Bay of the Frisco seal
There were once two poets who met near an English university, in late winter when leaves would soon spring a soft green from crinkled brown as the ground began to thaw. She was an American beauty who wrote like a vixen and he, he was a dreamer who made love like a jackal. Their first kiss was under no arbour. He stole her earring. She drew blood as she ripped at his cheek with her teeth.
Perhaps she was a chosen one with her daring imagery, her driven ways. He was already much feted by the literary crowd for his savage verse of roosting hawks, and hunting paw prints of a fox. To trust her calling she would need unyielding belief, not a simple task for a woman of her time. Sadly with her gifts came a melancholic heart.
She married her poet of repute and for many years they shared their hearts and minds, yet still she felt double bound and barely dared to breath. Two children she would come to bear. And so inspired by birth, she composed poems of astounding image, sending them to publishers far and wide.
But alas, when heavy with the second child and having rented their London flat to a handsome, foreign couple, her husband and the exotic beauty from the flat began a secret tryst.The betrayal seized the young woman’s heart and pulled apart the two tempestuous poets. They did try to mend their love with a holiday over the sea. But soon the feted poet left again to return to the door of his lover. And so the young poet mother returned home alone for a final time.
Unbridled then she did rain out poems, like marching ants before a storm. Her prowess grew with the passing of each night, her children asleep until dawn, her fingers pressing on the typewriter keys like spiders up a wall. But it was a foul and freezing winter, snow upon the ground and water pipes that froze. Thus weakened by her sleepless nights of fury, rejection fuelled her doubts of her new command of tongue. With few friends nearby for support, her children ill, her flat so poorly heated, she withdrew into a bleak and empty world where her only choice became to flee her cruel and damning thoughts. She craved to join the earth, to lay horizontal deep within, hawks flying over head.
And thus her end was nigh when she taped the windows and the doors, leaving milk and bread for the children. At last she put her head deep into a gassing oven and there her melancholy did swell into the black dominion.
The red wall winces continually:/ A red fist, opening and closing,/ Two grey, papery bags— This is what I’m made of, this, and a terror/ Of being wheeled off under crosses and rain of pietiesfrom Apprehensions, Sylvia Plath
Recordings of Sylvia Plath reading from Ariel, her most accomplished works, published posthumously.
Poem references for Bay of the Frisco seal
Plath: Daddy, I am vertical, The secret, Ariel, Apprehensions
Hughes: The thought fox, Hawk roosting, Lovesong, Dreamers
For a detailed website on Plath see A celebration, this is Sylvia Plath.
Tragically seven years after Plath’s death, Assia Wevill died by a suicide that echoed Plath’s.
Oh! platypus examines this in For the love of poetry Part2
The times were against Assia as against Sylvia…in those pre-feminist days, women saw their lives in terms of being loved or not loved by a man. It was terrible to be abandoned, death was better than rejection.