Poetry Galore!


The books I won from Oxford University Press in a twitter (go follow them!) competition a few weeks ago finally arrived earlier this week. I received five volumes of poetry galore which is rather ironic since poetry is the one type of literature that I have immense trouble with. However, flicking through the collection, I am warming up to it and have read quite a few already.

The prize:

  • Poems and Prose – Christina Rossetti
  • Selected Poetry – John Keats
  • Aurora Leigh – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • Selected Poetry – William Blake
  • Selected Poetry – Samuel Coleridge

I’m very excited about the collection and I’ve always been partial to Christina Rossetti’s work. Here is one of my favourite Rossetti poems:


When I am dead, my dearest,

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:


Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember,

And if thou wilt, forget.


I shall not see the shadows,

I shall not feel the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain:

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set,

Haply I may remember,

And haply may forget.

It’s quite morose but it’s beautiful.

Sylvia Plath’s Poetry

As an English major, I’m rather ashamed that I find it extremely difficult to like poetry. I have always found poetry difficult to read, understand, interpret and I’m afraid my eyes often glazed over the pages. I also zone out when poetry is read out. Terrible, isn’t it?

However, I picked up a slim volume of selected Sylvia Plath’s poetry and I’m blown away. I think, by George (!), I finally ‘get’ poetry. There is just something simplistic yet ambiguous in Plath’s writing. There is a strong sense of sadness, anger and devastation radiating from her words. Reading these poetry after Plath’s The Bell Jar probably enhanced the effect.

I noted in my review that one of her most moving line was: I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

I am, I am, I am is a line that Plath reiterates throughout her work. It is reiterated through The Bell Jar in different contexts and each time it has a different meaning.

In her poem Suicide off Egg Rock, Plath writes:

No pit of shadow to crawl into,

And his blood beating the old tattoo

I am, I am, I am.

I just find that breathtaking and I particularly like her continuity. Daddy is her most powerful poem, I think, in that particular volume. Her lines:

I was ten when they buried you.

At twenty I tried to die

And get back, back, back to you.

I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,

And they stuck me together with glue.

Of course, with the history and Plath’s biography now widely know, her work now makes it all the more poignant and heartbreaking. However, as much as I’m struck by Plath’s work, I’m not sure how much I am able to read. It’s just far too depressing.