Sylvia Plath

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.

Review: “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.

Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel is so beautifully and heartbreakingly written. As it has been long known that Plath used her own experiences of depression and mental illness in the novel, it makes it hard at times for the reader to separate fact from fiction, and that we are reading about Esther Greenwood rather than Sylvia Plath. The novel details the downward spiral of a young and bright woman who is living it up in New York after winning a month long stint at a famous magazine publishing company. Esther and her fellow intern winners are wined and dined at exclusive restaurants and showered with expensive gifts. Despite this, Esther remains unhappy, or rather, indifferent to what is happening to her. She finally slowly falls apart once she finishes the month and returns home to discover that her application to study under a well-known writer has been rejected.

The novel follows her breakdown, suicide attempts and finally her incarceration into various psychiatric wards. I have never read Plath before, albeit a couple of poems here and there, and I am in awe at the way that Plath is able to convey the ‘feelings’ of depression to the reader. The darkness (though colour is rarely used), the helplessness and the indifference Esther feels towards the world and herself is conveyed strikingly and devastatingly clear in Plath’s, at times sparse, prose.