longing for something

February 21, 2019

So I perversely circle the late stars, drowsier and drowsier, sleepily longing for something..nothing – talking, working, eating, wondering always who am I?

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

blown leaves

February 5, 2019

The blown leaves make bat-shapes, Web-winged and furious.

Sylvia Plath
Dialogue Over a Ouija Board

love like a fire

September 20, 2018

He uses me – uses all of me so I am lit and glowing with love like a fire, and this is all I looked for all my life – to be able to give of my love, my spontaneous joy, unreservedly, with no holding back for fear of his misuse, betrayal.

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath: entry dated 6th April 1958

sense of eternity

September 18, 2018

If I lived by the sea I would never be really sad. I get an immense sense of eternity and peace from the ocean. I can lose myself in staring at it hour after hour.

Sylvia Plath
July 1951 letter to Aurelia Plath

With masks down

August 19, 2018

I talk to myself and look at the dark trees, blessedly neutral. So much easier than facing people, than having to look happy, invulnerable, clever. With masks down, I walk, talking to the moon, to the neutral impersonal force that does not hear, but merely accepts my being.

Sylvia Plath
The Journals of Sylvia Plath

Oh, something is there, waiting for me. Perhaps someday the revelation will burst in upon me and I will see the other side of this monumental grotesque joke. And then I’ll laugh. And then I’ll know what life is.

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

sunrise

With an “overturned brandy glass” for a planchette, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes often navigated their handmade Ouija board for inspiration. In a note accompanying Plath’s poem “Ouija,” Hughes describes how she “occasionally amused herself, with one or two others, by holding her finger on an upturned glass, in a ring of letters laid out on a smooth table, and questioning the ‘spirits.'”1

The name of their usual spirit guide was Pan. He spelled out everything from his favorite poems by each poet—“Pike,” in the case of Hughes, and “Mussel-Hunter” by Plath (the spirit admitted: “I like fish”)—to what the couple should name their children or which press would publish Plath’s next book (correctly: “Knopf”).

As Plath recalls in her journal on July 4, 1958:

Even if our own hot subconscious pushes it (It says, when asked, that it is “like us”), we had more fun than a movie.2

The Ouija board was her husband’s idea, as Plath scholar Kathleen Connors writes: “Along with compiling lists of potential subjects for Plath’s poems and stories, Hughes advised her on meditation techniques, and used hypnotism and their hand-made Ouija board on a regular basis. Calling these sessions ‘ magnificent fun,’ Plath was intrigued by the concept of ‘Pan,’ their main ‘spirit contact’ called on for advice on poetry subjects, and sometimes to get numbers for horse races.”3

Many poems were inspired by this process, the two most notable being Plath’s “Ouija” and “Dialogue Over a Ouija Board.” The latter is a conversation between a couple, Sibyl and Leroy, about the nature of channelling itself. Ultimately, that particular verse drama ends with the two concluding:

When lights go out
May two real people breathe in a real room

Plath writes in “The Colossus” (interestingly, Pan’s own “family god,” was named ‘Kolossus’):

Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.

Or perhaps not. Either way, for Plath, channelling was one means of coming in contact with herself.

1. Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems (Faber & Faber, 1981), p. 276.
2. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (Anchor Books, 200), ed. Karen V. Kukil, p. 400.
3. Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath’s Art of the Visual (Oxford University Press, 2007), ed. Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley, p. 111-112.

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!

#

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!

#

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…