Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Poetry: Plath Creates Art Out of Illness

Heptonstall, England.

Waking in Winter

I can taste the tin of the sky --- the real tin thing.
Winter dawn is the color of metal,
The trees stiffen into place like burnt nerves.
All night I have dreamed of destruction, annihilations ---
An assembly-line of cut throats, and you and I
Inching off in the gray Chevrolet, drinking the green
Poison of stilled lawns, the little clapboard gravestones,
Noiseless, on rubber wheels, on the way to the sea resort.

How the balconies echoed! How the sun lit up
The skulls, the unbuckled bones facing the view!
Space! Space! The bed linen was giving out entirely.
Cot legs melted in terrible attitudes, and the nurses ---
Each nurse patched her soul to a wound and disappeared.
The deathly guests had not been satisfied
With the rooms, or the smiles, or the beautiful rubber plants,
Or the sea, Hushing their peeled sense like Old Mother Morphia.

Sylvia Plath

This poem lies between A Life and Parliament Hill Fields in the chronology of Plath's work, so it dates from between mid-November of 1960 and early February of 1961. Her first book of poems, The Colossus and Other Poems had just been published in England that October.

It's a hospital poem.

Plath miscarried the first weekend of that February, and she had been sick with another abdominal ailment that would eventually lead to her two-week hospital stay for an appendectomy in the early spring.

Saint Pancras Hospital, where Plath had her surgery:

Ruins of an old church in Heptonstall, Ted Hughes' home town. Plath and her husband visited there in December of 1960. Sylvia and Ted's sister Olwyn did not get along and they bickered with one another. The visit was cut short.

1 comment:

Bo... said...

Cool poetry and cool pictures.