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Famous Poets:

  bullet   Maya Angelou
  bullet   Matthew Arnold
  bullet   Elizabeth Bishop
  bullet   William Blake
  bullet   Anne Bradstreet
  bullet   The Brontė Sisters
  bullet   Robert Browning
  bullet   Lord Byron
  bullet   Lewis Carroll
  bullet   E. E. Cummings
  bullet   Samuel Daniel
  bullet   Emily Dickinson
  bullet   T. S. Eliot
  bullet   Ralph Waldo Emerson
  bullet   Eugene Field
  bullet   Robert Frost
  bullet   Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  bullet   Ernest Hemingway
  bullet   Langston Hughes
  bullet   James Joyce
  bullet   John Keats
  bullet   Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  bullet   Sylvia Plath
  bullet   Edgar Allan Poe
  bullet   William Shakespeare
  bullet   Percy Bysshe Shelley
  bullet   Robert Louis Stevenson
  bullet   Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  bullet   Dylan Thomas
  bullet   Walt Whitman
  bullet   William Wordsworth
  bullet   William Butler Yeats

Sylvia Plath

Born: October 27, 1932 // Died: February 11, 1963

Sylvia Plath Born to middle class parents in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Sylvia Plath published her first poem when she was eight. Sensitive, intelligent, compelled toward perfection in everything she attempted, she was, on the surface, a model daughter, popular in school, earning straight A's, winning the best prizes. By the time she entered Smith College on a scholarship in 1950 she already had an impressive list of publications, and while at Smith she wrote over four hundred poems.

Sylvia's surface perfection was however underlain by grave personal discontinuities, some of which doubtless had their origin in the death of her father (he was a college professor and an expert on bees) when she was eight. During the summer following her junior year at Smith, having returned from a stay in New York City where she had been a student ``guest editor'' at Mademoiselle Magazine, Sylvia nearly succeeded in killing herself by swallowing sleeping pills. She later described this experience in an autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, published in 1963. After a period of recovery involving electroshock and psychotherapy Sylvia resumed her pursuit of academic and literary success, graduating from Smith summa cum laude in 1955 and winning a Fulbright scholarship to study at Cambridge, England.

In 1956 she married the English poet Ted Hughes, and in 1960, when she was 28, her first book, The Colossus, was published in England. The poems in this book---formally precise, well wrought---show clearly the dedication with which Sylvia had served her apprenticeship; yet they give only glimpses of what was to come in the poems she would begin writing early in 1961. She and Ted Hughes settled for a while in an English country village in Devon, but less than two years after the birth of their first child the marriage broke apart.

The winter of 1962-63, one of the coldest in centuries, found Sylvia living in a small London flat, now with two children, ill with flu and low on money. The hardness of her life seemed to increase her need to write, and she often worked between four and eight in the morning, before the children woke, sometimes finishing a poem a day. In these last poems it is as if some deeper, powerful self has grabbed control; death is given a cruel physical allure and psychic pain becomes almost tactile.

On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath killed herself with cooking gas at the age of 30. Two years later Ariel, a collection of some of her last poems, was published; this was followed by Crossing the Water and Winter Trees in 1971, and, in 1981, The Collected Poems appeared, edited by Ted Hughes.

  Sylvia Plath's Poetry: (click on a title to read a poem)
  Winter Trees   Insomniac   Snakecharmer
  Medusa   The Disquieting Muses   Poppies in October
  Morning Song   Ariel   Polly's Tree
  kNick and the Candlestick   Balloons   Fiesta Melons

Winter Trees
The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees
Seem a botanical drawing.
Memories growing, ring on ring,
A series of weddings.

Knowing neither abortions nor bitchery,
Truer than women,
They seed so effortlessly!
Tasting the winds, that are footless,
Waist-deep in history.

Full of wings, otherworldliness.
In this, they are Ledas.
O mother of leaves and sweetness
Who are these pietas?
The shadows of ringdoves chanting, but chasing nothing.

The night is only a sort of carbon paper,
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole . . .
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.
Under the eyes of the stars and the moon's rictus
He suffers his desert pillow, sleeplessness
Stretching its fine, irritating sand in all directions.

Over and over the old, granular movie
Exposes embarrassments--the mizzling days
Of childhood and adolescence, sticky with dreams,
Parental faces on tall stalks, alternately stern and tearful,
A garden of buggy rose that made him cry.
His forehead is bumpy as a sack of rocks.
Memories jostle each other for face-room like obsolete film stars.

He is immune to pills: red, purple, blue . . .
How they lit the tedium of the protracted evening!
Those sugary planets whose influence won for him
A life baptized in no-life for a while,
And the sweet, drugged waking of a forgetful baby.
Now the pills are worn-out and silly, like classical gods.
Their poppy-sleepy colors do him no good.

His head is a little interior of grey mirrors.
Each gesture flees immediately down an alley
Of diminishing perspectives, and its significance
Drains like water out the hole at the far end.
He lives without privacy in a lidless room,
The bald slots of his eyes stiffened wide-open
On the incessant heat-lightning flicker of situations.

Nightlong, in the granite yard, invisible cats
Have been howling like women, or damaged instruments.
Already he can feel daylight, his white disease,
Creeping up with her hatful of trivial repetitions.
The city is a map of cheerful twitters now,
And everywhere people, eyes mica-silver and blank,
Are riding to work in rows, as if recently brainwashed.

As the gods began one world, and man another,
So the snakecharmer begins a snaky sphere
With moon-eye, mouth-pipe, He pipes. Pipes green. Pipes water.

Pipes water green until green waters waver
With reedy lengths and necks and undulatings.
And as his notes twine green, the green river

Shapes its images around his sons.
He pipes a place to stand on, but no rocks,
No floor: a wave of flickering grass tongues

Supports his foot. He pipes a world of snakes,
Of sways and coilings, from the snake-rooted bottom
Of his mind. And now nothing but snakes
Is visible. The snake-scales have become
Leaf, become eyelid; snake-bodies, bough, breast
Of tree and human. And he within this snakedom

Rules the writhings which make manifest
His snakehood and his might with pliant tunes
From his thin pipe. Out of this green nest

As out of Eden's navel twist the lines
Of snaky generations: let there be snakes!
And snakes there were, are, will be--till yawns

Consume this pipe and he tires of music
And pipes the world back to the simple fabric
Of snake-warp, snake-weft. Pipes the cloth of snakes

To a melting of green waters, till no snake
Shows its head, and those green waters back to
Water, to green, to nothing like a snake.
Puts up his pipe, and lids his moony eye.

Off that landspit of stony mouth-plugs,
Eyes rolled by white sticks,
Ears cupping the sea's incoherences,
You house your unnerving head--God-ball,
Lens of mercies,
Your stooges
Plying their wild cells in my keel's shadow,
Pushing by like hearts,
Red stigmata at the very center,
Riding the rip tide to the nearest point of

Dragging their Jesus hair.
Did I escape, I wonder?
My mind winds to you
Old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic cable,
Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous

In any case, you are always there,
Tremulous breath at the end of my line,
Curve of water upleaping
To my water rod, dazzling and grateful,
Touching and sucking.
I didn't call you.
I didn't call you at all.
Nevertheless, nevertheless
You steamed to me over the sea,
Fat and red, a placenta

Paralyzing the kicking lovers.
Cobra light
Squeezing the breath from the blood bells
Of the fuchsia. I could draw no breath,
Dead and moneyless,

Overexposed, like an X-ray.
Who do you think you are?
A Communion wafer? Blubbery Mary?
I shall take no bite of your body,
Bottle in which I live,

Ghastly Vatican.
I am sick to death of hot salt.
Green as eunuchs, your wishes
Hiss at my sins.
Off, off, eely tentacle!
There is nothing between us.

The Disquieting Muses
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 traveling 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.

Poppies in October
Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly --

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky

Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.

O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.

Morning Song
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.

God's lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees! ---The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,

Berries cast dark
Hooks ---

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Something else

Hauls me through air ---
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.

Godiva, I unpeel ---
Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child's cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,

The dew that flies,
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.

Polly's Tree
A dream tree, Polly's tree:
a thicket of sticks,
each speckled twig

ending in a thin-paned
leaf unlike any
other on it

or in a ghost flower
flat as paper and
of a color

vaporish as frost-breath,
more finical than
any silk fan

the Chinese ladies use
to stir robin's egg
air. The silver -

haired seed of the milkweed
comes to roost there, frail
as the halo

rayed round a candle flame,
a will-o'-the-wisp
nimbus, or puff

of cloud-stuff, tipping her
queer candelabrum.
Palely lit by

snuff-ruffed dandelions,
white daisy wheels and
a tiger faced

pansy, it glows. O it's
no family tree,
Polly's tree, nor

a tree of heaven, though
it marry quartz-flake,
feather and rose.

It sprang from her pillow
whole as a cobweb
ribbed like a hand,

a dream tree. Polly's tree
wears a valentine
arc of tear-pearled

bleeding hearts on its sleeve
and, crowning it, one
blue larkspur star.

Nick and the Candlestick
I am a miner. The light burns blue.
Waxy stalactites
Drip and thicken, tears

The earthen womb

Exudes from its dead boredom.
Black bat airs

Wrap me, raggy shawls,
Cold homicides.
They weld to me like plums.

Old cave of calcium
Icicles, old echoer.
Even the newts are white,

Those holy Joes.
And the fish, the fish
Christ! They are panes of ice,

A vice of knives,
A piranha
Religion, drinking

Its first communion out of my live toes.
The candle
Gulps and recovers its small altitude,

Its yellows hearten.
O love, how did you get here?
O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.
The pain
You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,
I have hung our cave with roses.
With soft rugs

The last of Victoriana.
Let the stars
Plummet to their dark address,

Let the mercuric
Atoms that cripple drip
Into the terrible well,

You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby in the barn.

Since Christmas they have lived with us,
Guileless and clear,
Oval soul-animals,
Taking up half the space,
Moving and rubbing on the silk

Invisible air drifts,
Giving a shriek and pop
When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.
Yellow cathead, blue fish--------
Such queer moons we live with

Instead of dead furniture!
Straw mats, white walls
And these traveling
Globes of thin air, red, green,

The heart like wishes or free
Peacocks blessing
Old ground with a feather
Beaten in starry metals.
Your small

Brother is making
His balloon squeak like a cat.
Seeming to see
A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,
He bites,

Then sits
Back, fat jug
Contemplating a world clear as water.
A red
Shred in his little fist.

Fiesta Melons
In Benidorm there are melons,
Whole donkey-carts full

Of innumerable melons,
Ovals and balls,

Bright green and thumpable
Laced over with stripes

Of turtle-dark green.
Chooose an egg-shape, a world-shape,

Bowl one homeward to taste
In the whitehot noon :

Cream-smooth honeydews,
Pink-pulped whoppers,

Bump-rinded cantaloupes
With orange cores.

Each wedge wears a studding
Of blanched seeds or black seeds

To strew like confetti
Under the feet of

This market of melon-eating

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