16 June 2010

Speaking This Promise: Bloomsday

Sylvia Plath wrote "Wreath of a Bridal" sometime in 1956 after her marriage to Hughes. Undated in her Collected Poems, it is placed near some of her honeymoon poems such as "Alicante Lullaby" and "Fiesta Melons." Aside from it being referenced in "The Couriers," "Daddy," and a few other poems, "Wreath for a Bridal" is, I think, one of the only poems Plath wrote on her wedding. A companion piece would be Ted Hughes' "A Pink Wool Knitted Dress" from his 1998 Birthday Letters, which begins, "In your pink wool knitted dress / Before anything had smudged anything / You stood at the altar. Bloomsday."

Today is Bloomsday, it was on this day 54 years ago that Plath and Hughes spoke the promise and were wed. The altar is pictured here.

Which poem is "better"? I don't know. Do I/we have to pick one? I think Hughes' is more approachable and certainly less restrictive. But it's supposed to be biographical, if you will, and its retrospective lens does answer to Plath's contemporarily written poem. Plath's rhyme scheme and technical approach is simply something at which to sit back and marvel. In a eerie harbinger that is something we have grown accustomed to in Plath, after "speaking this promise" Plath and Hughes left the altar, left the church, left the city and left the country, and from step to step they pressed forward, in order that "each step hence go famous."

The poem "Wreath for a Bridal" first appeared in Poetry magazine, in January 1957, along with "Dream with Clam-Digger," "Strumpet Song," "Metamorphosis," "Two Sisters of Persephone," and "Epitaph for Fire and Flower" (see cover image of this issue here). These were her first poems in this venerable serial. But, more on Poetry in a subsequent post.

In 1970, the Sceptre Press in Surrey, England, published the single poem Wreath for a Bridal in a limited edition of 100 numbered copies (see image of cover here). If you have a couple of hundred dollars lying about (cause who doesn't, right?) you can own one of these. There are presently four copies for sale via ABEbooks. If this is outside of your means, by all means visit one of the 50 or so libraries that hold copies, according to WorldCat.


Julia said...

Happy Bloomsday!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Cheers! You too! Had a perfect pint of Guinness at lunch to celebrate.

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