Friday, January 05, 2007

Quote of the Day, 1/05/07: Plath on Poetry

Thanks to Kelly Fineman for posting this quote several weeks ago. I've been waiting for another Poetry Friday to share it again.

Here is how Silvia Plath described the small moments of poetry, and the contrast to the expansive time of novels.
How I envy the novelist!

I imagine him - better say her, for it is the women I look to for a parallel - I imagine her, the novelist, pruning a rosebush with a large pair of shears, adjusting her spectacles, shuffling about among the teacups, humming, arranging ashtrays or babies, absorbing a slant of light, a fresh edge to the weather and piercing, with a kind of modest, beautiful X-ray vision, the psychic interiors of her neighbors - her neighbors on trains, in the dentist's waiting room, in the corner teashop. To her, this fortunate one, what is there that isn't relevant! Old shoes can be used, doorknobs, airletters, flannel nightgowns, cathedrals, nail varnish, jet planes, rose arbors and budgerigars; little mannerisms - the sucking at a tooth, the tugging at a hemline - any weird or warty or fine or despicable thing. Not to mention emotions, motivations - those rumbling, thunderous shapes. Her business is Time, the way it shoots forward, shunts back, blooms, decays and double exposes itself. Her business is people in Time. And she, it seems to me, has all the time in the world. She can take a century if she likes, a generation, a whole summer.

I can take about a minute.

I'm not talking about epic poems. We all know how long they can take. I'm talking about the smallish, unofficial garden-variety poem. How shall I describe it? - a door opens, a door shuts. In between you have a glimpse: a garden, a person, a rainstorm, a dragonfly, a heart, a city. I think of those round Victorian paperweights which I remember, yet can never find - a far cry from the plastic mass-productions which stud the toy counters in Woolworths. This sort of paperweight is a clear globe, self-complete, very pure, with a forest or village or family group within it. You turn it upside down, then back. It snows. Everything is changed in a minute. It will never be the same in there - not the fir trees, nor the gables, nor the faces.

So a poem takes place.


cloudscome said...

Wow I love that! I have always liked Plath and you reminded my why. She is brilliant!

Michele said...

Thanks for sharing - that's fascinating reading - not least because I'm neither a novelist nor a poet...