Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I Eat Men Like Air

In honor of National Poetry Month and because I like Sylvia Plath and because we thought it would be a good movie, my Bookman and I rented the movie Sylvia. It was a horrible movie. If you haven't seen it yet, don't bother. The only thing that was good about it was one snippet where Plath (Gwenyth Paltrow) and Hughes are in a boat and Plath stands up and starts reciting Chaucer's Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales. She recites the lines is lovely middle English. If I could give that bit to you, I would, the rest of the movie belongs in the trash. One of the biggest problems I had with the film, beside it being extremely shallow, was that it makes it seem like she killed herself because of Ted Hughes' infidelity. I don't think we know why she killed herself but since she had tried a couple times before Ted came along, I'm going to venture the suicide was not entirely because of their ruined marriage. Plath was a complex person and I imagine her suicide was due to many factors, not least of which was mental illness. I did appreciate, however, that the movie at least gave a nod to the fact that Plath was the one expected to take care of the children and how this imposed on her writing time. But since it has been a long time since I have read Sylvia Plath, I ventured downstairs to my basement library and pulled one of her books from the shelf. The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath is a tome that comtains all of the poems she wrote after 1956. Plath was posthumously awarded the Pultizer Prize for the book in 1982. She commited suicide in 1963. Granted, the collected poems weren't published until 1981, but couldn't they have given her the prize for one of her books when she was still alive? I know it isn't poetry, but I recommend The Bell Jar her only novel. The book is a terrifying look at what standard mental health therapy used to be like and can sometimes still be. The Atlantic Online has a review article about Plath and some recently published books regarding her life and her poetry. For poems by Plath and others, check out The Plagiarist. And here now, is one of Plath's poems:

Lady Lazarus I have done it again. One year in every ten I manage it-- A sort of walking miracle, my skin Bright as a Nazi lampshade, My right foot A paperweight, My face a featureless, fine Jew linen. Peel off the napkin O my enemy. Do I terrify?-- The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth? The sour breath Will vanish in a day. Soon, soon the flesh The grave cave ate will be At home on me And I am a smiling woman. I am only thirty. And like the cat I have nine times to die. This is Number Three. What a trash To annihilate each decade. What a million filaments. The peanut-crunching crowd Shoves in to see Them unwrap me hand and foot-- The big strip tease. Gentlemen, ladies These are my hands My knees. I may be skin and bone, Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman. The first time it happened I was ten. It was an accident. The second time I meant To last it out and not come back at all. I rocked shut As a seashell. They had to call and call And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls. Dying Is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well. I do it so it feels like hell. I do it so it feels real. I guess you could say I've a call. It's easy enough to do it in a cell. It's easy enough to do it and stay put. It's the theatrical Comeback in broad day To the same place, the same face, the same brute Amused shout: 'A miracle!' That knocks me out. There is a charge For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge For the hearing of my heart-- It really goes. And there is a charge, a very large charge For a word or a touch Or a bit of blood Or a piece of my hair or my clothes. So, so, Herr Doktor. So, Herr Enemy. I am your opus, I am your valuable, The oure gold baby That melts to a shriek. I turn and burn. Do not think I underestimate your great concern. Ash, ash-- You poke and stir. Flesh, bone, there is nothing there-- A cake of soap, A wedding ring, A gold filling. Herr God, Herr Lucifer Beware Beware. Out of the ash I rise with my red hair And I eat men like air.