Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Hacker
This month I have included two poems, to make up for missing a couple. I know that strictly speaking it should be three poems, but maybe I will do two next month as well. I know the poems are popular.
Two women this month, both Americans; Sylvia Plath, and Marilyn Hacker.
Sylvia Plath, a literary Marilyn Monroe, killed herself in 1963. She was, of course, famously married to poet Ted Hughes. Their difficult and troubled relationship has been well-documented, even as a bio-pic, starring Gwynth Paltrow.
My own feeling, as ever, is that the work matters, the details of the life, less so.
A book about Plath that you might want to read, by Erica Wagner, and published in the UK by Faber is Ariels Gift. It is a genuinely insightful reading of the woman and the work.
This poem is the title poem of the collection CROSSING THE WATER.
Crossing the Water
Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.
Where do the black trees go that drink here?
Their shadows must cover Canada.
A little light is filtering from the water flowers.
Their leaves do not wish us to hurry:
They are round and flat and full of dark advice.
Cold worlds shake from the oar.
The spirit of blackness is in us, it is in the fishes.
A snag is lifting a valedictory, pale hand;
Stars open among the lilies.
Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens?
This is the silence of astounded souls.
Marilyn Hacker was born in 1942 and lives in New York and Paris. I have taken this poem, The Ring, from an old edition, rather muddled up, which lists this as uncollected
Her ring is in a safe-deposit box
with hundred-dollar bills and wills and deeds.
You used to hide my letters with the stock
certificates, unlock a room to read
those night thoughts in a vault under the bank
where we descend this noon: a painless loan
of cash from you to me, for which I thank
you, but tremble. Half as a joke, we sign
a promissory note on a looseleaf
page: odd, to see your name written with mine.
You fold that, file it in a plastic sleeve,
then rummage in the artefacts to find
and show me what youve just inherited:
your mothers knuckle-duster diamond ring,
a fossil prism in a satin bed.
You model it. I see your hand shaking.
You ask me if I want to try it on
but I wont put that diamond on my hand.
Once, I gave you a ring. You loaned me one.
What I borrowed that day has been returned.