Tag Archives: Sylvia Plath

P-Sylvia Plath: Letters to Dead Poets #AtoZchallenge.

Dear Ms Plath,

How are you?

I hope time and tide have brought you peace.

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.

Sylvia Plath

I am currently writing a series of letters to Dead Poets and while I wondered whether you wanted to be disturbed, I didn’t want to leave you out. Your voice still needs to be heard, even if I’m still having trouble navigating Ariel myself. That said, some have appealed.

Rather than mailing this letter, I decided to come in person and I’ve brought you a cup of tea, a biscuit and my little black dog, Lady.

While black dogs have been cast as a euphemism for depression, Lady exudes happiness. Every morning when I stagger out to the kitchen half-awake, she’s almost combusting with excitement wagging and whack-whacking her tail. Her entire body quivers and as you move closer, the whacking speeds up. It’s rather hilarious and really makes my day.

So, I thought you might appreciate meeting Lady. Dogs have been shown to cheer people up and our dogs have certainly helped me through thick and thin.

dogs

That’s right. We also have an older dog, Bilbo, but he’s much more reserved and not all that social. He’s like that loner standing in the corner clutching his beer. That said, he loves us. Not always a bad thing to equate “danger” with “stranger”.

Anyway, I thought we could have a bit of a chat Mum to Mum. I enjoyed your poem:-

Morning Song

 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.

I’m 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 cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try

Your handful of notes;

The clear vowels rise like balloons.

Being a Mum is incredibly rewarding but isn’t easy.

Bex Ad

Indeed, I wrote An 80s Woman in 2006 when my kids were 5 and 3 and performed it at a local talent quest. I know it’s a long way from my glory days back at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris but one of the judges was Country & Western sensation Kasey Chambers.

50s dress

An 80’s Woman

I’m an 80’s woman

in a fifties dress.

I want my cup of tea.

I want my Bex.

I went to university

and had a career

but then I had kids

and now I’m stuck here…

with Weetbix in my hair

custard on my clothes;

this vegemite foundation

gives my skin a healthy glow.

Once I watched the docos,

filled my brain with heaps of books

but now I just watch Playschool

and the Wiggles have the look.

I used to hit the gym

was lookin really thin

but now my belly bounces up

and almost hits my chin.

So in search of inspiration,

I went off to the mall.

Tried to find a new look

but nothing fits at all.

So I bought myself a G-string

to shoot back all the peas

Maybe soon I’ll win the war

and finally get some peace.

I really love my kids!

I really, really do!

But is it wrong to crave

a bit of me time too?

I’m an 80s woman

in a fifties dress…

An 80s woman

in a fifties dress…

I want my cup of tea

And I want my Bex!

Rowena

Indeed, there used to be a phrase: “Take a Bex and have a good lie down”. Like so many things, Bex was too good to be true. Bex caused kidney failure and your kids got up to mischief while you slept.

50s ironing

We barely even use our iron.

When my kids were smaller, I really struggled. While I was seriously struggling to look after them while afflicted with a muscle-wasting, life-threatening disease, I also saw myself as a career woman, a writer and it felt my life had fallen down the toilet. I felt like an 80s woman who’d somehow woken up back in the 1950s. It was dreadful. I don’t think I was really suited to little kids and am much happier now that my kids are older. Now that the disease is in remission, that’s made a huge difference as well. You could just imagine what it was like trying to keep up with them when I wasn’t well and my husband was working long hours in Sydney. My own home became something of a prison…especially after I fell over at home and couldn’t get up against and was left lying face down on the ground for over half an hour with no one to help. Being at home, became dangerous. Not only for myself but for the kids. Our son was three and loved climbing the back shed. I remember his excitement. Seeing the world from way up high and his absolute sense of childish wonder spotting “mountains” he hadn’t seen before. I also remember him falling off the shed and somehow caught him in my arms, despite having bi-lateral carpal tunnel and being unable to open a simple bottle of water.

I know life is difficult but did it have to be that hard.

You might also like my Kombi song:

Dakadakkadak Dakkadakkadak

Don’t look forward

Don’t look back

Dakadakadak

Off the beaten track.

Watch the sun start to rise.

Open up those tired old eyes.

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Dakadakadak

Feel the salt air

Through your hair

Stretch your spirit

Everywhere…

Who needs money?

Who needs fame?

Heaps of shoes?

A private plane?

No more boundaries

No restraints

No more boss

Or mortgage pains!

Hit the road

Without a plan

Find a self

You understand

Don’t give up

Don’t give in

Find a skin

You can live in

And begin.

Dakadakkadak dakkadakkadak

Dakkadakkkadak dakkadakkadak.

Don’t look forward (Living here)

Don’t look back (Living now)

You can be…

Dak Dak

Rowena

Dorothy Dix Talks

Anyway, I’m sorry. No doubt, you’re not wanting advice but I’ve brought you something I stumbled upon by Dorothy Dix…  Dictates for a Happy Life . While I’m usually very suspect about what I call: “Prescriptions for Happiness”, she offers sound advice. I’m going to print these off and discuss them with my family. Give them to the kids. After all, everybody’s life is their own “road not taken” and we’re each bush-bashing cross country and need all the help we can get. Not only maps, torches and practical stuff, but also spiritual and emotional guidance. I also try to pray. As much as it can feel that God’s incredibly distant and aloof, I’ve actually experienced him carry me over most of life’s pot holes and strife.

Indeed, you might want to read Mary Stevenson’s  Footprints poem.

I also found  Maya Angelou incredibly encouraging.

Sylvia Plath's Grave

Sylvia Plath’s Grave. Her epitaph reads: “Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted.”

 

However, is all of this too late? It seems you can no longer change your mind.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your cup of tea and Tim Tam. I don’t mean to be flippant, but I often wonder if the answer is simply more chocolate…as long as you’re not a dog.

Love and best wishes,

Rowena

Do you have a favourite poem by Sylvia Plath?

PS: Sylvia Plath save me a very simple thank you in response to my letter. Of course, we talked but I don’t talk and tell!

S-Sylvia Plath. Help Me Dorothy Dix!#AtoZchallenge

Dear Dorothy Dix,

I’m writing a series of letters to dead poets and Sylvia Plath is next on my list. What should I write?

Although I’ve written some pretty challenging letters already, what do you say to someone who took their life?

We are both mothers of young children. Yet, I am fighting tooth and nail to stay alive, desperately wanting to see my kids grow up. Be there to guide and support their path.

That said, I’ve also had my own dark days, when I’ve succumbed to the black dog. I know it what it’s like when it eats you alive. Perhaps, she couldn’t see any other way out.

Yet, that doesn’t mean I understand.

While she lived with mental illness, so many people tried so hard to save her, but still she slipped away.

It’s only human to ask why but I won’t.

Of course, I’ll greet her with a smile. Offer her a cup of tea. But do I really have to be nice?

What should I do?

Signed,

Baffled.

Newton Family & bilbo

Disease in full swing. This family photo was taken prior to my diagnosis.

 

………….

Dear Baffled,

You need your head read,

raising sleeping poets

from the dead.

You should have left

them alone instead.  

Read a book!

Stayed in bed!

 

How did you like my first attempts at poetry?

What’s done is done.

The best I can suggest is to give Sylvia Plath my Dictates for a Happy Life.

You can’t always save someone from themselves…or the ravages of mental illness. But, never ever give up trying! You never know what might actually make a difference and save a life.

That sounds like a contradiction but there are no simple answers on the trail you’re blazing.

Simply persevere!

Regards,

Dorothy Dix.

Dictates for a Happy Life- Dorothy Dix

First. Make up your mind to be happy. Happiness is largely a matter of self-hypnotism. You can think yourself happy or you can think yourself miserable. It is up to you…learn to find pleasure in simple things. If you can’t go to the opera, you can turn on the radio. Nail on your face the smile that won’t come off, and after a bit you will find that it comes naturally.

Second. Make the best of your lot. Of course, you’re not everything you want and things are not just right. Nobody is that lucky. Even the most fortunate have a lot of crumpled rose leaves under their forty mattresses of ease. There isn’t a single human being who hasn’t plenty to cry over, and the trick is to make the laughs outweigh the tears.

Third. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t think that everything that happens to you is of world-shaking importance and that somehow you should have been protected from the misfortunes that befall other people. When death robs you of one you love, or you lose your job, don’t demand to know of high heaven why this should happen to you and grow rebellious and morbid over your sorrow. We are never happy until we learn to laugh at ourselves.

Fourth. Don’t take other people too seriously. They are not so much, anyway. Don’t let their criticisms worry you. You can’t please everybody, so please yourself. Don’t let your neighbors set your standards for you. Don’t run into debt trying to keep up with the Joneses, or bore yourself to death trying to be as intelligent as the Highbrows. Be yourself and do the things you enjoy doing if you want to be comfortable and happy.

Fifth. Don’t borrow trouble. You have to pay compound interest on that and it will bankrupt you in the end. It is a queer thing, but imaginary troubles are harder to bear than actual ones. There are none of us who have not lain awake at night petrified with dread of some calamity that we feared might befall us and that we felt would shatter our lives if it should occur. Generally it never happened, but if it did, it was not so bad after all and we survived it without serious injury. Enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself. There is no sounder adage than that which bids us not to trouble trouble until trouble troubles us. The only good that worrying ever did anyone was make him thin. It is grand for the figure but hard on the disposition.

Sixth. Don’t cherish enmities and grudges. Don’t keep up old quarrels. Don’t remember all the mean things people have done to you. Forget them. Hate is a dreadful chemical that we distill in our own hearts, that poisons our own souls. It takes all the joy out of life and hurts us far worse than it does anyone else. There is nothing so depressing as having a grudge against someone. Nothing makes a home so miserable as for the family not to be on good terms. Meeting someone you don’t speak to will spoil any party. So if you have an enemy, forgive him and kiss on both cheeks, not for his sake but simply because it is to making you unhappy and uncomfortable to be stirred up in wrath against him.

Seventh. Keep in circulation. Go around and meet people. Belong to clubs. Travel as much as you can. Have as many interests as possible. Have hosts of friends. That is the way to keep yourself cheerful and jolly and thinking that this is the best of all possible worlds.

Eighth. Don’t hold post-mortems. Don’t spend your life brooding over the mistakes you have made or the sorrows that have befallen on you. What is done is done and cannot be changed, but you can have your whole future life in which to make good. Not all the tears can bring back those we have lost, but we can make life miserable for ourselves and those about us by our unavailing weeping. Quit beating upon your breast because you haven’t as much money as you used to have. Don’t be one of those who never get over things. Have the courage to take misfortune on the chin and come up smiling.

Ninth. Do something for somebody less fortunate than yourself. Minister to other people’s trouble and you will forget your own. Happiness is a coin that we keep only when we give it away.

Tenth. Keep busy. That is the sovereign remedy for unhappiness. Hard work is a panacea for trouble. You never saw a very busy person who was unhappy.

Violin rose

 

 

 

H- Ted Hughes: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

‘It is occasionally possible, just for brief moments, to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions in the head and express something – perhaps not much, just something – of the crush of information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did one day a dozen years ago. Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are.’

-Ted Hughes, Poetry in the Making

Dear Mr Hughes,

Hopefully, you don’t mind being jolted from your slumber. Through some twist of fate, I am  writing letters to dead poets. By “dead”, I don’t mean to infer that you no longer exist. It was just an idea I had after reading Rilke’s Letters to A Young Poet. Kahlil Gibran wanted me to clarify that:

“I am alive like you, and I am standing beside you. Close your eyes and look around, you will see me in front of you.”

Kahlil Gibran

Writing these letters hasn’t been as easy as I thought. I’ve never fumbled around so much trying to write a simple letter before. While the concept was a flash of inspiration straight from the muse, getting them done has been much harder than expected. Indeed, this journey is taking me straight up the mountain via a goat’s trail and I’m left stonkered beside the path waiting for my brain to catch up. Ouch! I’m not even half-way.

Even a kid in single digits knows you write about what you know. That’s the ABC of writing. However, I barely know you at all. So, writing you a letter must be tantamount to heresy.

That being the case, why have I written to you? Why not write to someone else I’ve known for awhile?

Well, I’ve observed that we also write about what we’d like to find out, in pursuit of the question, taking our readers on a thrilling, exhilarating ride. Personally, that sounds much more riveting than being bored by a know-it-all.

So, this letter is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship! After all, just because we didn’t go to school together, we can still be friends. Spread our wings!

So, while there are people who know your work inside out, I’m the new kid on the block. Indeed, I only stumbled across your poetry recently after reading Max Porter’s poignant novel: Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Your friend Crow turns up in the story to comfort a grieving family after the wife/mother passed away.

Crow_(poem)

Crow

 

Crow’s Theology

Crow realized God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow-
Just existing was His revelation.

But what Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?

Crow realized there were two Gods-

One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.

Then, I found out your incredible losses. I can not begin to imagine what you’ve been through!

(pause)

Ted Hughes

Anyway, I’m sure you know all about the awkwardness of the blank page. Indeed, I stumbled across The Thought Fox tonight:

The Thought Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Besides the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

-Ted Hughes

The thing is that if we all just stay in our comfort zones being experts of what we know, we’d never grow. Rather, we need to take those cautious, tentative steps  out of the nest to explore The  Road Not Taken before we stagnate.

So, this changes the perspective. Getting to know you, is a sign of growth and it’s quite alright to acknowledge that we’ve only just met. That this is the beginning. After all, we’re not all going to be old friends who went to school together. Indeed, we’re spread our wings.

Actually, through writing these letters to dead poets, I’ve actually come to appreciate how little I really knew about the poets I’d always supposedly known. Indeed, I’ve almost felt consumed by my own ignorance wondering how on earth I could possibly pull of each letter and yet it’s happened. I’m really coming to appreciate that being inspired by a poem, is but the tip of a huge iceberg. There’s so much more.

However, when it came to getting to know you, your personal life had actually preceded your poetry. At least, I’d heard about the tragic aftermath of your relationship with Sylvia Plath. I wasn’t going to mention Sylvia at all. No doubt,you don’t want to be tied to her for eternity, especially when you’d gone your separate ways in life. I get that. At the same time, I wonder how you survived it all. How you kept going? So many other poets never made it to the other side of the rainbow but you did.

Sylvia Plath isn’t the only poet who has taken her life. I am becoming more and more conscious that poets are an endangered species. Even just looking at my small selection of dead poets, the stats aren’t looking good. Severe depression is almost in our DNA…not that I’m depressed myself.

poet

This troubles me…the mental health issues of being a poet, a writer, a creative soul. Why is it that so many of us go over the edge? Does our flame burn so bright, that we somehow combust? Or, does our writing spring from some subterranean pond…a pool of tears? That only the sad, depressed and broken need apply?

As I said, that troubles me because I don’t want to press all the wrong buttons and start dancing on the wrong side of the edge myself. I have fought tooth and nail with everything I’ve got to survive and be here with my family. Live my life. Carpe Diem seize the day. As much as writing is breathing to me, I don’t want to blow myself up in the process.

Moreover, as writers, I have a very strong conviction that we also need to look after each other. After all, if one of our own falls down beside the road, don’t we need to be the Good Samaritan and help them up? Quite frankly, once you know the pitfalls of being a writer, you have to stop and look out for your colleagues. Band together. That should be written in our charter.

Indeed, I would argue that saving a life is far more important than giving birth to a book and getting it published,  as much as I’ve dreamed, striven and worked the very hard yards and pray I’ll get there soon. When one of your own is hurting, you need to respond and not just stick your head in a screen.

Mind you, that’s all well and good in theory but when you’re in the zone, the rest of the world can disappear. You’re just left hammering out those words, going with the flow like a person possessed. Indeed, perhaps you are. This can obviously make it a little hard to live up to your social conscience when you’re off somewhere with the muse and not in touch.

That’s well and truly me at the moment and I’m just trying to get from day to day through these letters of the alphabet without completely pissing off my husband and the kids. Even the dogs aren’t real impressed. I know we writers have to balance writing with reality but when inspiration hits and it’s all consuming, I’m even reluctant to pause in case it runs away. Inspiration can seemingly be so fickle that if you give it the cold shoulder for even an instant, it could well desert you. Find someone else!  Once again, your book project bites the dust.

Anyway, as I said before, this is just the beginning and I am really thankful for this opportunity to meet. Here’s to new friends!

Warm wishes,

Rowena

Heart Hands red heart

Photo: Rowena Newton & Mr J.