Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Sylvia Plath Selected Poems

Before I begin this review in earnest I suppose I had best explain that I am not what I would call a fan of poetry. I am the sort of person who calls a spade a spade and doesn't usually appreciate flowery language.

However I do accept that there is a time and place for that sort of thing and so, when the mood takes me, I sometimes read poetry and I sometimes love it. I am also a huge fan of 'The Bell Jar' which is why I decided to give Sylvia Plath's poetry a try. In some ways I almost wish I hadn't.

Sylvia Plath's poems are dark. Very dark. Dark to the point where you might consider harming yourself before reading another line. If I was to sum up a fairly typical poem in this collection it would run something like this;


Reading the above you might be tempted to believe I am making fun of Sylvia Plath's tragic and premature demise but this could not be further from the truth. What I mean to say is her poetry is not life affirming, it is full of bleak, unhappy imagery which, most of the time, doesn't make a great deal of sense and doesn't relate to how I feel or have ever felt in any way.

Sadly this means I do not like her poetry at all, I have read much better. This pains me as I really did love her novel. Having said all this it was useful in some sense to read her poetry as it really does show very clearly how ill and unhappy she was.

If you like bleak poetry then by all means give this a try. I am certainly not an expert on the technical aspects of poetry all I know is what I like and dislike and sadly this falls into the latter category.

Final verdict 2/5



  1. This doesn't sound all that appealing. If you like poetry that isn't as dark but still very readable you should pick up e.e. cummings 100 selected poems. It's fantastic.

  2. Does that collection have Plath's poem called "You're" from 1960? I read the compilation entitled "Collected Poems" while I was pregnant with my second child, and the poems that stuck in my head were those Plath wrote about pregnancy. They were kind of sweet and poignant, and I don't remember them being depressing (though most of the rest of them were). I could swear there was also one that mentioned "tiny starfish hands" but I can't find it anywhere.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. @ Brenna: Thanks for the recommendation, I'll keep it in mind :o)

    @ kathy: Yes, 'You're' is included in the book...I just re-read it and I agree it isn't bleak. Sadly I still didn't like it though! ;o)
    PS there is no mention of tiny starfish hands, sorry!

    By Chris

  5. Ode to Ted
    From under crunch of my mans boot
    green oat-sprouts jut;
    he names a lapwing,starts rabbits in a rout
    legging it most nimble
    to sprigged hedge of bramble
    stalks red fox,shrewd stoat

    Loam humps,he says moles shunt
    up from delved worm-haunt
    blue fur,moles have;hefting chalk-hulled flint
    he with rock splits open
    knobbed quartz;flayed open
    rich brown,sudden in sunglint

    For his least look,scant acres yield
    each finger-furrowed field
    heaves forth leaf,fruit-nubbed emerald
    bright grain sprung so rarely
    he hauls to his will early;
    at his hand's staunch hest,birds build

    Ringdoves roost well within his wood
    shirr songs to suit which mood
    he saunters in;how but most glad
    could be this adam's women
    when all earth his words do summon
    leaps to laud such mans blood

    Such Joyuous,sensuous, earthy passion.Yes she had problems, but she also had passion as in this poem for Ted Hughes

  6. I don't like all of Plath's poetry, but a few of hers have stuck in my brain for years -- Tulips, and Metaphors (which is about pregnancy and begins, "I'm a riddle in nine syllables" and continues from there).

  7. I have a confession to make. I haven't read any Plath. But I have to admit that although her poems seem dark, that wouldn't turn me off.

  8. Not a poet I am keen on either, not that I have read much of her work.

  9. Bleak and Dark go a long way with me. Your review made me smile, and cheer in its unabashed honesty. Love it! Yeah, I'm not really a poet lover either, and Sylvia Plath? I think she needed a happy pill, or some chocolate, or Something Other Than Navel Gazing.

  10. I do like Plath but understand that it is not to everyone's tastes - I have to be in a very specific mood to read it - not glum!

  11. @ Parrish Lantern: It's interesting you should bring up Ted Hughes, despite the poem you posted I can't help but wonder if his infidelity contributed towards her eventual suicide?

    @ Jo: I was surprised I didn't like some of her more famous poems. But I suppose if you don't like a poets general style you aren't going to appreciate their poetry.

    @ Petty: As I said above I am not a fan of poetry but even so I was disappointed by Plath's work as I loved her novel so much. You should give 'The Bell Jar' a go

    @ Bellezza: I'm glad you liked the reivew, I always try my best to be honest. Yes, I agree, Sylvia Plath needed help...sometimes I can't help but wonder if she would be as famous today had she not killed herself in such a dramatic way...

    @ Hannah: I can see why her poetry could appeal to some but its just not my cup of tea, I often feel glum so its not the sort of thing I like to be reminded of! lol!

    By Chris

  12. I like Plath. It's not something I read often (nor would I pick up her poems if I was feeling down) but when the mood strikes, I quite enjoy them. I think it gives a good insight into how she got to the point she did. She interests me as a literary figure.