Jun 5, 2010

Sylvia Plath's "Metaphors"






Technically it's still spring, so I offer two bird pics involving parenthood. Sparrow Dad with Junior-the-Charity-Case is a re-run, but that little two-tone job is new. It's a young blue jay, and I promise, he looked even stranger in real life.

Speaking of the strangeness of children, and since I mentioned Sylvia Plath in the last (June 2) post, here’s a reminder of her voice.

Metaphors - Sylvia Plath

I wonder, by “voice,” which is so often used and perhaps over-emphasized in discussions of poetry, do we mean a physical manifestation of the speaker and poet’s attitudes, the interior made external, palpable?

Try applying the word to singers. To mention a few obvious choices, Elvis, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Odetta, and Joan Baezare unique. We recognize their voices with no need for introduction, and realizing that led me to consider poets and other writers in the same way. Would I recognize the voice of so-and-so with no name attached? I'm still not sure how essential that is, but at least I get the issue now.

Of course, and to get back to juveniles, we have to make allowances in many cases for the poet's stages and phases, for example, the early, middle, and late voices of the same person. It's a given that the early and later (or modern) Yeats are pretty much two different guys. Sylvia Plath began by writing sonnets and villanelles by the dozen.

So, about the Plath of "Metaphors," how many mothers have viewed pregnancy this way? The self-effacing humor and complaint about weight are familiar and often jovial. But can we finish "Metaphors" with a smile? Or does the last line add something too chilling for a mere “fat momma” poem?

Try to forget what you know about Plath's life. Would you want the psyche behind this voice to babysit your children? If you answered yes, please read Plath's poem, "Daddy."

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4 comments:

Brenda's Arizona said...

Interesting, I have read this poem before and never figured out the riddle/metaphor. So I did a brain dump and moved on to other poets. After seeing the videos you linked to a few weeks back (on Plath), I swear I can hear her smoking/talking/waving her hands about this poem.

I don't like this poem. I hope it was a phase... but I still hear her voice.

altadenahiker said...

If I knew nothing about Plath, this poem would just seem like a benign, pretty good verse.

Plath is definitely not a favorite of mine. I actually think Dorothy Parker the suicide and disillusion and depression material much better.

BANJO52 said...

Brenda, just for the record, I wonder if the video you're recalling is Sexton rather than Plath. They are similar, but each seems to get enough blame on her own without receiving her soulmate's blame as well.

So does "pregnant woman" work as the answer to the riddle? If so, then what?

AH, I haven't read enough Parker to respond, but I know she's got a wit.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Oh yes, it was Anne Sexton I am recalling. Totally different person!
Thank you for correcting me.

Nine syllables? No idea...

(Billy Collins poem is from "Sailing Alone Around the Room")

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