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Sylvia Plath

For a fatherless son and A Life

John Swartz

on 23 September 2013

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Transcript of Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath
For a fatherless son

A Life
Born in 1932
Father died at age 8
Ambitious writer
first published just after high school
Graduated summa cum laude at Smith College
even after a suicide attempt
Met English poet John Hughes in Cambridge
Married in 1956
Wrote The Bell Jar in 1963
Committed Suicide in 1963
By gas oven shortly after publication of The Bell Jar
A Life

Touch it: it won't shrink like an eyeball,
This egg-shaped bailiwick, clear as a tear.
Here's yesterday, last year ---
Palm-spear and lily distinct as flora in the vast
Windless threadwork of a tapestry.
Flick the glass with your fingernail:
It will ping like a Chinese chime in the slightest air stir
Though nobody in there looks up or bothers to answer.
The inhabitants are light as cork,
Every one of them permanently busy.
At their feet, the sea waves bow in single file.
Never trespassing in bad temper:
Stalling in midair,
Short-reined, pawing like paradeground horses.
Overhead, the clouds sit tasseled and fancy
As Victorian cushions. This family
Of valentine faces might please a collector:
They ring true, like good china.
Elsewhere the landscape is more frank.
The light falls without letup, blindingly.
A woman is dragging her shadow in a circle
About a bald hospital saucer.
It resembles the moon, or a sheet of blank paper
And appears to have suffered a sort of private blitzkrieg.
She lives quietly
With no attachments, like a foetus in a bottle,
The obsolete house, the sea, flattened to a picture
She has one too many dimensions to enter.
Grief and anger, exorcised,
Leave her alone now.
The future is a grey seagull
Tattling in its cat-voice of departure.
Age and terror, like nurses, attend her,
And a drowned man, complaining of the great cold,
Crawls up out of the sea.
For a fatherless son

You will be aware of an absence, presently,
Growing beside you, like a tree,
A death tree, color gone, an Australian gum tree ---
Balding, gelded by lightning--an illusion,
And a sky like a pig's backside, an utter lack of attention.
And I love your stupidity,
The blind mirror of it. I look in
And find no face but my own, and you think that's funny.
It is good for me
To have you grab my nose, a ladder rung.
One day you may touch what's wrong ---
The small skulls, the smashed blue hills, the godawful hush.
Till then your smiles are found money.
Most of her poetry published posthumously
First person to win a Pulitzer after death
A Life
For a fatherless son
The End
Full transcript