Eric's Reviews > Plath: Poems

Plath by Sylvia Plath
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's review
Feb 26, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: poetry
Recommended to Eric by: Elizabeth Hardwick's "Seduction and Betrayal"
Read in March, 2010

With Eliot, I only occasionally feel the pungency his declared influences (English Metaphysicals and French Symbolists) seem to promise. This, though, might be the thing. Creepy-crawlies and the skull beneath the skin.


Looking back, I might have just read the carefully sequenced, climactic Ariel, but this selection, Diane Middlebrook's, was pretty consistently thrilling all the same. What a poet! Two of Plath's strengths immediately compelled my admiration: her genius for well-wrought hallucination--

How the elements solidify!
The moonlight, that chalk cliff
In whose rift we lie

Back to back. I here an owl cry
From its cold indigo.
Intolerable vowels enter my heart.

The child in the white crib revolves and sighs,
Opens its mouth now, demanding.
His little face is carved in pained, red wood.


My god the iron lung

That loves me, pumps
My two
Dust bags in and out...


--and her attention to the cavorting beasties, her comprehensive sight:

The crabs

Inched from their pygmy burrows
And from the trench-dug mud, all Camouflaged in mottled mail
Of browns and greens. Each wore one
Claw swollen to a shield large
As itself--no fiddler's arm
Grown Gargantuan by trade,

But grown grimly, and grimly
Borne, for a use beyond my
Guessing of it.


They moved
Obliquely with a dry-wet
Sound, with a glittery wisp
And trickle. Could they feel mud
Pleasurable under claws

As I could between bare toes?

("Mussel Hunter at Rock Harbor")

Pebble smells, turnipy chambers.
Small nostrils are breathing.

("Poem for a Birthday")

Yep, I'll be reading more of her in the future. And I'm curious what her prose is like. I mean, just look at this:

He won't be got rid of:
Mumblepaws, teary and sorry,
Fido Littlesoul, the bowel's familiar.
A dustbin's enough for him.
The dark's his bone.
Call him any name, he'll come to it.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jesse (new)

Jesse Plath's reputation always strikes me as so bizarre. She's constantly bandied about by people as their favorite poet, but that always makes me wonder how much they've actually read her. As you point out, reading her is such an experience--and often a horrific, gruesome one at that.

Personally, I prefer Sexton, though Plath certainly has more art.

message 2: by Evelyn (new)

Evelyn Is mad girls love song in this collection?

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