on Plath

I made it my mission to analyze all of Sylvia Plath’s poetry. So far, I’ve read her collections “Ariel” and “The Colossus.” As a whole, her poems had melancholy tones, including “Morning Star,” which was written for her daughter, Frieda. Her stanzas were relatively short and her poems rarely exceeded three pages. Plath tended to personify nature in her writing. “Whoever heard a sunset yowl like that,” “let the stars Plummet to their dark address” (Magi), “the moon is my mother. She is not sweet like Mary,” (Purdah), and  “by day, only the topsoil heaves” (The Colossus) are all great examples of this technique. 

Furthermore, I noticed that she used the following words/phrases in more than one poem:

  • Bald
  • Eye—
  • Hooks
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nike
  • Lozenges
  • Caked
  • Adam (Eve)
  • “At my feet”
  • Veil
  • Sheets
  • Cheesecloth

Looking at these words on the same list is puzzling. They do not seem to connect to each other in any way. And yet, they each find a place in her work. I was especially fascinated by “cheesecloth,” and figured it was a more common item in her life than in mine. Although we were both American women alive at relatively the same time, our vocabulary still differed from one another. I think it would be interesting to try and write my own “version” of her poems. Though we speak the same language, I expect that it will look somewhat different from hers. I plan on starting off this project by incorporating some of her quotes and words into my own work. In doing so, I hope that Plath’s work will teach me a little bit about my own writing style.

transformation of poetry

My vision of poetry has changed drastically throughout the years. As a young girl, I wrote blocks of texts full of description. They were hybrids of prose poems and fiction pieces. I scrawled my words on every inch of printer paper I could find. With a staple in the top-left corner, I proudly shared my pieces with my family. My mom and Dad pretended my work was marvelous, but my older sister said I used too much description. Too many words. She told me to get to the point.

From then on, I kept my poems short. Lines couldn’t stray too far from the center of the page. My stanzas were tall and thin. My words were minimal.

Up until the end of high school, I believed that good poetry must not only be short, but it also must rhyme and its stanzas must mirror one another. I relied heavily on rhyme generators to tie all my lines together. It wasn’t until I attended a writer’s retreat at Adelphi University that I realized sophisticated poetry doesn’t require rhyme.

Earlier in my college career, I wrote poetry with little to no rhymes. Internal rhymes were risky, and I was afraid my poetry would come off as corny if I utilized them. Yet again, I limited my writing based on rules that did not exist.

Upon taking an ekphrasis class, I discovered the beauty of slam poetry. Poets spoke with passion; they shouted, they whispered, they cried, they flailed their arms around. Sometimes, music accompanied their poetry. Their poems were riddled with long and short lines as well as rhyming. There wasn’t necessarily a pattern of any sort in their poetry. And yet, their words were just as powerful.

As I enter the latter half of my college career and I take this poetry workshop, I continue to learn that poetry has no limits. There are no rules to this craft. Only the poet can decide what works best for their work. Accepting this as fact is quite liberating.