Poetry

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#52

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#53
After a Rainstorm
By Robert Wrigley

"Because I have come to the fence at night,
the horses arrive also from their ancient stable.
They let me stroke their long faces, and I note
in the light of the now-merging moon

how they, a Morgan and a Quarter, have been
by shake-guttered raindrops
spotted around their rumps and thus made
Appaloosas, the ancestral horses of this place.

Maybe because it is night, they are nervous,
or maybe because they too sense
what they have become, they seem
to be waiting for me to say something

to whatever ancient spirits might still abide here,
that they might awaken from this strange dream,
in which there are fences and stables and a man
who doesn’t know a single word they understand."
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#54
If, by ee cummings


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#55
What does it mean? Is it mostly about her husband? Frisco seal? What the heck?

Daddy
BY SYLVIA PLATH

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 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 gipsy 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 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.
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#56
(Jul 24, 2019 01:09 PM)Secular Sanity Wrote: What does it mean? Is it mostly about her husband? Frisco seal? What the heck?

The speaker of the poem is a young woman who has an Electra complex, as well as suffering from the pain and horror her of father having had a Nazi background. To even further compound her internal conflicts, she suspects her mother might descent-wise be Jewish, thus the possibility of herself as well. She has to figuratively kill him to finally be independent of the hold he has on her life and the suffering she feels under his shadow, as well get away from the vicarious guilt of any victims of brutality his former career may have produced.

There's arguably a few elements in the poem borrowed from Plath's own life. Her own father died when she was eight, whereas this one is suggested as dying when the speaker was ten. (If the "buried you" is taken literally, it raises the question of how he's still causing her so much anguish years later.) The speaker also mentions trying to die (suicide attempt?) ten years later, which roughly corresponds to Plath's own severe depression bout and felo-de-se during college age. And of course her father was German, but there's no indication he was ever affiliated with the Party back in the homeland (to the best that I can remember at the moment, anyway). Hughes would occasionally tease Plath of having some Freudian daddy complex (she may have mentioned his doing that in her personal journals), so that could be a source regardless of whether there was anything to it or not.

I noticed in a couple of the stanzas of the poem that there were some elements that could be construed as a husband ("made a model of you", "I said I do, I do"). Plath was married to Ted Hughes for seven years, and there's that stanza with "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." The poem was written a month after she separated from Hughes due to his cheating with Wevill. So it sounds like the speaker is not just purging memories of a father from her life by metaphorically slaying him, but another guy too (and maybe a generalization of all men).

The whole idea behind "Shards of Sylvia Plath" (the animated gif, with its upcoming third revision) was to smash her poems, diaries, and novel to pieces and look around through the jumbled fragments for any passages that could serve to illustrate her own life, regardless of their original context. In the case of "Daddy", though, the passages may have coincidentally been somewhat loosely in context. There are of course other bits, too, that happened to fall into place that way.

EDIT (belated addition): Forgot to bring-up that the image of having a fascist father itself could be a layer of symbolism for the subordination in marriage back then, or the increasing amount in hers. ("Love of the rack and screw" in connection with the "I made a model of you ... with a Meinkampf look" might have even been a veiled reference to Hughes beating her and her speculation of it triggering that miscarriage in the past.) But I don't recall Plath mentioning such herself about the poem in her personal stuff, although she definitely dallies directly with the idea elsewhere in the "Bell Jar": "Maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state."
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#57
Interesting. 

Thanks, C C.

That one phrase (Frisco seal) is bugging me, though. Everyone keeps saying that it’s about her father losing his foot. Some say that he stubbed his toe in San Francisco, developed an infection, lost his leg from diabetes, and that this is what she’s referring to, but that doesn’t seem like her style to me.

She uses the word 'ghastly' again in Medusa.

Quote:Ghastly Vatican.
I am sick to death of hot salt.
Green as eunuchs, your wishes
Hiss at my sins.
Off, off, eely tentacle!

There is nothing between us.


There’s a picture of her at the Vatican. An old boyfriend, Gordon Lameyer, wrote about them on a trip. He said that they didn’t get along too well. They went different directions on the trip several times and ran into each other again at St Peter's Basilica.

I wonder if it's his foot that she's referring to.

Edit:

(Jul 24, 2019 05:28 PM)C C Wrote: The whole idea behind "Shards of Sylvia Plath" (the animated gif, with its upcoming third revision) was to smash her poems, diaries, and novel to pieces and look around through the jumbled fragments for any passages that could serve to illustrate her own life, regardless of their original context.  

Hmm…shards, that’s what her husband called the letter that she burned the last time that he saw her.

There’s a lot of myths out there about her. She wrote that Thalidomide piece, which did make me wonder if that was the cause of her miscarriage, but her therapist did say that she told her that her husband beat her a few days before. Who knows? The drug was developed in Germany, though. Then there’s that interesting collage that she made, too. Most of the pieces were taken from this Life Magazine. The stuff about sleeping made me think of the Thalidomide. If she was using visual images, there’s also a slight chance that these two ads from that edition could have come in play. There’s even an article about the capture of Otto Adolf Eichmann (the gasser).

Gray toe? Frisco Seal? Daddy? [It might be a bit of stretch.] *shrugs

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And then there's a secret and rumors of an abortion.
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#58
Below is extracted from from this thread/post, transported here to both combine the two, and more on topic here.

(Jul 27, 2019 03:46 PM)Secular Sanity Wrote: Well I think "Daddy" is a poem, not about her father, nor husband, but God—a collection of images—"a bag full of god." I think [it], "ghastly statue with one gray toe" may have been a reference to St. Peter’s foot.

"I thought even the bones would do"
"Head in the freakish Atlantic"

Religious relics, perhaps?

She was clever, but unfortunately, not clever enough, or perhaps, homeless.

What do you think, C C?

Too many dots?


Sure, it's possible. She had reached the pinnacle of her career, where her poems, akin to a Russian doll, could sport multiple, nested representational layers. Fascist father --> husband --> God, with "deteriorating marriage and subservient wife-role" resonances possibly flitting about in each onion skin. Her material could be littered with both supplemental and collateral (digressive) items, coordinated under or digressing from a central idea. She certainly had an academic metaphor and simile base that exceeded everyday compilations like this mundane one.

Artistic creators shouldn't reveal or acknowledge everything. If they have a good head on their shoulders, they'll provide only the sketchiest of revelations about their products or none at all -- depending.

Some of the best symbolic and allegory works (especially nowadays) may leave themselves pluralistically open to the reader -- or viewer, listener, feeler, taster, smeller -- loosely permitting them to project their own meanings into them. Along with suggesting alternative and further refined interpretations for critics and connoisseurs to play with. In addition to the endless arguments and "bickerings" generated in the latter formal camp, that being recruited at the local level for diverse practical functionality (in conversations, speeches, references in other specific films, books, opinion pieces, poems, etc) is another facet that keeps a work alive or viable over the decades/centuries.

But they usually do need a "consensus" primary interpretation(s) to avoid being reflexively dismissed as masquerade, as arbitrary gibberish in the guise of something figuratively coherent. (Of course, once an author or "artist" acquires a reputation, skepticism usually falls to the wayside.) It helps that the makers of works provide some glimpse of that in their own personal notes or public interviews, although for the sake of the aforementioned they're thereby not going to reveal any or every additional layer of purpose and secondary significances flitting about in them.

An example is David Lynch's movie Mulholland Drive. He could wisely avoid clarifying it since arguably even one of the actors and some reviewers hit the nail on the head with regard to the primary intent of "what was going on". This allowed it to stay open to interpretation, which would be especially important if Lynch didn't include any (side-venture) themes or veiled tactics in it but those subsumed by the primary one. Stanley Kubrick enjoyed similar with 2001: A Space Odyssey, being able to leave the film enigmatic in terms of his own personal declarations. Since collaborator Arthur C. Clarke published a novel version of it (in addition to Clarke's short story from 1951 that it was derived from).
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#59

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#60
(Jul 27, 2019 12:48 AM)Secular Sanity Wrote: There’s a lot of myths out there about her. She wrote that Thalidomide piece, which did make me wonder if that was the cause of her miscarriage, but her therapist did say that she told her that her husband beat her a few days before. Who knows?


Thanks for some of the interesting thoughts and links, SS. I guess some of the more recent items dug up from the past's cellar assert that Hughes even told her he wished she were dead.

Unseen Sylvia Plath letters claim domestic abuse by Ted Hughes
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/a...ted-hughes

Of course, Assia Wevill committed suicide also and took her and Hughes' own daughter along with her to apparently spite him all the more. So there seems to be something to the feminist chants of Hughes being a major azzo with regard to his wives (last one possibly excluded).

At least Plath went to some effort to ensure her children weren't killed, planning it so that the doctor/nurse arrived before any explosion and stuffing material under the doors to block out the gas, leaving them some food/water. (Not written in stone -- it's been years since I read about any of those circumstances, so time may have updated them. I'm traveling purely on the momentum of dust-collected memory.)

(Jul 27, 2019 07:49 PM)Leigha Wrote:

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Good one, Wegs.
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