POETS Day! Sylvia Plath

Photo by Megalit, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

[This entry is cross posted at ordinary-times.com]

Welcome to POET’S Day of the second week in Ordinary Time. Today we try to make anguish take wing, be a light for those in the land of gloom, and bring abundant joy by encouraging you to usher in the weekend a few hours early. Why wait until Friday evening when a slight bending of the truth can get you out of work in the middle of the afternoon? It’s POET’S Day by God’s sake. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. Dissemble, obfuscate, and gleefully trespass the norms that preserve our hopefully durable civilization, but be as pious about it as you can this time. Be humble and thankful at this opportunity to escape the sultry bonds of employment you’ve been given. Use the time wisely. Marvel at natures grandeur in a local park. Join in fellowship at a local watering hole before happy hour even has a chance to kick off. You deserve it. No matter how you end up spending your gotten free time (remember, stealing hours from work are only “ill gotten” if you fake being sick) maybe take a moment to enjoy a little verse.

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This week’s POET’S Day poet is Sylvia Plath which makes banishing anguish, bringing light and abundant joy a thing of the weekend activity rather than the poem. Sorry about the bait and switch. I won’t go into her background because I want to do something different this time and break this week’s featured poem down stanza by stanza. Plath was mentally ill. She described her manic depression in a 1958 journal “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous positive and despairing negative—whichever is running at the moment dominates my life, floods it.” In January of 1963 she told her doctor that she had been deeply depressed for six or seven months. In February of that year she put her head in a gas oven and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the months before her death she wrote poems that would be posthumously collected along with a few of her previously published but uncollected works and titled Ariel, released in 1965. In the introduction, poet Robert Lowell wrote that these were composed at a furious pace, “often rushed out at the rate of two or three a day.” She and Lowell were among those known as “The Confessional Poets” with Elizabeth Bishop and John Berryman among others. None of them were fond of the moniker. In The Wounded Surgeon, Adam Kirsch writes that “Plath scorned the notion of poetry as ‘some kind of therapeutic public purge or excretion.’” Not that it mattered. They all were heavily autobiographical. In Ariel Plath writes of her past suicide attempts, resentments towards her father and husband, and carbon monoxide poisoning should there be any doubts that her suicide wasn’t considered long before it’s execution.

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