02 April 2009

2009 Sylvia Plath Poetry Tournament - Round 2

Round 1 Recap...

Well, competition was as fierce the 2009 Sylvia Plath Poetry Tournament got under way - however with only three votes there were quite a few ties. I'll accept write-ins (Jim!), but with only one vote, Fever 103 sadly didn't make the cut.

In Round 2 we'll hopefully see more votes and opinions from the blog's readers? I ought to lay off the wine, quite a few typos in the bracket.

From Sylvia Plath Info

15 comments :

Anonymous said...

Colossus Region:
The Colossus
Hardcastle Crags

Crossing the Water/Winter Trees Region:
Candles
Three Women

Ariel Region:
Sheep in Fog
Balloons

Ariel Restored Region
Stopped Dead
The Detective

panther said...

Colossus section :
The Colossus
Poem for a Birthday


Crossing. ./Winter Trees section :
Parliament Hill Fields
Child

Ariel section :
Sheep in Fog
Balloons

Restored Ariel section :
Thalidomide
The Rabbit Catcher

panther said...

i wasn't sure, Peter, whether you wanted opinions in the actual voting. So here are my opinions separately :

I liked "Rook in Rainy Weather" very much but I feel "The Colossus" is more central. thematically, to Sylvia's whole work. "Poem for A Birthday" is extraordinary, such a leap forward from what went before. The final section makes me shudder,it's that good !

"Parliament Hill Fields" and "Child" are both arguments against the oft-repeated charge that Sylvia is nihilistic and just downright depressing. P.H.F. is a beautiful elegy.

I see that Anonymous and I are in agreement about the Ariel and some disagreement about the Restored Ariel !

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you for supporting - that's an element I hadn't thought of but I am glad that you contributed. In fact, it will help in case of ties - best opinion/argument wins!

Laurie said...

Colossus:
Black Rook
Hardcastle

Crossing/Winter:
candles
child

Ariel:
Fugue
Balloons

Ariel Restored:
Stopped
Detective

Anonymous said...

But why only one day for Round One? Why not give people a couple of days to respond...not everyone comes here every day like we do (What??!)

Having said that...how can you choose between two poems like "Child" and "Three Women"? or "Candles" and "Parliament Hill Fields"? Impossible...

Nevertheless...my votes...I'll refrain from trying to justify my choices until the final round.

Colossus:
Black Rook
Poem for a Birthday

Crossing/Winter Trees:
Candles
Three Women

Ariel:
Sheep in Fog
Balloons

Restored Ariel:
Thalidomide
Rabbit Catcher

--Jim Long

panther said...

I think "Three Women" is marvellous. I just feel it's in another category, being a play.

Something else that occurs to me is : it's really quite a while since I really delved into these poems. One feels one knows them, but there is always something new there. Mark of a great poem ?

Peter K Steinberg said...

I agree Panther. Part of the enjoyment for me was re-reading these poems and selecting them. But, I was also hoping that others would have a similar reaction to yours - it is so wonderful to read these again and pick up new "things".

I also agree about "Three Women", though Plath did call this a poem in a letter home. I quite like that it's up against "Child" - something ironic there. In fact, all the poems left in CTW/WT Region are about children - a highly underrated aspect to SP's poetry.

Thanks to everyone - all four of you - who have voted!!

Anonymous said...

OK, I changed my mind about explaining my votes:

"Black Rook..." is, after the suite "Poem for a Birthday", my favorite single poem in this collection. It's important as a statment on the possibility of transcendence. Yes, her father was, early on, an important aspect of her work, but became less so as she matured. But the idea of the difficulty of transcendence within the world is a central concept all the way through her life that transcends, if you will, the personal issues that many people believe limit the range of her work. "Poem for a Birthday", of course, is an important breakthrough work that takes her talent to another level entirely.

"Three Women" speaks for itself. It incorporates and resolves all the major themes in her work, and contains some of her most beautiful lines. "Candles" is a touching evocation of the passing of time, and figuratively, the passing of the torch between generations, from her great-grandmother to the infant in her arms, and her concern that she has little to pass on that can be of help to her child. One of her most moving poems.

(By the way, Panther..."P.H.F." is surely very well done but proof against nihilism? I suspect the statement in the poem "I am too happy" is ironic and, on the evidence of the rest of the poem, not to be taken literally. But that's a whole other discussion.)

"Sheep in Fog" is a little gem. While "Little Fugue" is a very strong poem, it circles again around that same vortex of father- obsession that does begin to seem excessive after a while. "Balloons" is a beautifully done metaphor for the ephemerality of desire and the hopelessness of self-delusion.

"Thalidomide" is a harrowing poem about an issue that was very current in 1962. Thalidomide was a drug that, from 1956 to 1962 was given to pregnant women to treat morning sickness, until they discovered that some 10,000 babies were born with severe deformities because of it. This is what Plath was referring to when she claimed her poems were not just a "mirror-looking experience" but about the "infant forming itself, finger by finger, in the dark". "Rabbit Catcher" is one of the strongest of the poems explicitly about her relationship to Hughes, and the hunter's predation as a metaphor for their relationship. --Jim Long

Anonymous said...

Panther...I don't even think of "Three Women" as a play. It was never intended to be done on a stage. There is no action...there are three interior monologues going on simultaneously. --Jim

panther said...

Anonymous, I agree with you that "I am too happy" is probably ironic. I don't think "Parliament Hill Fields" PROVES that Plath was not a nihilist, no, but I do feel the very common experience of miscarriage which it explores (not "common" to the speaker herself) makes it possibly more accessible to many people than, say, "Daddy" or "Lady Lazarus." Revenge fantasies and suicide tend to frighten people in a way that miscarriage, however sad, does not.

The poem ends with "I enter the lit house." There is life in this poem as well as death. I think that's all I meant.

As for nihilism, I suspect the real deep-down nihilist wouldn't create a thing, still less these marvellous poems.

panther said...

Don't want to become a bore (I don't really live on this forum, honest !) but Anonymous, you're perfectly right about "Three Women." I believe she wrote it as a play for radio, and that it was actually broadcast by the BBC in 1962.

Oddly enough, it has very recently been staged in London, for the first time. I forget the director's name but I imagine a quick google will locate it. I would have liked to see it, but did not. But, yes, I would have reservations about how well it would come over on stage. It doesn't appear to NEED a stage.

Peter K Steinberg said...

What a wonderful discussion!! I do truly wish I could be as eloquent...

If I may suggest Robin Peel's Writing Back: Sylvia Plath and Cold War Politics for more information on Plath and "Thalidomide". A very well researched book is Peel's, he really took extra steps to get "into" Plath's poetry. Aside from the typographical errors throughout, it's excellent.

Anonymous said...

Peel's book is really excellent for anyone who is not familiar with the range of Plath's political and social interests (and most readers are not, because most of the biographies don't delve into those aspects of her life) as well as her artistic expressions of those interests.
--Jim Long

Anonymous said...

Hey this is fun! My votes:

Colossus section:
Poem for a Birthday
The Colossus

Crossing the Water/Winter Trees section:
Three Women (go 'Three Women', go!)
Parliament Hill Fields

Ariel section:
Years
Sheep in Fog

Ariel Restored section:
The Rabbit Catcher
Thalidomide

I'm missing the bees though...:-)

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