Gail and I had to massively cut down our paper for the talk, but the full contents will appear this summer in Plath Profiles 6, though the summer seems quite far off with the wind and rainy howling outside. The advantage to the talk was that we could quote from the letters Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes wrote, as well as show images of the manuscripts we discuss, too. Please know that with rare exception, you can request and order photocopies or scans of anything we talk about it you are so inspired to do so.
Today, on our way to spend the afternoon with Elizabeth and William Sigmund, we stopped for some treats in the ultra nice town of Tavistock, and found this very Plathian bottle, which I clutched (cf. "Cut") after stepping on it. Very poignant given what Plathing Gail and I got up to today...
I was just set to hit "Publish" when I got the news that Ann Skea's recent work in Sylvia Plath, the Ariel poems, and Tarot has been updated with chapter 6, which looks at the following poems: "The Other," "Stopped Dead", "Poppies in October", and "The Courage of Shutting-up." This chapter concludes her look at Plath and Tarot, the conclusion of which is very well written and thought provoking. Skea finds that "Plath did use the Tarot to order her Ariel manuscripts and that at least some of the poems were written with a particular Tarot card in mind. But given that the chronological order in which the poems were written is markedly different to the order in which the cards are arranged in a traditional Tarot journey, her method of using the cards is still a puzzle." Skea's work on examining these poems well illustrates and supports the seeming puzzling nature of Plath's use of these cards in her work. I find particularly, beautifully written, Skea's final thoughts on the subject:
Words, as Plath wrote are like axes. The echoes of their strokes can travel "off from the centre like horses". And there are so many echoes in Plath's poetry – echoes of her life, the people she knew, her loves and her hates; echoes of mythology, folk–tales and magic – that her poems can mean many different things to many different people. Perhaps she did use the Tarot in Ariel, perhaps not. Whatever one believes about that, Plath's Ariel poems are remarkable poems written, as Ted Hughes said, "with the full power and music of her extraordinary nature". Ariel, as he also said, "is not easy poetry to criticize. It is not much like any other poetry". But "It is her… It is just like her – but permanent".