oldfilmsflicker

moonlight-driive:

"Her blonde hair was part of an attempt to to start over and adopt a new persona, following her first suicide attempt in August of 1953." Plath, who had spent six months in psychiatric care following the suicide attempt, had seemed to improve greatly by the the summer of 1954. This period of time has been lovingly referred to by her biographers as her “platinum summer.”

thingsseenthingsmade

Sylvia Plath, “The Detective”

poem-locker:

What was she doing when it blew in
Over the seven hills, the red furrow, the blue mountain?
Was she arranging cups? It is important.
Was she at the window, listening?
In that valley the train shrieks echo like souls on hooks.

That is the valley of death, though the cows thrive.
In her garden the lies were shaking out their moist silks
And the eyes of the killer moving sluglike and sidelong,
Unable to face the fingers, those egotists.
The fingers were tamping a woman into a wall,

A body into a pipe, and the smoke rising.
This is the smell of years burning, here in the kitchen,
These are the deceits, tacked up like family photographs,
And this is a man, look at his smile,
The death weapon? No-one is dead.

There is no body in the house at all.
There is the smell of polish, there are plush carpets.
There is the sunlight, playing its blades,
Bored hoodlum in a red room
Where the wireless talks to itself like an elderly relative.

Did it come like an arrow, did it come like a knife?
Which of the poisons is it?
Which of the nerve-curlers, the convulsors? Did it electrify?
This is a case without a body.
The body does not come into it at all.

It is a case of vaporization.
The mouth first, its absence reported
In the second year. It had been insatiable
And in punishment was hung out like brown fruit
To wrinkle and dry.

The breasts next.
These were harder, two white stones.
The milk came yellow, then blue and sweet as water.
There was no absence of lips, there were two children,
But their bones showed, and the moon smiles.

Then the dry wood, the gates,
The brown motherly furrows, the whole estate.
We walk on air, Watson.
There is only the moon, embalmed in phosphorus.
There is only a crow in a tree. Make notes.


I presume “In Plaster” has been considered separately from Plath’s poems more explicitly about motherhood because the vision of maternal love espoused here is so grotesquely dissociated from our normative conceptions of parenthood - but it is, in fact, an eerily precise rendition of a narcissistic psyche. It has it all: the initial fear of the other, the subsequent exultant feeling of dominating the child while she is still small and malleable, and the ultimate terror and loathing of the child who grows into an independent adult - a beautiful youth, while the parent ages into something old, ugly, and breakable. In some way, Plath must have known deeply what her mother was and what she had done to her - but she never quite managed to escape her, either. Narcissists, alas, often breed narcissists, and no matter how self-aware Plath was about her mother in certain ways later in her life, it is a tragic fact that many of the behaviors she internalized as a young girl never left her. She does not seem to have ever managed to fully separate from her mother, for all her bursts of anger and loathing: she still wrote long, insincerely cheerful letters home to Aurelia even when she was near the very end of her short life; still, after everything, yearned to please. She seems to have been capable of a kind of strange doublethink: savage in her creative output while comparatively docile in life.

Read more: Ballad of the Drowning Girl: Sylvia Plath and the Curse of Maternal Narcissism

I presume “In Plaster” has been considered separately from Plath’s poems more explicitly about motherhood because the vision of maternal love espoused here is so grotesquely dissociated from our normative conceptions of parenthood - but it is, in fact, an eerily precise rendition of a narcissistic psyche. It has it all: the initial fear of the other, the subsequent exultant feeling of dominating the child while she is still small and malleable, and the ultimate terror and loathing of the child who grows into an independent adult - a beautiful youth, while the parent ages into something old, ugly, and breakable. In some way, Plath must have known deeply what her mother was and what she had done to her - but she never quite managed to escape her, either.

Narcissists, alas, often breed narcissists, and no matter how self-aware Plath was about her mother in certain ways later in her life, it is a tragic fact that many of the behaviors she internalized as a young girl never left her. She does not seem to have ever managed to fully separate from her mother, for all her bursts of anger and loathing: she still wrote long, insincerely cheerful letters home to Aurelia even when she was near the very end of her short life; still, after everything, yearned to please. She seems to have been capable of a kind of strange doublethink: savage in her creative output while comparatively docile in life.

Read more: Ballad of the Drowning Girl: Sylvia Plath and the Curse of Maternal Narcissism


We are in a strange position with Plath, when it comes to her biography. Her life has towered so definitely over her work ever since she killed herself in that London apartment in the winter of 1963 that it has become almost impossible to extricate her creative output entirely from her personal mythos. Indeed, I would venture to say that The Bell Jar does not fully work as a novel without the added perspective of the author’s biography. Her poems are not quite so burdened, but they do not entirely escape the weight of her personality, either.Nor do I necessarily think they should. Of course we should be able to read Ariel for more than mere premonitions of Plath’s death, but there is a quality to her writing that always seems, to me, hopelessly wrapped up in her own experiences. An old tutor of mine once commented that she never seemed to be able to get out of her own head in the way that, say, Virginia Woolf could.

Read more: Ballad of the Drowning Girl: Sylvia Plath and the Curse of Maternal Narcissism 
I am a couple weeks late with some 50th anniversary thoughts, but nevertheless: voila, here they are, and they are many. Nobody ever says quite what I want them to about Plath, so I figured I should probably just do it myself. (I really miss college, guys.)

We are in a strange position with Plath, when it comes to her biography. Her life has towered so definitely over her work ever since she killed herself in that London apartment in the winter of 1963 that it has become almost impossible to extricate her creative output entirely from her personal mythos. Indeed, I would venture to say that The Bell Jar does not fully work as a novel without the added perspective of the author’s biography. Her poems are not quite so burdened, but they do not entirely escape the weight of her personality, either.

Nor do I necessarily think they should. Of course we should be able to read Ariel for more than mere premonitions of Plath’s death, but there is a quality to her writing that always seems, to me, hopelessly wrapped up in her own experiences. An old tutor of mine once commented that she never seemed to be able to get out of her own head in the way that, say, Virginia Woolf could.

Read more: Ballad of the Drowning Girl: Sylvia Plath and the Curse of Maternal Narcissism

I am a couple weeks late with some 50th anniversary thoughts, but nevertheless: voila, here they are, and they are many. Nobody ever says quite what I want them to about Plath, so I figured I should probably just do it myself. (I really miss college, guys.)

journeyintonight
awritersruminations:

On February 11, 1963 Sylvia Plath committed suicide. Fifty years after her death, her poetry continues to haunt and inspire millions of readers, including myself. Today, I hope many of you will pick up Ariel or The Bell Jar or any other Plath book and remember not just her tragically short life but her brilliant and electrifying work. That is certainly what I intend to do.

awritersruminations:

On February 11, 1963 Sylvia Plath committed suicide. Fifty years after her death, her poetry continues to haunt and inspire millions of readers, including myself. Today, I hope many of you will pick up Ariel or The Bell Jar or any other Plath book and remember not just her tragically short life but her brilliant and electrifying work. That is certainly what I intend to do.