Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday Plath: Reaction to Good News


Clocks belled twelve. Main street showed otherwise
Than its suburb of woods : nimbus---
Lit, but unpeopled, held its windows
Of wedding pastries,

Diamond rings, potted roses, fox-skins
Ruddy on the wax mannequins
In a glassed tableau of affluence.
From deep-sunk basements

What moved the pale, raptorial owl
Then, to squall above the level
Of streetlights and wires, its wall to wall
Wingspread in control

Of the ferrying currents, belly
Dense-feathered, fearfully soft to
Look upon? Rats' teeth gut the city
Shaken by owl cry.

Sylvia Plath
June 26th 1958

Written on a rainy Thursday, and originally to be titled "Owl Over Main Street," because Plath and her husband Ted used to hear an owl as they took late-night walks around Northampton, where Plath had taught for a year. It's an artsy New England college town, good for window-shopping.

She'd stumbled upon Ted and a female student walking back from a local make-out area one day earlier that spring. Plath was prone to fits of jealousy that would push her to emotional extremes, as her poems often showed. But the day before she wrote Owl she got very good news.

That previous Wednesday she'd gotten notice from The New Yorker that two of her poems had been accepted for publication. That meant money, as well as prestige. She was set for months.

Owl is an early Plath poem, written before her Ariel voice emerged, but in it she displays her superb craftsmanship. It's like a Bach fugue.

"Orange Owl" by Martin Cheek Mosaics.

1 comment:

GingerJar said...

So, what got you hung up on Plath??? Just curious...being the uninspired...or uninformed, I had never heard of this poet until your blog...