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Anyone interested in chatting? I was such an obsessed fan for so many addition to owning everything she ever wrote, I spent a good part of a semester in England visiting and photographing every place she ever lived. Sick. Anyhow, I saw Sylvia the movie last night. Wasn't until I was walking to the theatre that I remembered it was her birthday. Odd. I was very pleased with Gwyneth as Sivvy, but I don't think the film will turn a single person onto Plath's writing. For a fanatic like myself, it was a relief just to see it without Meg Ryan in the starring role (she had tried for years to get the lead -- eek).
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Imagine this...
A 15 year old student in Mr. Levy's high school creative writing class. The poem read that day- "Tulips," by Sylvia Plath. The student was me. My world was totally rocked by the power of the written word, the relentless cadence, the brutal, hallucinatory imagery, the fact that there was not a single unecessary word...
This early exposure to the work of Ms. Plath changed my perception of what a poet was and could be. It also introduced me to the so-called "Confessional School" of poetry of whom Robert Lowell was a definite master...
Interestingly enough, at this time (1971) there was a similar post-Plath confessional movement afoot in popular music (Joni Mitchell had just released "Blue") as well as prose (Joan Didion's "The White Album.")
And although Plath's tragic decent into madness and suicide is perfect fodder for the teen-age misfit's mind, the lesson learned was definitely that the poet definitely must mix a bit of his or her own blood in that ink...

"Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air."

& don't get me started on Meg Ryan...

I believe there was a film done on "The Bell Jar" a while back that was very trippy. I dimly remember that Julie Harris was in it somewhere, and that Madamoiselle Magazine had a special reunion of the staff that had worked with Plath that fateful summer for its opening.

[This message was edited by hatches on 10-28-03 at 11:15 AM.]
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I have to see this film as soon as possible. The NY TImes had a very encouraging review as well. I didn't realize that Joni Mitchells "Blue" album was in the Sylvia Plath Confessionary poetry vein. I have always loved that album very much. I'd say it's my favorite of hers.

Has anyone seen the short film version of Sylvia's short story "The Lottery?" It seems there was another feature length film based on a Sylvia Plath story as well. I can't think of it. Maybe I'm thinking of Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting."
Plath deserves a more complex and unusual view, or, in this case, review, than as it exists, at current, just beyond my door ...

however, sadly, me thinks the "feed my weak ego" artist next door -- who has placed it and kept it as so – just oh so slightly out of the dim light; blocked by the shelf; and, the books wedged off and askew above it. I do believe the lazy, yet well-contrived and knowledgeable asshole carefully constructed the entire, subtle, not-so-subtle memorial to subscribe, market, and sell himself as "the like," perhaps mostly even to himself, as depressed, when depravity is more likely the vacuous hole that is a soul in his own case, ...

The book's designation is undeserving, the symbolism not quite write. I want to pick the book up on the days it draws my attention simply by rotting. I desire to dust it off and skim through it. Most of all I want to give it a more deserving place, perhaps on the shelf with all the other reference books and records left behind by the artists who had this space before I came to be here now, and whose work remains to give wise face to those who enter this very peculiar abode.

But to disturb it would be a "giving in," a declaration that I noticed, and bought in to the trite Lit/Art World Constructed ideology that keeps so many from finding what is truly there, left by the creator, for each new viewer/reader to find: them selves and the world around them in its context.

Ironically, I did not "know about" the Bell Jar before reading it. By the time I was 14, I had checked out and read every book in the small public library in my hometown.

I found Plath really inspiring and her story familiar: her path as laid out in the book, if I've not recalled the entirely wrong continuum, was so similar to how I had pre-constructed my own journey to NYC to go at that point: to work for women's mags until I was able to write the story of my journey, my life's moral and damn poignantly as well. Double damn, I remember thinking, how could she have already lived what I innately intended? I did not even begrudge her having gotten there before me, happens again and again to me, I was already discovering. In being true to myself, I always eventually seemed to catch up to the one I was copying without knowing. I began to realize the importances were in the nearly unnoticeable slight differences. And, I also, knew, with great fervor reading Plath, what would be different when I would face the inevitable same challenges, same career, same city, same psychosis.

It was not until high school, when I was told in Lit class what I "should know" about the book in order to use it as a conversational, academic or even social construct of reference, that I fucking balked at all things LIT. It was the beginning of a strong hatred of "Lit ideology" that would and has only increased with experience when repeatedly told what I should "get" and "know" about books well-read by the masses of "learn-ed," and excepted and touted as truth by and for monoculture ...

Personally, I enjoyed the book at a pace that was not fevered or drawn out (this is very important) very rarely am I ever made to and enjoy someone else's pace especially calmness. I remember feeling pleasantly at ease reading the book and oh so familiar with the steady lackluster that comes when one really has the ability "to see outside the box," in this case, the writer to see her own journey in the terms of a narrative that is precarious in being critical and that, at the end of the day, page after page, is not fantastic, not at all, in any conceivable way. The true power of her voice, in my opinion is something we are very far away from, as human beings, from understanding ... something to do with resilience and harmonics ...

In fact, I personally enjoyed the book so much as to find it laugh out loud humorous on at least three or four occasions. [And again I rarely find anything in print funny enough to have to put a book down and laugh about it for a day or two, replaying the visual over and over in my head, stopping, starting, editing, each time, homing in on the joke in my head for clarity.]

Granted I haven't read this since I was about 12 (and probably should have thought about this before running my mouth in here while I add insult, I'm sure, to injury,) but I trust my memories in conjunction with my evolved intuitions and what remain of my instincts that haven't been beaten out of me by my fellow man and woman) ...

I do believe I recall a mortifying incident of drinking a water bowl of flowers in a fancy restaurant while at dinner with an editor thinking it was gourmet soup of some sort (Jasmine?) -- I laughed for hours imagining that -- as it is exactly the same kind of shit for me. I also remember a fan, a roommate, and a bowl ice to cool down a snatch, again, I so saw the humor in this, completely laugh out loud, as I would myself in the exact situation describe in great detail very similarly such a startling sexual image in a way that one might wonder if I found in interesting, was truly disgusted or amused or just describing the episode like so many others as details in an unexceptional, exceptional life. My exception is knowing my life exceptional. This is something I think Plath could never truly know in order to be the icon she was, is and has become. My own tragedy will, I have no doubt, befall me as it does us all, in time as it is meant to, no need to worry about it, in fact better go dance some while I can still really, feel the music, more now than ever.

Stacy, I too recall hunting for short stories following reading the book, I remember finding one or two somewhere, but not caring for them at all in the same manner, something about them, well simply stated, didn't have the time or interest to get to the point.

I hope you have much better luck in finding them, perhaps something in them, perhaps, you will look past the ones found most easily. Funny how it is always mentioned she wrote some short stories and the titles of these never really noted in short bios on her.

Off to see tangle's horror.

TMT? I wonder, will it always be "Too much Tonya," Hattie?
Not to worry, you don't have to answer that one ;-)
Great topic ... both timeless and timely ... like those of the boards and the posts themselves are meant to be.
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Hatches: Great image, you in class, electrified by this new weird world of poetry.
Stacy: yes, run out and see it and let's compare notes!
Tonya: Gosh! I think you do have a lot of it right on despite having read it long ago.

As I mentioned earlier, I was obsessive when it came to Plath. Now, I have a healthy fascination. I still have an entire shelf in my bookcase in my room devoted just to Sylvia: all of her poems, the bell jar, several (5 or 6) biographies, a couple of editions of her journals, and her unfortunate collection of short stories, "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams." I also have two cassette recordings of her reading her poems; one is of poems from The Colossus, the other is all Ariel poems and is absolutely astounding. I'd be happy to copy this for one or two fans who may find it of interest.

In an interview on MTV many years ago, Morrissey was asked about his literary influences, and whether he was into Plath or Sexton at all. He professed great admiration for Sexton, but of Plath, he said, dismissively, "I think her life and death were far more interesting than anything she ever wrote." While I disagree completely, there is something magnetic about her life story. I've had a compulsion to read each bio, and have been fascinated by this strange and brilliant woman's existence. It was never enough for me to read her writing and find pleasure there alone. I had to seek her out, go where she went, see where she lived. I had to go to these places in the way that some go to Graceland.

I traveled all over England in between course work with the goal of seeing and photographing as many of Sylvia's old haunts as possible. In Cambridge, I had the (still unbelievable) experience of knocking on the door of a tiny house that Sylvia and Ted lived in shortly after their marriage. A man answered, and I explained somewhat sheepishly that my favorite poet used to live there... he replied, "would you like to come in?" I nearly fell over. I sat in the kitchen with him and his wife and listened as they explained that they, too, were Plath fanatics and had bought the house because it had been hers. For the first time in a few months (as my classmates were off seeing more exotic sights) I felt a little less psycho. I was led into the room that had been her bedroom, and there was a small table there on which stood a collection of her writings. Then I was taken to the living room, where I gasped upon seeing a very familiar fireplace and mantle. There is a well known picture of Sylvia sitting beside the fireplace, and here I was standing before it: the same woodwork and everything. Shelves nearby removed, but mantlepiece totally unchanged. I snapped away with my camera, and my kind hosts indulged me. [I'll scan these pix at the bottom...SAD, i know.] We then went to the back garden where an apple tree that Sylvia had written about still stood, its branches gnarled like arthritic fingers.

In college, I finagled my way into doing many papers and much research on her. Hatches, like you, my brain first clicked with poetry on reading Plath. That amazement that happens when you read something that consists of so few words and you realize that you have just been taken so far so's an extreme economy of language. And so beautiful to read something and feel that it contains not a single surplus word. Each is essential. This is what her work first showed me.

It's a shame that so many people know Plath as just "the author of The Bell Jar." She was rather embarassed by that book, called it a "potboiler," something to make a quick buck off of. And unfortunately, Frieda Hughes, Ted and Sylvia's daughter, did not permit any of her mother's writing to be used in Sylvia, and the movie suffers for it. So, since we're just starting out with this topic, I'll take the liberty of posting all of "Daddy" here, widely regarded as among her very best poems:



You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time---
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene
An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been sacred of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You----
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.
If I've killed one man, I've killed two---
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

Not an extra word, and it's so musical, so lyrical...Plath herself said that these "Ariel" poems, written in the months immediately preceding her death, couldn't stay on the page, they must be read aloud, in the tradition of the first poets who served as court jesters and recited witty ditties to amuse royals... Oy, 'nuf for tonight.

[This message was edited by Michael Madison on 10-29-03 at 12:17 AM.]


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Thanks for posting the poem, I haven't any of her books anymore. I was so obsessed with her through high-school and college; her work still holds perfectly.

That is gorgeous story about getting into her house! You should post that all over for Plath fiends the world over.

Sorry to hear your opinion the film will not inspire anyone to read her work. But never fear, wherever moody adolescents mope, there Plath will be.

I'm not sure why I stopped reading her. Suicidal depression became such a commonplace once I landed in NY, and knowing about her nightmare life in NY... possibly to consider her anymore as a model became counterproductive. I dragged myself up by my bootstraps as they say, and went on to a philosophy more slanted to Will-to-power, and so dug the ditch I live in today.

Because of her (and Frida Kahlo... and Camille Claudel) I have always had a great suspicion of fellow-artists/lovers and their influence over me. The unsuccessful submission of each woman to her artist-mate stands as a paradigm of what not to do. Have your own work and your own life, never let someone else run you/run you down.

Just recently in Paris, in the great old Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, was pleased to see about forty copies of her husband Ted Hughes' works sitting on a high shelf gathering dust.

[This message was edited by S'tan on 10-29-03 at 10:43 AM.]
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Last night, Harp Girl and I went to the closing Taylor Mac rendition at the Slide (Jade, the Slide is the Marquee!!). Upon HG's dropping me home, I discovered a white bell jar spray painted on the front door of my building. whoever you are for putting it there, I must say, thank you, I was, and am, truly, tickled pink to high hog heaven (even though, I am fully aware of the reputation [danger] I seem to be garnering as, and for, having "a thing," it seems, for stalkers and [sic] fux). Anyway ...

Michael, I do think this question quite on topic: what is "obsessive" and what is a "healthy fascination"?

also re: Morrissey, you and him seem to agree, not disagree, at least with regards to the statements you posted, his statement, and keep in mind he was being interviewed and that alone may cause the admiration of something otherwise (or at least some sensitivity to some of its traits) to come off as "a defensive" [negative] admission, while you optioned to start this topic of your own volition [positive] to celebrate shared admiration, and interest in and of Plath herself: to exchange knowledge and learn more about: "her life and death - Morrissey" i.e., "her life's stories - Michael". [Also it makes sense Morrissey would not care much for her writing, it is wonderfully devoid of the specific style of "wit" he himself is so drawn to, so much so, that it has come to define his own voice (breed/blend of strengths/weaknesses) so distinctly.]

You and Hattie are right-on spotlighting the poetry, my exclusion of it's mention using the "p-word" directly, a most definitely personal "issue/problem" I have, even more deep-seated than the one I have with "Lit." Tho, I did cover her poetry in quite a favorable light, but, in my own way: I do believe if you read aloud the graph in my post above starting "I do believe I recall" – which is most definitely the climax of my post -- you'll find the measure and meter one and the same as "Daddy." But on some level, I suspect you recognized that.

[[And yes, I do get a lot of things right on, and often times it has nothing to do with reading in a traditional sense (scanner that I am), tho, I am easily dismissed and turn folks off easily due to my having the great outward camouflage of appearing completely self-absorbed. (BTW: I am so thrilled you and are crossing dancefloors more and more often, as I've always found you beautiful both on the boards and in the flesh.)]]

And S'tan RE !!!!!
Just recently in Paris, in the great old Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, was pleased to see about forty copies of her husband Ted Hughes' works sitting on a high shelf gathering dust

thank you for this. your posting it, it made me feel such love for someone's understanding I glowed and thawed

--"Worthiness" of Suicide, no longer?: I reply with some really semi-boring theology by Miss Tonya: "On Suicide" (boy doesn't that scream red book, white letters?) Suicide is a social ill known only to communal organisms. Society has evolved to fear and loathe that which is different [freakish], society kills and destroys potential threats (new ways, unusual ways of thinking early on), especially when "the son does not resemble the father" i.e., when the iconic impact of an individual is so powerful, their existance alone forces the larger sociecty to question preexisting and excepted truth. When this happens the "the abomination" must be exercized (ironically it is the individual that is destroyed, cast out, rejected not the malfunctioning ideology). Suicide/depression, IMO, at the root, is a social malfease, it must be dealt with there first, the psychological illness and eventual physical weakening and destruction, the individual's resulting internalization of this battle: the individual human's last stand at finding/proving itself worthy of existence/love in society, of another, and of themselves. Often times, the resulting winner of this battle is in many ways a monster, and the loser, what he or she takes with them, a loss forever to society on the whole, leaving like minds ever wondering and wanting more ... tragedy ...

I went to take a snap this morning of "THe Bell Jar" in the hall to share with all of you only to discover the book is now gone and the shelf recently rearranged ... hmmm ... well it's on the outer door now, so not really gone.
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Interesting...while trolling around yesterday I happened to click on the Sylvia thread (since she is one of my favorite poets) and it reminded me of how influential a writer she was/is. Then last nite the film "Sylvia" was on IFC. It was kind of mediocre, but it inspired me to pull out my dusty old Plath poetry volumes. God, what a writer, disturbing, passionate and downright scary at times. Today I was googling around with her and found out she was into the occult, thanks to her husband Ted Hughes, and that the woman he was having an affair with at the time of Sylvia's death committed suicide and murdered their illicit child in the same way Sylvia ended her life, gas stove and pills. Guilt or vengeful spirit, who knows? Anyway, I think I will try to find her unedited Journals soon. Might make for some interesting reading.

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