|photo diptych © Bree Walk, used by permission|
C H I L D
Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new
Whose names you meditate –
April snowdrop, Indian pipe,
Stalk without wrinkle,
Pool in which images
Should be grand and classical
Not this troublous
Wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star.
-- Sylvia Plath
Julia once commented that liking Sylvia Plath is ever so slightly undergraduate. And Plath does bring to mind oversized flannel shirts and doc martens, sitting with one foot tucked under me at my favorite window in the university library, the window overlooking the flowering magnolia. Reading a book of her poems by that window, I wrote: "this is what life is all about" in the margin next to the poem, Black Rook in Rainy Weather.
Plath is a confessional poet. There is no persona dividing her from her subject; her experience is the subject, and that experience is often dark. I cannot read her without mental reference to her suicide. Now that I have my own child, her suicide--sticking her head in an gas oven with the pilot light out--is even more incomprehensible: her two young children were sleeping in the next room. But gothic drama aside, I am drawn to the luminescence also undeniably present. So many of her poems (like Child posted above) are full of light. Shininess, even. And perhaps their brightness is all the more compelling because of their juxtaposition with that which is not: Not this troublous / Wringing of hands, this dark / Ceiling without a star.
The darker side of life is not something I shirk from. I suspect this is in my nature. It's not that I want grief as much as I am uncomfortable with secrets and things left unsaid. I am repelled by inauthenticity, in myself or in others. And this is likely why Plath is so appealing. Her poems, for all their darkness, ring true to me. The saltiness to everything, the quiet despair alongside the abundance, the bright cleanness of her words like the open gaze of friendship.
Although I am now tempted to post my two other favorite Plath poems here, I think I will save them for upcoming Poetry Wednesdays.