Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sylvia Plath, Volcanic Ash and the Black Sun of Poetry

A new word in the vocabulary - the name of a volcano in Island that had turned upside down quite a few plans and even more fumes: Eyjafjallajökull.

I had been searching for poetic references to volcanic ash on google – and I couldn’t find anything worth noting.

Then the realization set in that the approach I had taken was pointless.

I should have formulated my expedition into ash with different parameters – what poetic universe is closer to eruption, annihilation, ash and darkness?

And Sylvia Plath’s poetry seemed a natural answer to this question.

Sylvia Plath, the brilliant student, who committed suicide at thirty and who continues to remain a lighthouse of poetic modernity.

The dance with death is one of the prevalent elements in Sylvia Plath’s poetry.

Death is a continuous presence, an antic choir which holds, in counterpoint, her poetic message, draped in black. 
But the dark shadows in her poems also have a dose of intimacy, as if death were a well-known character:

"I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free -
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet."
( Tulips)

Another salient feature in Sylvia Plath’s poetry  (in my view)
is the contrast of colors in obsessive associations: orange, bright carmine violently interlaced with black in an outburst that reminds us of volcanic lava. And after the onset of the eruption, we can begin to comb through the scoriae of words:

"The austere sun descends above the fen,
an orange cyclops-eye, scorning to look
longer on this landscape of chagrin;
feathered dark in thought, I stalk like a rook,
brooding as the winter night comes on."
 (Winter Landscape with Roots)

Finally, a general note of hopelessness and the submersion into a void:

"The night is only a sort of carbon paper,
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole ---
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things."
In this desolate universe, there is however one certainty: that the black sun of poetry will rise at dawn.


John Hayes said...

Some compelling thoughts on Plath--it makes me want to look over the poems again, which is what a review should do!

Irina said...

Thank you John for you comment!
With best "blackberrying' thoughts,


Anonymous Someone said...

your analysis is beautiful, I think I want to read more of Plath's poetry.

Blasphemous Aesthete

Irina said...

Thank you Anonymous Someone...Sylvia Plath's poetry is deep pool of restless and uncanny inspiration.

The Plath Diaries said...

Very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on Plath!

The Plath Diaries said...

Very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on Plath!

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