The girl who died

April 9, 2017

You are twenty. You are not dead, although you were dead. The girl who died. And was resurrected. Children. Witches. Magic. Symbols. Remember the illogic of the fantasy.

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Rain

November 30, 2016

rain

Rain on roof outside window, gray light, deep covers and warm blankets. Rain and nip of autumn in air; nostalgia, itch to work better and bigger. That crisp edge of autumn.

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals, 26 August 1956 in Paris

autumn2

Diary 12th November

Oh, hey, hell, if you see me talking to myself, don’t be concerned. It’s just me getting expert advice…

I’m hoping this morning my breakfast gin kicks in before reality does. However, the one MAJOR problem I see around me nowadays is everyone listens, yeah, but not to UNDERSTAND. No, just to determine when it’s time to REPLY. Communication has become a competition between individuals. Understanding has no place in human interaction anymore. Or so it seems. Having said that, a lot of people can’t tell the truth to the face they see in the mirror each morning, let alone anyone else!

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The nights are so much colder now. If you want to see just how forceful your woman can be, try pulling the blankets off her and over to your side of the bed…!!!

Yeah, hurts doesn’t it!

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I love it when she comes to me in the early hours of morning, wakes me with whisper-kisses on the ear and her skin feels as if it’s permanently stained by the night. The taste of her spreads from my mouth to my body like liquid fire…

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In July 1951, Sylvia Plath wrote in her journals:
“Lying on my stomach on the flat warm rock, I let my arm hang over the side, and my hand caressed the rounded contours of the sun-hot stone, and felt the smooth undulations of it. Such a heat the rock had, such a rugged and comfortable warmth, that I felt it could be a human body. Burning through the material of my bathing suit, the great heat radiated through my body…”

She also wrote:

“I drink sherry and wine by myself because I like it and I get the sensuous feeling of indulgence…luxury, bliss, erotic-tinged.”

Drinking alone is so sad but many of us do it. In the final months of her short life, Plath used the colour red twenty-two times in the poetry she was writing. She mentions red in excess of one hundred times in her Journal, obviously a colour she was fixated on – the colour of blood and of fire and of the sun seen through closed eyelids.

Blood brings to mind Wilfred Owen’s lines:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs

Plath’s voice in Wintering haunts me, too:

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 Spanish walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.
Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.

A poem of survival. Although not guaranteed, there is here a suggestion of reawakening, a hint of spring returning. A far cry from some of Plath’s earlier, ferocious and annihilating poems. Poems which no doubt reflected her long battle with mental illness, and her terrible bouts of depression and mania…

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Buzzard seen yesterday in one of the trees opposite our garden, huge, golden and magnificent, shrugging its great wings at my captivated gaze…

The Disquieting Muses

September 11, 2016

nnightmares

Mother, mother, what ill-bred aunt
Or what disfigured and unsightly
Cousin did you so unwisely keep
Unasked to my christening, that she
Sent these ladies in her stead
With heads like darning-eggs to nod
And nod and nod at foot and head
And at the left side of my crib?

Mother, who made to order stories
Of Mixie Blackshort the heroic bear,
Mother, whose witches always, always
Got baked into gingerbread, I wonder
Whether you saw them, whether you said
Words to rid me of those three ladies
Nodding by night around my bed,
Mouthless, eyeless, with stitched bald head.

In the hurricane, when father’s twelve
Study windows bellied in
Like bubbles about to break, you fed
My brother and me cookies and Ovaltine
And helped the two of us to choir:
‘Thor is angry; boom boom boom!
Thor is angry: we don’t care!’
But those ladies broke the panes.

When on tiptoe the schoolgirls danced,
Blinking flashlights like fireflies
And singing the glowworm song, I could
Not lift a foot in the twinkle-dress
But, heavy-footed, stood aside
In the shadow cast by my dismal-headed
Godmothers, and you cried and cried:
And the shadow stretched, the lights went out.

Mother, you sent me to piano lessons
And praised my arabesques and trills
Although each teacher found my touch
Oddly wooden in spite of scales
And the hours of practicing, my ear
Tone-deaf and yes, unteachable.

I learned, I learned, I learned elsewhere,
From muses unhired by you, dear mother.

I woke one day to see you, mother,
Floating above me in bluest air
On a green balloon bright with a million
Flowers and bluebirds that never were
Never, never, found anywhere.

But the little planet bobbed away
Like a soap-bubble as you called: Come here!
And I faced my travelling companions.

Day now, night now, at head, side, feet,
They stand their vigil in gowns of stone,
Faces blank as the day I was born.

Their shadows long in the setting sun
That never brightens or goes down.

And this is the kingdom you bore me to,
Mother, mother.
But no frown of mine
Will betray the company I keep.

Sylvia Plath

sea

Thoughts that found a maze of mermaid hair; Tangling in the tide’s green fall now fold their wings like bats and disappear; Into the attic of the skull.

Sylvia Plath
Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea

lips2

When her husband (Ted Hughes) left her for another woman, she took his manuscripts, mixed them with a debris of fingernail parings and dandruff from his desk, and burned them in a witch’s ritual bonfire. As the flames died down, a single fragment paper drifted on to her foot. On it was the name of the woman he had left her for: Assia. “Her psychic gifts, at almost any time,” Ted wrote, “were strong enough to make her frequently wish to be rid of them.”

With Sylvia’s (Plath) personal nightmares to contend with, Hughes’s creative strategies would have worked on her like, say, the “recovered memory” games untrained rogue psychotherapists play on unwary patients – releasing the inner demons then stepping aside with no thought of the consequences. Because he truly believed in her talent he did it in the name of poetry. He handed her the key she had been looking for to find her dead father and, always the good student, she went down into the cellarage, key in hand. But the ghouls she released were malign. They helped her write great poems, but they destroyed her marriage, then they destroyed her.

Al Alvarez
Where Did It All Go Right?

Girl-in-Red-Dress

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

I Am Vertical

December 22, 2015

darkwood

But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them —
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

Sylvia Plath

all the lives I want…

October 4, 2015

woman8

I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”

Sylvia Plath
Journal

Lust or Love…

August 19, 2015

momentoftruth

If they substituted the word ‘Lust’ for ‘Love’ in the popular songs it would come nearer the truth.

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath