Sylvia Plath
1932-1963

Insanity and Madness 
were terms used by Sylvia Plath to 
describe herself.

At the age of 5 years Sylvia Plath started to write poetry 
by the time she was 8 she had
published her first poem...

To look at her, one would think she had everything.
She was lovely, sensitive, intelligent and
compelled toward perfection.
Everything she attempted or did, she did well.

There was just one problem.  Sylvia Plath, 
American Poet and golden girl
sunk into the abyss of mental illness.

Her poems reflect her life and encroaching madness.
She was recognized as a major poet posthumously.

Sylvia Plath wrote one novel, The Bell Jar, an autobiography
published in 1963 just one month before her death by suicide at the age of 31.

 



 

                                            Daddy

                        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 grey toe
                            Big as a Frisco seal

                     And a head in the freakish Atlantic
                     Where it pours bean green over blue
                     In the waters off 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 scared of you,
                   With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
                           And your neat moustache
      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.

 



                                          The Colossus

                      "I shall never get you put together entirely,
                         Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
                       Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
                           Proceed from your great lips.
                            It's worse than a barnyard.

                       Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
                      Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or
                                      other.
                          Thirty years now I have labored
                         To dredge the silt from your throat.
                               I am none the wiser.

                      Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails
                                      of lysol
                           I crawl like an ant in mourning
                         Over the weedy acres of your brow
                      To mend the immense skull plates and clear
                         The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.

                           A blue sky out of the Oresteia
                       Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
                      You are pithy and historical as the Roman
                                      Forum.
                      I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
                       Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are
                                      littered

                        In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
                      It would take more than a lightning-stroke
                              To create such a ruin.
                          Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
                          Of your left ear, out of the wind,

                       Counting the red stars and those of plum-
                                      color.
                      The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
                          My hours are married to shadow.
                     No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
                         On the blank stones of the landing."

 


                                             The Eye-mote

                        "Blameless as daylight I stood looking
                     At a field of horses, necks bent, manes blown,
                          Tails streaming against the green
                      Backdrop of sycamores. Sun was striking
                        White chapel pinnacles over the roofs,
                       Holding the horses, the clouds, the leaves

                      Steadily rooted though they were all flowing
                         Away to the left like reeds in a sea
                      When the splinter flew in and stuck my eye,
                         Needling it dark. Then I was seeing
                          A melding of shapes in a hot rain:
                        Horses warped on the altering green,

                     Outlandish as double-humped camels or uni-
                                      corns,
                     Grazing at the margins of a bad monochrome,
                           Beasts of oasis, a better time.
                        Abrading my lid, the small grain burns:
                         Red cinder around which I myself,
                         Horses, planets and spires revolve.

                          Neither tears nor the easing flush
                         Of eyebaths can unseat the speck:
                          It sticks, and it has stuck a week.
                          I wear the present itch for flesh,
                         Blind to what will be and what was.
                            I dream that I am Oedipus.

                          What I want back is what I was
                          Before the bed, before the knife,
                         Before the brooch-pin and the salve
                            Fixed me in this parenthesis;
                             Horses fluent in the wind,
                         A place, a time gone out of mind."

 


                                              Pursuit

                     There is a panther stalks me down:
                     One day I'll have my death of him;
                     His greed has set the woods aflame,
                     He prowls more lordly than the sun.
                  Most soft, most suavely glides that step,
                        Advancing always at my back;
                   From gaunt hemlock, rooks croak havoc:
                    The hunt is on, and sprung the trap.
                     Flayed by thorns I trek the rocks,
                     Haggard through the hot white noon.
                       Along red network of his veins
                     What fires run, what craving wakes?

                      Insatiate, he ransacks the land 
                      Condemned by our ancestral fault,
                     Crying:  blood, let blood be spilt;
                    Meat must glut his mouth's raw wound.
                      Keen the rending teeth and sweet
                        The singeing fury of his fur;
                    His kisses parch, each paw's a briar,
                       Doom consummates that appetite.
                       In the wake of this fierce cat,
                      Kindled like torches for his joy,
                       Charred and ravened women lie,
                      Become his starving body's bait.

                   Now hills hatch menace, spawning shade;
                      Midnight cloaks the sultry grove;
                     The black marauder, hauled by love
                     On fluent haunches, keeps my speed.
                     Behind snarled thickets of my eyes 
                   Lurks the lithe one; in dreams' ambush
                    Bright those claws that mar the flesh
                   And hungry, hungry, those taut thights.
                   His ardor snares me, lights the trees,
                        And I run flaring in my skin;
                     What lull, what cool can lap me in
                   When burns and brands that yellow gaze?

                      I hurl my heart to halt his pace,
                   To quench his thirst I squander blook;
                   He eats, and still his need seeks food,
                         Compels a total sacrifice.
                   His voice waylays me, spells a trance,
                       The gutted forest falls to ash;
                       Appalled by secret want, I rush
                       From such assault of radiance.
                       Entering the tower of my fears,
                     I shut my doors on that dark guilt,
                     I bolt the door, each door I bolt.
                     Blood quickens, gonging in my ears:

                    The panther's tread is on the stairs,
                        Coming up and up the stairs.

 


                                                    Mirror

              I am silver and exact.  I have no preconceptions.
                    Whatever I see I swallow immediately
                 Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
                       I am not cruel, only truthful--
                   The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
              Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
           It is pink, with speckles.  I have looked at it so long
             I think it is a part of my heart.  But it flickers.
                Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

                  Now I am a lake.  A woman bends over me,
                Searching my reaches for what she really is.
           Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
                 I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
            She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
                 I am important to her.  She comes and goes.
           Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
         In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
            Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

 



 

                                       Mad Girl's Love Song

                     "I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; 
                          I lift my lids and all is born again. 
                       (I think I made you up inside my head.) 

                       The stars go waltzing out in blue and red, 
                         And arbitrary blackness gallops in: 
                     I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead. 

                      I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed 
                   And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane. 
                       (I think I made you up inside my head.) 

                      God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade: 
                          Exit seraphim and Satan's men: 
                     I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead. 

                       I fancied you'd return the way you said, 
                       But I grow old and I forget your name. 
                       (I think I made you up inside my head.) 

                      I should have loved a thunderbird instead; 
                   At least when spring comes they roar back again. 
                     I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead. 
                       (I think I made you up inside my head.)" 

 



 
 

                                Mushrooms

                                "Overnight, very 
                               Whitely, discreetly, 
                                 Very quietly 

                              Our toes, our noses 
                             Take hold on the loam, 
                                Acquire the air. 

                                Nobody sees us, 
                              Stops us, betrays us; 
                           The small grains make room. 

                               Soft fists insist on 
                              Heaving the needles, 
                               The leafy bedding, 

                                Even the paving. 
                             Our hammers, our rams, 
                              Earless and eyeless, 

                               Perfectly voiceless, 
                              Widen the crannies, 
                           Shoulder through holes. We 

                                 Diet on water, 
                             On crumbs of shadow, 
                             Bland-mannered, asking 

                                Little or nothing. 
                                So many of us! 
                                So many of us! 

                             We are shelves, we are 
                              Tables, we are meek, 
                                We are edible, 

                              Nudgers and shovers 
                              In spite of ourselves. 
                               Our kind multiplies: 

                              We shall by morning 
                                Inherit the earth. 
                             Our foot's in the door." 
 

 



 
     Morning Song 
     Sylvia Plath
 
 

     Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
     The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
     Took its place among the elements.

     Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.
     In a drafty museum, your nakedness
     Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.

     Iím no more your mother
     Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
     Effacement at the wind's hand.

     All night your moth-breath
     Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
     A far sea moves in my ear.

     One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
     In my Victorian nightgown.
     Your mouth opens clean as a catís.  The window square

     Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try
     Your handful of notes;
     The clear vowels rise like balloons.

 


 
 

 

 

 

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