198th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 198th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2013 Dive Into Poetry Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please sign up to be a stop on the 2013 National Poetry Month Blog Tour and visit the stops on the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

Today’s poem is from Sylvia Plath’s Crossing the Water:

Blackberrying (page 24-5)

Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,   
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.

Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks—
Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.
Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.
I do not think the sea will appear at all.
The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,
Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.
The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.   
One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.

The only thing to come now is the sea.
From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,   
Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.
These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me   
To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock   
That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space   
Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths   
Beating and beating at an intractable metal.

What do you think?

Click on the image for today’s National Poetry Month tour post!

Crossing the Water by Sylvia Plath

Have you had enough Sylvia Plath this week? I hope note, because I’ve got another review for you today.

Crossing the Water by Sylvia Plath is the collection between The Colossus and before the publication of Ariel (my review), and it continues to push the envelop between dark and light.  Plath has come to represent the dichotomy of dark and light in all of us, with our deep passions and desires that lie in tension with our duty to family and society.  In this collection, the water becomes a metaphor for the surface veneer that many of us carry, but Plath examines how easily this surface can be shaken and disturbed.

In “Finisterre,” “Now it is only gloomy, a dump of rocks–/Leftover soldiers from old, messy wars./The sea cannons into their ear, but they don’t budge./Other rocks hide their grudges under the water.//”  (page 15)  Plath examines the aging process and the grudges carried from the past into the present and how that sullies the outside like the weathering of a rock face.  The poem further flourishes into a series of worshiping people looking to that which is beyond themselves, particularly the larger “Lady of the Shipwrecked” who admires the sea as the man worships her and the peasant worships the sailor.

Crossing the Water (page 14)

Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.
Where do the black trees go that drink here?
Their shadows must cover Canada.

A little light is filtering from the water flowers.
Their leaves do not wish us to hurry:
They are round and flat and full of dark advice.

Cold worlds shake from the oar.
The spirit of blackness is in us, it is in the fishes.
A snag is lifting a valedictory, pale hand;

Stars open among the lilies.
Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens?
This is the silence of astounded souls.

Many of these poems are about the art of reflection or reflecting the outside world, becoming or acting as a mirror without judgment. Speaking in “Widow,” the narrator runs through the typical emotions of loneliness without the spouse, but later in the poem, Plath explores the weight of the lost spouse’s memory and how it still lies heavily on her life even as the man has died.  It is this shadow from which she cannot escape even in widowhood.  However, there also is a certain distance to these poems, like Plath is holding readers at arm’s length — each poem depicts a sense of control.  But her observances of mindless working zombies on city streets or the attempt to recapture youth through cosmetic surgery are spot on and raise an awareness of the foolhardy nature of hubris.

There is a disquietude in these poems, but yet a blissful communion with nature. It is as if she is recognizing the connection we have with nature, but at the same time calling attention to what separates us from it, like in “I Am Vertical.”  Crossing the Water by Sylvia Plath may be the smallest of her collections, but is no less powerful.  It looks at life through the lens of a woman at odds with herself and society.

This is my 11th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.




Click the image below for today’s National Poetry Month tour stop!

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder is atmospheric and an indulgent retrospective of the lives of Mademoiselle‘s summer guest editors, who were hand picked from a bunch of college essays and pieces submitted by college women.  The magazine was not only known for its fashion and celebrities, but also for the writing it published from heavyweights like Dylan Thomas and Truman Capote.  Additionally, the magazine published its college issue.  “Sunday at the Mintons” by Sylvia Plath, a short story, earned her a guest editorship at the magazine, a summer that became the basis of her novel, The Bell Jar.  Winder bases her “loose” biography on interviews with those summer guest editors and others who had contact with Plath that summer, which are backed up by letters and journal entries from Plath herself as much as possible — though there is the pitfall that some memories may be nostalgic or missing certain truths about that time as memories fade.

From the moment she sets forth in New York, readers are introduced to a different Sylvia Plath from the moody and dark one they have come to know. This younger version of the writer is full of whimsy, loves fashion, and is eager to please.  Her Northeast upbringing probably instilled in her a deep sense of courteousness and decorum, but there were also inherent eccentricities already present in her character, especially during one luncheon in which she gobbles up all of the caviar appetizer without sharing.  A commune of young women was built at the Barbizon Hotel that summer, as many of the young women wanted careers and still to raise families in a period of history before the pill was available and before career women were considered part of the norm.

“A white enameled bowl bloomed out of one wall–useful for washing out white cotton gloves.  (Within days there would be little damp gloves hanging in each room like tiny white flags.)” (page 5 ARC)

While Winder provides a great many anecdotes about Sylvia from her fellow guest editors and roommates, there seems to be a disconnect between the Sylvia these women saw and the Sylvia that was.  At the outset, Winder tells the reader she wants to paint a different portrait of Sylvia Plath than the iconic one we all know of the suicidal poet.  And while she succeeds in showing a “good girl” that was Plath in her 20s, she also demonstrates how as a young woman free from the constraints of her own society, she was given more freedom to pursue men and other experiences, to which she might not otherwise have been exposed.  And like many young women — and even men — still finding their place in the world and how to accomplish their goals, they often suffer from the “grass is always greener” problem when the reality of their ideal opportunity is not as wonderful as it has seemed from afar.

There were some among the guest editors in 1953 who were given menial tasks and envied Plath’s work with Cyrilly Abels doing rejections and editorial work, but Plath languished in the role and her talents for graphics were cast aside in favor of her fiction-writing talents.  In many ways, those who believed in her talent had begun to stifle it.  While she may have looked the part of a professional interviewer and editor, Plath was chained to a makeshift desk that anchored down her spirit, while many of the other girls were enjoying their time as editors — meeting Plath’s hero writers and attending dinners and events.  It seems that this separation isolated her from the other guest editors, even though on the outside she was conversing with them and enjoying their company as well as the company of many strange men throughout New York.

It is too easy to suggest that Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder aims to undo the iconic woman that is Sylvia Plath, but it does provide a wider view of her whole person.  Not just the mother, burdened artist, and ex-wife of Ted Hughes, but the spirited poet who was stifled by a dream job that she saw as a launching point who succumbed to her tendency to depression upon her return home after a series of unrelated rejections flooded in after that summer.  Plath was a woman plagued by her own dichotomies, who was unable to break free from the labels of society without the guilt that accompanied those actions, but she also was talented and burned brighter than many other women of her age.  What Winder succeeds in doing is providing an excellent look into 1950s New York and the pressures these young women faced as progressive ideals began to emerge.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Winder is also the author of a poetry collection. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Review, the Antioch Review, American Letters, and other publications. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and earned an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University.

This is my 20th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.





Please click the image below for today’s National Poetry Month Tour Post!

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Click the image above for one National Poetry Month tour stop, and visit Life’s A Stage for a second today.

Ariel by Sylvia Plath is a collection that she crafted near the end of her life, before her suicide, according to the forward by Robert Lowell (Check out “Ariel“).  These poems are what Plath has been best know for, other than The Bell Jar, and these poems are by turns blunt and dark as she refers to death at nearly every turn and the fleeting nature of life.  Her poems are not only confessional in nature about her emotions and life, but they also examine the bittersweet nature of life and being a woman.

In “Elm,” the narrator speaks of having no fear, a fear of the unknown or a fear of loss, particularly in relation to love.  There is that fast movement forward, a moving onward to the next experience and next moment in time.  Many of her poems reflect this urgency to move forward and to stay in the moment — to enjoy it.  Her poetry, like many have said of her own personality, burns brightly and intensely, making no excuses for rawness there — like the predawn light on the horizon not marred by expectation or perception.

She talks of motherhood in a way that is unvarnished, speaking, “These children are after something, with hooks and cries,//And my heart too small to bandage their terrible faults./” in “Berck-Plage.”  In spite of the parasitic nature she ascribes to children, the title of the poem tells the tale of how joyous motherhood can be, with plage being a beach or a sunspot and the echo of France’s Berck-sur-Mer.  She also displays a bit of whimsy in her portrayal of “Gulliver” as he is over-run by the citizens of Lilliput.  Plath is hindered by the confines of society and expectation, and in these poems there is by turns the holding back or the tying down of narrators or images that dream of release or are released.  The push and pull of these images run throughout the book and probably echo the feelings Plath felt herself after her divorce and the onset of her single-motherhood.

Ariel by Sylvia Plath is a collection full of tension, explosions of release, and a search for balance between constraint and freedom.  Death is not necessarily death in the demise of the physical self, but a release and return to the freedom that is desired.

About the Poet:

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Her mother, Aurelia Schober, was a master’s student at Boston University when she met Plath’s father, Otto Plath, who was her professor. They were married in January of 1932. Otto taught both German and biology, with a focus on apiology, the study of bees.

In 1940, when Sylvia was eight years old, her father died as a result of complications from diabetes. He had been a strict father, and both his authoritarian attitudes and his death drastically defined her relationships and her poems — especially “Daddy.” Photo Credit Rollie McKenna.

This is my 10th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

Sylvia Plath and Confessional Poetry

Day 4 of Writing in Metaphor and Imagery for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Today, I want to introduce you to Sylvia Plath, who was more than a poet. She was a novelist and a short story writer as well. One of the first works I read by her was The Bell Jar, which illustrates the mental breakdown of a young woman and is often considered autobiographical. For the longest time, this was the only work I knew of hers. Many have viewed her poetry as confessional, mirroring the poetic works of Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell. Confessional poems often highlight unflattering aspects of a poet’s personal life, whether it is illness, sexuality, or depression.

Ariel is one collection of her poems, it was published after her death along with several others. The only collection of her poems, despite her prolific pen, that was published during her life was Colossus. Shortly after publishing The Bell Jar, Plath committed suicide with the help of her gas oven.

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite poems from Ariel, which was published in Poetry Magazine, a subscription of which is up for grabs here. Here are a few of my favorite lines from the poem.

Fever 103°

Greasing the bodies of adulterers
Like Hiroshima ash and eating in.
The sin. The sin.

Darling, all night
I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.
The sheets grow heavy as a lecher’s kiss.

And now for the contest:

To enter for 1 copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel leave a comment here about Sylvia Plath, any Plath poem you know, or anything else poetry related.

For an additional entry, please blog about this contest and leave me the link to your post or email 5 friends about the contest and cc savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

Another friendly reminder about these contests:

1. Diary of an Eccentric is holding a contest for The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and The Choice by Nicholas Sparks Deadline is Sept. 30

2. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding a contest for Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg as the first contest for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Deadline is Sept. 19

3. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding another contest for “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti as part of BBAW; Deadline is Sept. 19

4. Bookish Ruth’s contest for The Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Phillip Pullman

5. Savvy Verse & Wit’s contest for a 1-year subscription to Poetry magazine. Deadline is Sept. 19

Please also double-check the growing list of giveaways at My Friend Amy’s blog.

Deadlines for all of my BBAW contests will be Sept. 19, Midnight EST.