poets.org

To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment
—  Galway Kinnell
I remember telling the joke about child molestation and seeing the face of the young man I didn’t know well enough turn from something with light inside of it into something like an animal that’s had its brain bashed in, something like that, some sky inside him breaking all over the table and the beers. It’s amazing, finding out my thoughtlessness has no bounds, is no match for any barbarian, that it runs wild and hard like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande. No, the Columbia. A great river of thorns and when this stranger stood up and muttered something about a cigarette, the Hazmat team in my chest begins to cordon off my heart, glowing a toxic yellow, and all I could think about was the punch line “sexy kids,” that was it, “sexy kids,” and all the children I’ve cared for, wiping their noses, rocking them to sleep, all the nieces and nephews I love, and how no one ever opened me up like a can of soup in the second grade, the man now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering his body, a ghost unable to hold his wrists down or make a sound like a large knee in between two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.

April 24 is Poem in Your Pocket Day! Pick a poem, put it in your pocket, and share it with your friends and family throughout the day. www.poets.org/pocket

On Poem in Your Pocket Day, people throughout the United States select a poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day. 

You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Poems from pockets are unfolded throughout the day with events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores. Create your own Poem in Your Pocket Day event using ideas below or share your creative ideas with us by emailing npm@poets.org.

What do you see as the role of the poet in today’s culture?”

“Today, as in any era, there are myriad roles for poets: semiotician, elegist, eulogist, gamer, white noise machine, musician, Sapphist, theorist, father figure, bird watcher, a video projection of a moving mouth—all trapped behind the glass of Wittgenstein’s fly-bottle.

A resource from the Academy of American Poets with thousands of poems, essays, biographies, weekly features, and poems for love and every occasion

For National Poetry Month 2014, the Academy of American Poets introduce Poet-to-Poet, a multimedia educational project that invites young people in grades 3-12 to write poems in response to those shared by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors: Poet Laureate of California Juan Felipe Herrera, National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Edward Hirsch, NEA and Guggenheim Fellow Jane Hirshfield, Lannan Foundation Fellow Naomi Shihab Nye, Pulitzer Prize-nominee Ron Padgett, Jackson Poetry Prize-winner Arthur Sze, and Cofounder (with Allen Ginsberg) of the Naropa Institute Anne Waldman.

Students—to participate in Poet-to-Poet, watch the videos below of Chancellors reading and discussing one of their poems. Then, write your own poem in response and email it to us at poet2poet@poets.org by April 30, 2014. Please include your name and the name of the poet below who has inspired your poem. We will consider all student poems for publication on Poets.org in May 2014.

Teachers—if you are interested in using Poet-to-Poet in the classroom, we worked with a curriculum specialist to design a series of activities, aligned with the Common Core, especially for you. Go to the Lesson Plans >

Happy writing!

Friendship After Love

After the fierce midsummer all ablaze
    Has burned itself to ashes, and expires
    In the intensity of its own fires,
There come the mellow, mild, St. Martin days
Crowned with the calm of peace, but sad with haze.
    So after Love has led us, till he tires
    Of his own throes, and torments, and desires,
Comes large-eyed friendship: with a restful gaze,
He beckons us to follow, and across
    Cool verdant vales we wander free from care.
    Is it a touch of frost lies in the air?
Why are we haunted with a sense of loss?
We do not wish the pain back, or the heat;
And yet, and yet, these days are incomplete.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

What I love about Sylvia Plath-week!

So yesterday, on the 50th anniversary of her death, we learned 10 things Sylvia Plath loved and today, I would like to start a “What I love about Sylvia Plath”-week featuring some of my favorite Sylvia Plath quotes, poems, drawings, pictures and recordings.

Enjoy and take another look at yesterday’s list via poets.org:

1. Sun Bathing

The sun seeped into every pore, satiating every querulous fiber of me into a great glowing golden peace.

As Plath biographer Andrew Wilson notes in his article “Sylvia Plath in Love,”1 “Plath was a self-confessed sun worshipper. In her journal she described the joy she felt after leaving the biting winds and leaden skies of Cambridge behind. Finally, by the time the train reached the Côte d'Azur, she saw what she had been waiting for: ‘the red sun rising like the eye of God out of a screaming blue sea.’”

In July 1951, Sylvia Plath wrote in her journals:

“Lying on my stomach on the flat warm rock, I let my arm hang over the side, and my hand caressed the rounded contours of the sun-hot stone, and felt the smooth undulations of it. Such a heat the rock had, such a rugged and comfortable warmth, that I felt it could be a human body. Burning through the material of my bathing suit, the great heat radiated through my body…”2


2. France

How can I describe the beauty of [this] country?

“Yesterday was about the most lovely in my life,” Plath writes on a postcard to her mother, dated January 7, 1956. “Started out on motor scooter along famous wide 'promenade des anglais’ of Nice, with its out-door cafés, splendid baroque facades, rows of palms, strolling musicians—and headed inland to Vence, where I planned to see the beautiful recent Matisse cathedral of my art magazine, which I’ve loved via pictures for years.”3


3. Greek Mythology

I imagine myself with a great public,
Mother of a white Nike and several bald-eyed Apollos
.

(from Plath’s poem, “Barren Woman”)4

***

Pure? What does it mean?
The tongues of hell
Are dull, dull as the triple

Tongues of dull, fat Cerberus


(from Plath’s poem, “Fever 103”)5

Many of Plath’s poems are organized around classical Greek tragedy. These references are found in Plath’s first book, The Colossus, where both Oresteia and Electra appear. In Ariel, Plath invokes Medusa, gorgons, and dryads, in addition to Nike and Cerberus. The titles of her poems “Medusa” and “Lesbos” also highlight her interest in Greek mythology.


4. Sherry

We drink sherry in the garden and read poems

In The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, Plath makes multiple references to sherry. At a New Year’s party she recalls enjoying “an immense amount of sweet sherry” while on another occasion she states, “I drink sherry and wine by myself because I like it and I get the sensuous feeling of indulgence…luxury, bliss, erotic-tinged.” She also enjoyed sherry when hosting literary guests:

“I cook steaks, trout on my gas ring, and we eat well. We drink sherry in the garden and read poems; we quote on and on: he says a line of Thomas or Shakespeare and says: "Finish!” We romp through words. I learn new words and use them in poems.“6


5. Hot Baths

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them

Plath seemed to enjoy the psychological calm that a hot bath brought. "I took a hot bath: therapy: the kinks wore out,” Plath writes in her journals, “and I rose purged…”7

In her autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, Plath’s protagonist, Esther Greenwood also has an affinity for hot baths:

“There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down so far and then I say: 'I’ll go take a hot bath.’”8


6. Joy of Cooking

I go make an apple pie, or study the Joy of Cooking, reading it like a rare novel.9

In a letter to her mother, Plath wrote, “If you have a chance, could you send over my Joy of Cooking? It’s the one book I really miss!”10

First published in 1936 and having sold over 18 million copies, Joy of Cooking has been a staple in many kitchens including Plath’s. According to writer Kate Moses in The Guardian, Plath allegedly wrote “Lady Lazarus” while baking the cookbook’s lemon pudding cake.11


7. Ouija Board

We had more fun than a movie…

In a note accompanying Plath’s poem “Ouija,” Ted Hughes describes how she “occasionally amused herself, with one or two others, by holding her finger on an upturned glass, in a ring of letters laid out on a smooth table, and questioning the 'spirits.’”

Read the article “Sylvia Plath’s Spirit Guide” for more about Plath’s communications through the Ouija board, as well as details about which poems were inspired by the process.


8. Marilyn Monroe

She gave me an expert manicure.

A few months after the release of the film “Some Like it Hot,” Plath describes a visitation by the famous actress in her journals in October 1959.

“Marilyn Monroe appeared to me last night in a dream as a kind of fairy godmother. An occasion of 'chatting’ with audience much as the occasion with Eliot will turn out, I suppose. I spoke, almost in tears, of how much she and Arthur Miller meant to us, although they could, of course, not know us at all. She gave me an expert manicure. I had not washed my hair, and asked her about hairdressers, saying no matter where I went, they always imposed a horrid cut on me. She invited me to visit during the Christmas holidays, promising a new, flowering life.”12


9. Her horse, Ariel

God’s lioness,
How one we grow
Pivot of heels and knees!


(from Plath’s poem “Ariel”)13

In his foreword to Sylvia Plath’s posthumous collection of poems, Ariel, the poet Robert Lowell writes: “The title Ariel summons up Shakespeare’s lovely, though slightly chilling and androgynous spirit, but the truth is that this Ariel is the author’s horse.”14

Plath went riding frequently at a riding school on Dartmoor, an area of moorland in south Devon, England.15


10. The color red

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair


(from Plath’s poem “Lady Lazarus”)

In Plath’s final months she used the color red twenty-two times in her poems. Her affection for the color was evident in her prose as well. She cites the color red over one hundred times in her journals, seemingly fixated on its hue, whether writing about “red-skinned apples,” “red-lacquered nails,” or “Rose leaves red, deep-red tipped.”16



1Andrew Wilson, “Sylvia Plath in Love,” Mail Online, January 19, 2013.
2Karen V. Kukil, ed., The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), 74.
3Aurelia Schober Plath, ed., Letters Home (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992), 203.
4Sylvia Plath, Collected Poems (New York: HarperCollins, 1981), 157.
5 Sylvia Plath, Ariel (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 53.
6 Aurelia Schober Plath, ed., Letters Home (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992), 209, 235, 631.
7 Karen V. Kukil, ed., The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), 352.
8 Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (New York: Bantam, 1972), 19.
9Karen V. Kukil, ed., The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), 269.
10Aurelia Schober Plath, ed., Letters Home (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992), 242.
11Kate Moses, “Baking with Sylvia,” The Guardian, February 14, 2003.
12Karen V. Kukil, ed., The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), 513.
13Sylvia Plath, Ariel (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 33.
14Sylvia Plath, Ariel (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), vii.
15Sylvia Plath, Collected Poems (New York: HarperCollins, 1981), 294.
16Karen V. Kukil, ed., The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), 20, 327, 412.

Q
May I master love, undo its luster do in the thing that makes us lust?    May I speed through the body’s sinew  to marrow? Or is toiling a part of    the gaining of trust? May I pare and narrow  your body down, and open it to my    cupidity’s arrow? May I find my  response to body’s unanswered call,    (if the want leaves you wanting, at all)? Hannah Sanghee Park