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"Sylvia Plath"

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A look atg the growth poetically and decay mentally and emotionally of Sylvia Plkath ...... More...
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Paper Abstract:
A look atg the growth, poetically, and decay mentally and emotionally, of Sylvia Plkath, using some of her poems from early to the final one- as examples of her subject matter, vocabulary and depth of meaning

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SYLVIA PLATH Too many people think of Sylvia Plath merely because of her tragicsuicide and her rocky marriage and her bouts of depression What many of usfail to realize is that she was a major poet Who knows how much more shecould have contributed to the world literature had she lived At her death age thirty Plath already had a following in the literary community Inthe ensuing years her work attracted the attention of a multitude ofreaders who saw in her singular

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WORKS CITED:Banner, Gillian: "Sylvia Plath and Holocaust Poetry" Immigrants andMinorities UK, Vol. Her technique resembles that ofcinematic montage, which juxtaposes and thereby fuses diverse visual imagesin a meaningful way, beyond the normal parameters of space and time"(Folsom 7). Did Plath die because she suffered from amental illness or did her husband's betrayal force an impossible choiceupon her - either to be a great writer or a good mother?" (Gill 19). 19 Dec 2 7 .Poems by Sylvia Plath referenced and/or cited:The Dead (Juvenilia)Revolving in oval loops of solar speed,Couched in cauls of clay as in holy robes,Dead men render love and war no heed,Lulled in the ample womb of the full-tilt globe.No spiritual Caesars are these dead;They want no proud paternal kingdom come;And when at last they blunder into bedWorld-wrecked, they seek only oblivion.Rolled round with goodly loam and cradled deep,These bone shanks will not wake immaculateTo trumpet-toppling dawn of doomstruck day :They loll forever in colossal sleep;Nor can God's stern, shocked angels cry them upFrom their fond, final, infamous decay.Night Shift (1957)It was not a heart, beating.That muted boom, that clangorFar off, not blood in the earsDrumming up and feverTo impose on the evening.The noise came from outside:A metal detonatingNative, evidently, toThese stilled suburbs nobodyStartled at it, though the soundShook the ground with its pounding.It took a root at my comingTill the thudding shource, exposed,Confounded in wept guesswork:Framed in windows of Main Street'sSilver factory, immenseHammers hoisted, wheels turning,Stalled, let fall their verticalTonnage of metal and wood;Stunned in marrow. There are many who believe that, just asCatcher in the Rye is required reading in many literature classes, The BellJar is also "must" reading. 521-535. 8,issue 4 (2 1)Folsom, Jack: "Death and Rebirth in Sylvcia Platt..." from Journal ofModern Literature, XVII:4 (1991), pp. It is not a question of feelingcomfortable with who you, the poet are. 21 (2 2).Breslin, Paul: "Demythologizing Sylvia Plath" Modernism-Modernity Vol. We are left withthe hospital smells, "stench" in her poem. They spot and coil like snakes.The heart is a red bell-bloom, in distress.I am so smallIn comparison to these organs!I worm and hack in a purple wilderness.The blood is a sunset. Two of Plath's posthumously published books tookroot in that ground: 'Ariel,' a slim volume of savage, brilliant poems(marketed with a blurb by Robert Lowell), and 'The Bell Jar,' Plath'sautobiographical novel about a young woman's descent into madness"(Middlebrook B2).. But, Sylviaseemed to see this (to plagiarize Shakespeare) as the winter of herdiscontent. I admire it.I am up to my elbows in it, red and squeaking.Still is seeps me up, it is not exhausted.So magical! One can second-guess forever about Plath's tragic end. It wasthe publication, posthumously, of Plath's journals that really focusedattention on her works and who she really was- and was not. It is almost, to the casual reader,as if the poet is saying "One day all too soon that will be me...facelessand soulless under that white sheet. She really belongs in a category allby herself- not fully a feminist, and yet not a total tragedian, either.Her poetry approaches reality and darkness as she matures. By 1961, her imagery had changed again. Thisis meant in the sense of even predicting a sort of finality. And yet, eventoday as her life takes on more importance for some than her poetry, thereis too much sadness and too little honest joy in her writing. Was it a real"descent into madness" much as her novel The Bell jar capitalized on? But, still some amazing use ofvocabulary that are not really poetic, but more onomatopoetic: Words like"thudding" and the "muted boom", and a novel description: "wept guesswork."Here was no dreamy adolescent striving to show what she can do. They are dull with blood.I am the sun, in my white coat,Grey faces, shuttered by drugs, follow me like flowers.Wintering (1962)This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.I have whirled the midwife's extractor,I have my honey,Six jars of it,Six cat's eyes in the wine cellar,Wintering in a dark without windowAt the heart of the houseNext to the last tenant's rancid jamand the bottles of empty glitters--Sir So-and-so's gin.This is the room I have never been inThis is the room I could never breathe in.The black bunched in there like a bat,No lightBut the torch and its faintChinese yellow on appalling objects--Black asininity. What many of usfail to realize is that she was a major poet. More than a few critics continue to insist that her growth as a poetand the visions she wrote down were linked to her life- especially her unhappiness in her marriage. This is where estrangement becomes most manifest:it's not when one's husband has packed up and gone; it's when he's in thesame room" (Keller 1). Here is another critic refuting that Plath was too personal in herpoems: "Poet Sylvia Plath has often been criticized for incorporatingpersonal but not social perspectives in her work, that is, for beinginadequately historical. Perhaps the best word for "TheSurgeon At 2 AM" is "grim." If her imagery here was meant to frighten anypre-op patient, she succeeded. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. But already, she flirts with death anddecay: "And when at last they blunder into bed, World-wrecked they onlyseek oblivion" (Plath 1). Onecritic comments oin this: "Plath's basic method of "transforming" death isto assume, figuratively speaking, the role of a photo-journalist at thescene, keenly observing details with her camera and narrating interpretivecommentary in such a way as to "control" what she sees with thetransforming power of her language. In aweek she wrote 'The Detective', 'The Courage of Shutting Up' and a seriesof poems collectively called 'Bees' - 'The Bee Meeting', 'The Arrival ofthe Bee Box', 'Stings, 'The Swarm', and Wintering" (Anon 11). "In this novel, Plath shows us the ways inwhich women were discriminated against, through the eyes of a sensitiveyoung artist....It is important to keep such things as this in mind whenreading the novel, and this feminist point of view is the central purposeof The Bell Jar" (Anon 6). The month before, she hadwritten her poems 'For A Fatherless Son' and 'A Birthday Present'. "Sylvia Plath was a little-known writer when shecommitted suicide at age 3 , in February 1963 - the same month that BettyFriedan's 'The Feminine Mystique' became a bestseller, breaking ground fora new feminist movement. One poemcalled "The Dead" was obviously written when she was very young, trying toshow off some of her knowledge. In the New York Times BookReview, Joyce Carol Oates described Plath as 'one of the most celebratedand controversial of postwar poets writing in English'" (Anon 2). Much has been written and discussed about Plath's marriage to poet TedHughes. They taste the spring.Edge (chronologically her final work- 1963)The woman is perfected.Her deadBody wears the smile of accomplishment,The illusion of a Greek necessityFlows in the scrolls of her toga,Her bareFeet seem to be saying:We have come so far, it is over.Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,One at each littlePitcher of milk, now empty.She has foldedThem back into her body as petalsOf a rose close when the gardenStiffens and odors bleedFrom 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.,The illusion of a Greek necessityFlows in the scrolls of her toga,Her bareFeet seem to be saying:We have come so far, it is over.Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,One at each littlePitcher of milk, now empty.She has foldedThem back into her body as petalsOf a rose close when the gardenStiffens and odors bleedFrom 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. The poem is listed in the chronological order ofher poems under "Juvenilia." Yet, there is nothing juvenile about wordslike "world-wrecked." One can ask- "What would a teen-ager know aboutanything "world-wrecked?" Yet, this description fits perfectly the dead anddecaying she describes in this short poem. A lump of Chinese whiteWith seven holes thumbed in. The bed is blue.Tonight, for this person, blue is a beautiful color.The angels of morphia have borne him up.He floats an inch from the ceiling,Smelling the dawn drafts.I walk among sleepers in gauze sarcophagi.The red night lights are flat moons. Despite her youth and, therefore, her lack of what some people wouldconsider a "worldly experience" her poems tended to become stronger. Inthe ensuing years her work attracted the attention of a multitude ofreaders, who saw in her singular verse an attempt to catalogue despair,violent emotion, and obsession with death. Perhaps there is a very faint allusion to Donne's "Death BeNot Proud." Death, of course, was a frequent "visitor" to {Plath's poems. One has towonder what her work might have become, had she fought to live.The woman is perfected.Her deadBody wears the smile of accomplishment,The illusion of a Greek necessityFlows in the scrolls of her toga,. Wasit her husband's leaving for another woman? One wonders, perhaps as a sadafterthought,. However, while Plath's poems are intenselypersonal,...Close readings of her poems "The Thin People" (1957) and "Little Fugue"(1962) show that toward the end of her life Plath used metaphors invokingthe Holocaust...Plath found that she could convey psychic pain, loss, andfragmentation adequately only through images of the Holocaust' (Banner 231)Incidentally it is interesting to note that Plath was not Jewish, so thereference to the holocaust is rather unusual. Again, one has to ask:How does the poet know and understand? SYLVIA PLATH Too many people think of Sylvia Plath merely because of her tragicsuicide and her rocky marriage and her bouts of depression. Her dead Bodywears the smile of accomplishment..." The very notion of a smile in a lifenot well recognized and declining into loneliness and perhaps madness isvisible here. 26, 2 | |Keller, Julia: "Discontent over 'Wintering': The ethics of fictionalizingfact" Chicago Tribune, June 29, 2 3Middlebrook, Diane: "IN PLATH'S FULL JOURNALS, A LUSTY EMBRACE OF LIFE"Boston Globe, Nov. In the case of Plath, not only was she-= during her lifetime- not a"money-maker, but she was not very well known and barely read, except bysome critics- whose number increased after her death. The cold sets in.Now they ball in a mass,BlackMind against all that white.The smile of the snow is white.It spreads itself out, a mile-long body of Meissen,Into which, on warm days,They can only carry their dead.The bees are all women,Maids and the long royal lady.They have got rid of the men,The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors.Winter is for women--The woman, still at her knitting,At the cradle of Spanis walnut,Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.Will the hive survive, will the gladiolasSucceed in banking their firesTo enter another year?What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?The bees are flying. "Edge" is chronolopgically her final published poem. The very openingwords seem to point to her plans: "The woman is perfected. Of course, while Sylvia Plath's poetry is the major focus of thisstudy, one cannot ignore the one work- above everything else- that really"made" her reputation, albeit posthumously. Yet, what was a factwas that she was inclined to be a strong feminist before that movementbecame fashionable. Perhaps one reason forthose who like Plath expose their very tragic and unhappy sides, it may bejust to put words on paper and therefore get them out of your mind. Yet, there are some allusionshere which sort of has her trying to show off how smart she is. 2 7. author listed: "Neurotic Poets" author listed: "Feminism in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar." Whether fact or conjecture, it seems to be partof the overall critique even today, concerning Plath's sensibilities: "Fromthe first, it has proved hard to separate Plath's achievement as a poetfrom her tragic fate as a woman. Critics often wonder whether the darkness and the strongly feministside of her works are a sort of retaliation against the unhappy marriage.For example, one critic writes what is surely an imaginary (if accurate)scene: "Plath's emotional state as her marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughesunravels: "Sylvia stands near the stove, her back to Ted and theirchildren, whisking eggs with a fork in a bowl she holds at a tilt...there's no easy way in. (1961)The white light is artificial, and hygienic as heaven.The microbes cannot survive it.They are departing in their transparent garments, turned asideFrom the scalpels and the rubber hands.The scalded sheet is a snowfield, frozen and peaceful.The body under it is in my hands.As usual there is no face. copyright 1994 TempleUniversity| |Gill, Gillian: "Before her 'fond, final, infamous decay'" Christian ScienceMonitor, Oct. There iscertainly nothing feminine, but a definite grayness extant in this poem. 5, 2 No author listed: "Sylvia Plath"Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2 7. For abee, the winter was a time of rest, its work done for a season. Reproduced in Biography ResourceCenter. It depicts the surgeon not as acallous human being but merely used to the continuous monotony of his taskto risk and then save nameless, faceless patients. One critic, forexample "asserts that in her poetry Plath consciously assumed various rolesor masks, fashioning her 'scripts and costumes' from sources that includedthe literary tradition, popular magazines and pulp fiction, psychoanalysis,and 'the conflicting models for selfhood offered to women of Plath'sgeneration'" (Breslin 675). Here was starkness. That this darkness and inabiolity to breathe came to resultin the oven into which suhe placed her head less than a year later. A hot springI must seal off and let fillThe intricate, blue piping under this pale marble.How I admire the Romans ---Aqueducts, the Baths of Caracella, the eagle nose!The body is a Roman thing.It has shut its mouth on the stone pill of repose.It is a statue the orderlies are wheeling off.I have perfected it.I am left with an arm or a leg,A set of teeth, or stonesTo rattle in a bottle and take home,And tissues in slices--a pathological salami.Tonight the parts are entombed in an icebox.Tomorrow they will swimIn vinegar like saints' relics.Tomorrow the patient will have a clean, pink plastic limb.Over one bed in the ward, a small blue lightAnnounces a new soul. And, while some poetry ismore intensely personal than others, what really accentuates growth is, inmy view, the growth of personal insight. Perhaps it is becausethere is no longer dialogue, no sense of 'Otherness'--she is speaking froma viewpoint which is total, complete" (Anon 8). At her death,age thirty, "Plath already had a following in the literary community. Decay.Possession.It is they who own me.Neither cruel nor indifferent,Only ignorant.This is the time of hanging on for the bees--the beesSo slow I hardly know them,Filing like soldiersTo the syrup tinTo make up for the honey I've taken.Tate and Lyle keeps them going,The refined snow.It is Tate and Lyle they live on, instead of flowers.They take it. It makes sense at this point to ask just how does one measures thegrowth and increasing depth of a poet's works. My assistants hook them back.Stenches and colors assail me.This is the lung-tree.These orchids are splendid. As Gill(2 )explains, No one has put Sylvia Plath down on paper better than she didherself. B y the time in 1957 she wrote "Night Shift" the occasional wordyextravagance was gone. Whether therewere enough people to see the tragic end to her life or not, some criticsafter the fact tend to look at some of her last poems that way: "'InPlath's final poems, wrote Charles Newman in his The Art of Sylvia Plath,'death is preeminent but strangely unoppressive. The soul is another light.I have not seen it; it does not fly up.Tonight it has receded like a ship's light.It is a garden I have to do with --- tubers and fruitOozing their jammy substances,A mat of roots. It really has little to dowith popularity of their work or the creator. And yet,among these dreary sights and smells and sounds, the poet amazes us with"It is a garden I have to do with" and "The heart is a red bell-bloom." Andyet, it is a heartless poem at best. The idea of teeth or stonesrattling around in a bottle is disconcerting, to say the least. Who knows how much more shecould have contributed to the world literature had she lived. As she widened her scope of sources for her personal poetry, criticsalso tried to follow where some of her sources originated. Regardless, biographies pointout that during the several weeks of the last year of her life (1962), shewrote continuously, and turned out some of her most memorable works: "Inthe first week of October, Plath began to write. Was Plath a "great" poet in the tradition of Byron and Keats andShelley, and Americans like Williams and Frost and Whitman and Longfellow?Perhaps "great" is not the right word. Unlikeprose authors, there are very few poets who sit down to write a "best-seller." In fact, most poets are not money-makers. So, let's examine some of her poetry- from early to late. Rather, it is a betterunderstanding of what you are trying to say and even how to say it. "Wintering" is not so much the repose of a bee during winter, as amuffled scream for days and nights resulting in nothingness for Plath, soit seems. She writes of "decay" and "black asininity" and the darkness of aroom which makes it difficult to breathe. One has to wonder whether this poem was amental observation on her part, or an actual experience. Men in whiteUndershirts circled, tendingWithout stop those greased machines,Tending, without stop, the bluntIndefatigable fact.The Surgeon at 2 A.M. It is her autobiographicalfeminist novel, The Bell Jar.

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