (a 'square of white linen' in the poem), hoping to keep the bees off, and had been badly stung. Bees die when they sting, but her bees 'thought death was worth it' so long as they could take their revenge.
In her letters to her American psychotherapist, Dr Ruth Beuscher, Plath describes Hughes as mocking, threatening and triumphant in his adultery, asking why she has not killed herself, and saying Assia and he thought she would. She claims too that in February 1961 he 'beat me up physically', causing a miscarriage.
The fury in the late poems should be read in this context. Adverse critics, however, accuse Plath of exorbitant self-dramatization.
They object to her appropriating, in 'Daddy', the fate of the victims of the Holocaust, as if it were her own:
Chuffing me off like a Jew,
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen . . .
This criticism is serious, and the debate continues.
On 5 February 1963 she wrote her last poem, 'Edge'. It describes a woman who has killed herself and also her two infant children, who now lie, one at each of her breasts. The dead woman is smiling 'the smile of accomplishment'. Critics have accused the poem of glorifying suicide and idealising infanticide. For them it is 'sick' and complacent. This seems questionable. The woman in the poem is said to illustrate 'The illusion of a Greek necessity', and the word 'illusion' prohibits any simple approval of her action. It is a poem that inspects and criticises itself. Plath did the same. When she gassed herself a week later she had first safeguarded her sleeping children by sealing the intermediate doors with tape and towels.
John Carey: “A Little History of Poetry”

                                                             LAMENT FOR THE MAKERS

                                                        A memorial anthology by W.S. Merwin



A poem seems a fragile thing. Change a word, and it is broken. But poems outlive empires and survive the devastation of conquests. I hope you will find poems in this book that remain with you for life.
John Carey: "100 Poets", Introduction [extract]
Một bài thơ dường như là một điều mong manh. Thay đổi một từ, và nó bị hỏng. Nhưng những bài thơ tồn tại lâu hơn các đế chế và sống sót sự tàn phá của các cuộc chinh phạt. Tôi hy vọng bạn sẽ tìm thấy những bài thơ trong cuốn sách này mà ở lại với bạn suốt đời.
Cõi thơ Nguỵ, sống sót phần thư, tàn phá của chinh phạt, theo Gấu, chỉ có thơ TTT. Cho tới bây giờ thơ của ông có thể nói, chưa có độc giả!
Đây là điều đáng mừng theo Gấu. Walter Benjamin phán, có những cuốn sách phải đợi hàng ngàn năm, độc giả của nó...






This poem was written in the burst of creativity Sylvia Plath experienced in the months before her death. She gave birth to her son, Nicholas, in January 1962. In July she discovered her husband was having an affair with Assia Wevill, and they separated in September. In December Plath returned to London from Devon and rented a flat at 23 Fitzroy Road, where Yeats had once lived. The winter of 1962-3 was one of the coldest for a century. The pipes froze, Nicholas and his elder sister, Frieda, were often ill. There was no phone. On the morning of 11 February 1963 Plath was found dead, with her head in the gas oven. She had sealed the door between her and the sleeping children (Frieda aged two and Nicholas, one) with tape, towels and cloths.





I am a miner. The light burns blue.

Waxy stalacmites Love,

Drip and thicken, tears


The earthen womb

Exudes from its dead boredom.

Black bat airs


Wrap me, raggy shawls,

Cold homicides.

They weld to me like plums.

Old cave of calcium

Icicles, old echoer.

Even the newts are white,


Those holy Joes.

And the fish, the fish -

Christ! they are panes of ice,


A vice of knives,

A piranha

Religion, drinking


Its first communion out of my live toes.

The candle

Gulps and recovers its small altitude,


Its yellows hearten.

O love, how did you get here?

O embryo


Remembering, even in sleep,

Your crossed position.

The blood blooms clean


In you, ruby.

The pain

You wake to is not yours.


Love, love,

I have hung our cave with roses,

With soft rugs -


The last of Victoriana.

Let the stars

Plummet to their dark address,


Let the mercuric

Atoms that cripple drip

Into the terrible well,


You are the one

Solid the spaces lean on, envious.

You are the baby in the barn.





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