“Wintering” (turned to Springing…)

Wintering

a poem by Sylvia Plath

This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.

I have whirled the midwife’s extractor,

I have my honey,

Six jars of it,

Six cat’s eyes in the wine cellar,

Wintering in a dark without window

At the heart of the house

Next to the last tenant’s rancid jam

and the bottles of empty glitters —-

Sir So-and-so’s gin.

This is the room I have never been in

This is the room I could never breathe in.

The black bunched in there like a bat,

No light

But the torch and its faint

Chinese yellow on appalling objects —-

Black asininity. Decay.

Possession.

It is they who own me.

Neither cruel nor indifferent,

Only ignorant.

This is the time of hanging on for the bees–the bees

So slow I hardly know them,

Filing like soldiers

To the syrup tin

To make up for the honey I’ve taken.

Tate and Lyle keeps them going,

The refined snow.

It is Tate and Lyle they live on, instead of flowers.

They take it. The cold sets in.

Now they ball in a mass,

Black

Mind against all that white.

The smile of the snow is white.

It spreads itself out, a mile-long body of Meissen,

Into which, on warm days,

They can only carry their dead.

The bees are all women,

Maids and the long royal lady.

They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors.

Winter is for women —-

The woman, still at her knitting,

At the cradle of Spanish walnut,

Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas

Succeed in banking their fires

To enter another year?

What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?

The bees are flying. They taste the spring.

I keep coming back to this poem.

I am a fan/friend/ally of poet, Sylvia Plath – the late Sylvia Plath who passed away, by her own hand, on February 11, 1963, in London.

Wintering – this is also the title of the book I am currently reading, written by Kate Moses.

The poem entitled “Wintering” by Plath was included in a last collection of her poems, entitled “Ariel” – published posthumously by her (then still legal) husband, English poet Ted Hughes.

The book of the same name is written in 41 chapters, each named after one of the “Ariel” poems by Plath.

I love this book. It is “…a novel of Sylvia Plath” – so, of course, it’s partially made up by the author, however, after reading two biographies of Plath, watched a couple of films about her life, and just reading about her for many years, I find this “novel” totally believable, if not strictly word-for-word accurate as to its content. It’s a novel… no qualms about that.

But the writing is amazingly beautiful. Ms. Moses is beyond eloquent in her choice of descriptive prose as to what must have been going on in the life and thoughts of Sylvia Plath during the last year of her life, living in England, especially Devon and London.

Yes, Sylvia turned on her gas stove and snuffed out her own life… with two small children in the same apartment but meticulously sealed off so the gas could not get to them before someone found them soon after the deed was done. She arranged it all. She was a very disturbed woman, and I have tried (but maybe not too hard or hard enough) to understand the side of the story that Ted Hughes, her husband, put forward. He was a victim? He went on to live his life for another 35 years and became Poet Laureate of Britain.

I know I have The Colossus somewhere in this house but a quick search downstairs here did not turn it up.

I bought Ted and I by Gerald Hughes (Ted’s brother) in the hopes of understanding more about why Ted did the things he did, however, I haven’t read too much of it yet – I will, however.

In reading Plath’s biography, I learned she spent time in my “hometown” of Marblehead, Massachusetts one summer as a teenager. She had a job babysitting for a child at that time. She lived in Winthrop, which is about 10 or 15 miles south of Salem – and for some reason (I think I know why), I have never set foot in Winthrop, which is just north of Boston and right on the water. I have my own reasons for avoiding that town but won’t go into that here. I do want to visit Winthrop before I pass out of this Life, at some point. I’d better make plans… Life is moving along at a speedy pace lately…

So although my mind is pretty much made up that Sylvia would be alive today if she hadn’t married that Ted Hughes, because I think his treatment of her was abominable and only contributed to her tendency toward depression, etc., but I have kept the door slightly ajar in that area, my opinion, until I have read all I have to read on the subject. The book, Ted and I, is a story of their life growing up together in West Yorkshire, England, more than a story about his life with Plath, I believe. But time will tell, and I’ll find out when I get around to reading it.

A Sylvia Plath Documentary (with Sylvia’s own voice):

And Sylvia talks about England:

For now I am enjoying Wintering immensely and, in fact, I will leave you now so I can get back into it.

Ta ra, chums, and cheers for the artistic among us, both here today and gone from us,

Bex

It’s in every one of us to be wise;

Find your heart, open up both your eyes.

We can all know every thing without ever knowing why.

It’s in every one of us, by and bye.

~ John Denver & The Muppets ~

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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8 Responses to “Wintering” (turned to Springing…)

  1. Bex says:

    Sylvia had bees and jarred honey etc. I found it interesting that she had to keep feeding them over the winter (no flowers) and she fed them Tate and Lyle’s golden syrup. In “Ariel” there are several poems about the bees.

    That is interesting Eric about John Updike, I didn’t know that. Thanks.

    Like

  2. Eric Mayer says:

    Coincidentally I just read this evening an explanation of how bees keep warm in the winter by forming a ball.

    Also, coincidentally I just read a memoir by John Updike in which he placed excerpts from his books after the events of his life which inspired them. Not exactly what he was doing when he composed the fiction in question but very interesting.

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  3. Bex says:

    Eric, that is why reading this book, “Wintering” is great because each chapters tells a story of what must have been going on in her life for her to write that poem, I keep going back into the Ariel book and re-reading each poem whilst reading each chapter… very interesting treatment of this.

    P.S. “Ariel” was the name of her horse in Devon, by the way.

    P.P.S. Just found Blog called “Visiting Court Green – Sylvia Plath’s Devonshire home. Wow, what a find!

    and it just keeps getting better… download the free e-book on Sylvia Plath by P.H. Davies here.

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  4. Eric Mayer says:

    Fascinating post. Mostly educational for me since I am not very familiar with Sylvia Plath, except for knowing about her sad end. And speaking of sad, I imagine there are more people who know her as the poet who committed suicide than have read her poems. I fear I have a tin ear for poetry, and maybe a tin brain as well because I always am sure — almost certainly correctly — that I am failing to grasp what was meant.

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  5. Bex says:

    I knew there was a reason we were kindred souls, Anna. Yes… Hughes was the culprit, although probably Plath had enough problems when they met. But I was married to a man very similar to Hughes, a writer and very much into himself, and I know what it was like… I was lucky enough to have gotten out of it after 6-1/2 years but poor Sylvia only had eyes for Ted… her downfall.

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  6. Annanotbob3 says:

    I did a writing course a few years ago in the house Plath and Hughes shared in Hebden Bridge in (whispers) Yorkshire. And visited her grave. I love Plath’s poems but have no time for Hughes. To have one wife commit suicide is bad enough, but two? Reeks of culpability to me, although maybe he was just attracted to very damaged women. Happy weekend, dearest xxx

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  7. Sandy Freel says:

    WOW…she was great with words and had a interesting life..sad she took it.
    Thanks for good input.

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  8. Lovely entry Bex, the story of Sylvia Plath’s life is fascinating. I too feel that Ted Hughes was not a positive element in her life.

    Like

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