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The Influence of Sylvia Plath's Life on her Poetry

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Shannon Connolly

on 23 January 2013

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Transcript of The Influence of Sylvia Plath's Life on her Poetry

Sylvia Plath
the influence of life on poetry Poetry The Arrival of the Bee Box (1962) Poppies in July (1962) The speaker could cope with one problem at a time, but the weight of her mental struggle overwhelms her "small, taken one by one, but my god, together!"(20).
The speaker plays with the idea of "[feeding] them nothing"(25), so that "they can die"(25), but instead chooses to "be sweet" (35)and "set them free"(35), for "The box is only temporary"(36).
This can be interpreted as the speaker deciding to give in to her mental turmoil and release herself, as Plath did in February 1963. Morning Song (1961) Early life Sylvia Life Born in Boston to a well respected entomologist, Otto Plath, and a well educated mother Aurelia Plath.
Otto died when Sylvia was eight years of age, which was to have a profound effect on her.
Even as a child, Sylvia was prone to theatrical displays of emotion and poetry which hinted at darker emotions(Stevenson 2). This poem was written after Plath discovered the affair between Hughes and Wevill.
Reading the poem in this context, it is clear the effect the betrayal had on Plath.
The innocent opening words "little poppies" (1)are followed by a sinister edge, "little hell flames" (1).
The poem describes a listlessness that many sufferers of depression can recognise.
"It exhausts me to watch you/Flickering like that"(5-6).
"Nothing burns" Plath, she is simply numb(4).
Plath is tired of her marriage which has caused her so much anguish; she has lived through enough suffering. She wants to stop existing, to be lulled into a "sleep" (11) by the tempting "opiates" and "nauseous capsules" of the poppies(10). This poem delves into the depths of Plath's psyche.
Readers get an insight into Plath's reality of depression and suicidal thoughts.
This is explored through the somewhat everyday event of the arrival of a bee box. This suggests a connection in this poem to her father, as he specialised in bees.
The box is "locked" (6)and "dangerous"(6). The speaker seems fearful of the box, but cannot help but be drawn to it, anxious to see what is inside " I can't keep away from it"(8).
The bees within, a metaphor for Plath's inner difficulties, are "dark, dark"(12). A feeling of suffocation is evoked with their "swarmy ... hands"(13) and "[angry] clambering"(15).
The speaker tries to understand, but the bees are like a "Roman mob"(19). Sylvia (1932-1963) By Shannon Connolly Plath flourished academically in Smith College, but suffered with depression.
She attempted suicide at the age of 21, when she consumed a copious amount of sleeping pills. She was found three days later in her mother's basement.
Plath survived this one of her many attempts, and spent six months in a psychiatric ward.
She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Cambridge in England. College Years Ted Hughes In Cambridge, Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes, a fellow poet, in 1956.
Their romance was intense and they married on Bloomsday that year, with just Plath's mother to witness the marriage.
Plath worked hard to see Hughes' success, submitting manuscripts to publishers and competitions.
Their daughter Frieda was born in April 1960, with a son Nicholas to follow in January 1962. Sylvia with Frieda and baby Nicholas, 1962 Hughes and Plath in the height of their romance Sylvia Plath is a confessional poet who embraces honesty about emotion and the effect of life events upon her. In her poetry, her despair is explored fully in an unflinching manner, as are the phenomenons of life, such as motherhood. Background to Sylvia Plath's life Separation Plath and Hughes separated in September 1962 when Hughes had an affair with their tenant, Assia Wevill.
Plath lived with her two small children, aged two and nine months, in a small cold flat in London, where W.B. Yeats had once resided.
Plath entered a productive period of writing poetry, finishing a poem a day. The Death of Sylvia Plath Sylvia Plath lost her battle with depression on February 11th, 1963. " The woman is perfected.
Her dead
Body wears the smile of accomplishment"
(1-3). - From Edge, by Sylvia Plath, a week before her death. There is vivid fire and colour imagery "hands among the flames"(4), " clear red"(6), "bloody skirts"(8).
The poppies and vibrant colour throughout the poem may be interpreted as a metaphor for life itself. The poppies "[exhaust]" (5)her, she just wants them to drain her of colour until she is white in death "Dulling and stilling./But colorless. Colorless."(13-14)
This is a poet experiencing a deep disenchantment with life; just wishing that the pain would end, if only she " could bleed or sleep"(11). This poem was written about ten months after the birth of baby Frieda, and soon after Plath had suffered a miscarriage.
Plath is, as ever, honest about how motherhood affects her; she does not hide her conflicting emotions.
The love here is literal. Love is what created this precious baby, evident in the simile "love set you going like a fat gold watch"(1).
However, the warmth of the gold imagery is contrasted sharply with the cold atmosphere the child is welcomed into, with language such as "drafty"(5), "nakedness"(5) and "blank" (6)used in the second stanza. Plath explores the relationship between Mother and child through the use of a cloud metaphor. The cloud, the mother, creates a pool of rain water, the child, in which the cloud's demise is reflected "the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow/Effacement at the wind's hand"(10-11).
This distant exploration of the relationship gives a sense of detachment.
The speaker is irritated somewhat by her baby's neediness and her role as a milk-giver; she is a uncoordinated and slightly comical figure. "One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral"(15). The poem ends however, with resounding wonder and affection for this miraculous baby. Her child's cry is pure in the dawn. "And now you try/Your handful of notes;/The clear vowels rise like balloons." (15-17). Questions? Thank you for listening. Works Cited
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