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April 09, 2009


Susan Sonzogni

I too have heard a longer YouTube version of this poem. I can't find it anywhere online. Can you help?


what is the tone?


I think the last comment here has a spot on interpretation, which I agree with. The "dead-boredom" is the empty womb and her emptiness as a mother not meant to be a mother.

S.A. Jones

Might I suggest another interpretation of the first three stanzas? Is it not possible that the 'earthen womb' in fact refers to the speaker's own womb? It's 'dead boredom' may reflect the fact that the speaker is no longer pregnant. If so, the 'raggy shawls' could be sanitary pads (strips of old material were used in in the Victorian era and prior as primitive pads hence the 'shawls'). 'Raggy' of course referring to the vernacular ('rags') for menstruation. The 'cold homicides' which make no sense in reference to the black bat airs make perfect sense if the speaker is mourning her empty womb. Bloodied material would 'weld to me like plumbs'.
This seems plausible to me.

Dr. M. replies. "Not even remotely plausible to me."


curiously, I was listening to a you-tube video of sylvia plath reading this poem and there was a bit more to it. I've never seen it published with these extra stanzas included though... do you know if it has ever been published with in this longer form?
here's the link:


Thank you for the amazing post, Dr. I love it. More respect to Plath, who never moved me much, til now. I just read of Nick's suicide this morning, so this is poignant to say the least.

I did not understand the guiding conceit of this poem until you explained it. I still don't get "They weld to me like plums." I'm inclined to think that "holy Joes" has to refer to the Biblical son of Jacob (he of the "technicolor dreamcoat", also Benjamin's brother) sold by his older brothers into slavery, impresses pharaoh with his interpretation of dreams, becomes viceroy of Egypt ... maybe this progression is "newt-like"... water to land to ??.

"Toes" makes no sense, but in the image of the infant is perfect. But why are they "my live toes"? Is this suddenly about her? Then there's the line that thematically disturbs me the most: "The pain/You wake to is not yours." Is she projecting her own pain onto Nick, then projecting Nick's onto another, or "the world"? I guess, well, yeah.

Hopkin's "Spring and Fall" ("Margaret are you grieving over goldengrove unleaving... it is the blight man was born for. It is Margaret you mourn for") seems a more honest address, if a lesser poem.

But I've never been a mother, so what do I know. This is one hell of a poem. Thanks doc.



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