Sylvia Plath Poetry Notes

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Sylvia Plath
Plath’s poetry depicts her quest for poetic inspiration and vision: In her early poems, like ‘Black Rook’, Plath sees inspiration as transcendent, something that would announce itself to her from the external world. Plath’s language implies that she awaits a visitation of beauty, like the Annunciation by the angel in the Bible. Plath longs for an occasional ‘portent’ or ‘back talk from the mute sky’. She doesn’t believe in religious epiphany; but she uses Christian language as an analogy to convey her longing. Her longing is for even brief moments of revelation from things, nature or the universe: ‘As if a celestial burning took possession of the most obtuse objects now and then—Thus hallowing an interval otherwise inconsequent’. Throughout the poem ‘Black Rook’, Plath uses ‘fire’ and associated words as an analogy for poetic inspiration or vision. See the extended note on this point in Imagery below. In ‘Black Rook’, Plath is resigned to the fact that inspiration involves a ‘long wait’. The euphoria of inspiration is ‘rare, random’ and brief. By the time Plath Wrote ‘Finisterre’ four years later, she had ceased to seek or discern enlightenment or any transcendent reality in nature and the universe: ‘Our Lady of the Shipwrecked …

does not hear what the sailor or the peasant is saying –
She is in love with the beautiful formlessness of the sea’ [Finisterre] . Instead, she discerns:
‘Black admonitory cliffs’ and ‘Souls, rolled in the doom-noise of the sea’. Plath’s perception of the world is therefore very bleak.

In the poem ‘Mirror’, the poet’s quest for beauty and vision has turned inwards. She gazes inwards towards the self. She seeks despairingly for enlightenment through self-examination. What she finds appals her: ‘A woman bends over me, searching my reaches for what she really is… tears and an agitation of hands’.

In ‘Pheasant’, Plath declares her atheistic stance:
‘I am not mystical. It isn't
As if I thought it had a spirit....
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