Tag Archives: revision

Rereading Plath

I just read Sylvia Plath’s Ariel: The Restored Edition. My parents gave me this copy, at my request, years ago. I think the hard copy (which I have) was published in 2004, so it might have been that year. While I have skimmed it many times, I hadn’t  really read it cover to cover until now.

But don’t think I’m a newcomer to Ariel, Plath’s final and most groundbreaking poetry. While I am not a Plath expert, especially since I have not been involved with the academic world for many years, I do have a lot of experience with Plath’s work.

For instance, I performed an oral explication of the poem “Fever 103” for my master’s thesis. This one will always be my favorite Plath poem.

Then for my PhD dissertation, I wrote a chapter about Plath and the “carnivalesque.”  But my favorite experience was writing a chapter,  “Higgledy Piggledy Gobbledygoo: The Rotted Residue of Nursery Rhyme in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry” for Betty Greenway’s Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers .

More recently, I’ve had two poems published at Plath Poetry Project; I find her work helps open the floodgates of imagination.

I believe that Plath is one of the greatest 20th century poets in the English language. We could debate the possibility of a few others being in her league, but not many.

Don’t think I don’t see her flaws. For one thing, there are her personal flaws. She was not always the nicest person, and she could be a crazy bitch. She didn’t really try too hard to make herself a better person, just a better writer. If I had known her in person, I doubt I would have liked her.

Her writing has some flaws, too, but mainly because EVERYTHING is out there in public. If she had lived, she would not necessarily have published everything–and even if she had there are poems I believe she would have later revised or withdrawn from future editions of her books.

Back to the book I’m reading. Ariel was published posthumously, after Plath committed suicide, by the way. You need to know that to see where I am going with this.

This newer copy of Ariel includes all the poems Plath intended in the collection in the order she intended them. The original publication of Ariel featured a collection arranged and edited by her estranged husband, English poet Ted Hughes.

I experienced a very distorting and disturbing ride reading the collection Plath’s way.

I have always kind of hated Hughes for cheating on Plath, which started the beginning of her end. But he did a great job putting Ariel together–a much better job than the poet herself. Maybe she was too close to the project. Maybe she would have rearranged everything herself if she had lived. But Hughes did it and he did it well.

The collection as Plath left it has a lot of rot in it, if you ask me. Many of the poems do not seem strong. Poems that are in the Hughes version do not seem strong now. I can only conclude that the placement of the poems within the collection guide our reading. Surrounding poems add to the appreciation of particular poems.

I think “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” are absolutely brilliant. So are a few others. But some others, hmm. I see her trying out images in some poems and then using them much better in others.

The biggest annoyance (actually makes me really angry) is the way Plath uses the black or African body as metaphor. In “The Jailer,” she includes the line: “Pretending I am a negress with pink paws.” This is no brilliant metaphor; rather, it’s stooping low to grab at an old-time stereotype, a vision of the “black body” as animalistic. No no no no.

There has been a helluva lot of discussion about her use of Holocaust victim imagery in her most famous–and other–poems. But those are not relying on old stereotypes, but rather employing poetic conceit, a term that means a metaphor that is stretched a bit extra and might even be shocking or strange, but that works. John Donne was the master of conceit, and he was one of Plath’s inspirations.

So I am disappointed to read this version. Plath’s latter poetry blew open American poetry, and for that she must be honored. But let’s be honest about the poems like “The Jailer” that just might suck.

Thank you, Ted Hughes.

NEVER thought I’d write those words.

#thisisnotabookreview

***

OK, I don’t expect you to go another week without a Perry photo! Sometimes he is naughty, trying to instigate the other cats to play when they want to rest, so I zip him into his little playpen (which I have shown you before). So now if he’s naughty he runs into his little CUBE instead of the playpen because he thinks I will think he’s in time out, but in reality he can get out on his own. HAHAHAHAHA. He is so smart. And a nut.

 

And you might want to see another pic of my granddaughter Riley.

CUTE!!!!!!! But what do you think? Can you tell what breeds of dog went into making up this pretty girl? The shelter told my daughter she was part Australian shepherd. HAHAHA.

I think that might be a no. What breed dogs do YOU see in Riley? She is four months old and weighs ten pounds. I won’t tell you where my daughter and her fiance are leaning at this point because I don’t want to sway your opinion.

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Filed under #amrevising, #writerslife, Book Review, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

Perry Como and My Mother-in-Law

Now that National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo are over, I have been revising poems. Mainly, they have been small changes, so either I did better than I thought last month or (and more likely) I am still not seeing them clearly.

Spring is in full swing in Arizona, and everywhere I look it’s yellow, green, and blue.

I’ve been going through some of my mother-in-law’s paintings that were left over after she passed away. (She died 15 years ago, so it’s time to look at them again). The reason I pulled them out is because my daughter moved into her own place, and I am looking for paintings to bring her for her to choose from.

I wrote about my MIL’s art My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part I and My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part II and My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part III

A lot of her paintings are portraits, and those are more difficult to hang on a wall than landscapes. I thought I’d share one of the portraits with you today. Maybe share some more later . . . .

Because my MIL was hired to paint a lot of celebrity portraits, the ones that are left are often “first drafts,” but sometimes she just painted them because they were famous and she hoped to sell those paintings.

Do you know who this is?

That’s right: Perry Como and his family, wife Roselle, son Ronnie, daughter Terri, and son David. Perry and Roselle were teenage sweethearts and were married until her death at age 84.

I love Perry Como’s voice and laidback coooool style. This is one of my favorites:

And this one, of course:

You might prefer different versions, but he’s pretty consistent, so they are all good!

OK, NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTION. Was Perry my sweet cat named after Perry Como?

Wait for it.

Perry the cat was named for Perry Como and Perry Mason!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, Arizona, Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Flora, Garden, and Landscape

C.D. Wright on Revision

Off playing with my uncle and aunt who are visiting from Mountain Home, Arkansas.

The other day I was watching video clips of poet C. D. Wright who passed away January 12. Coincidentally, she was born in Mountain Home. I found this video where she talks about revision and “the writing mind,” as I would call it.

From what I can find online, they still don’t know how C.D. died. She went to sleep that night and never woke up again. Tests could not determine a cause of death. She was 67 years old and in great shape. A very vital member of the poetry community.

Here’s an article about her death that quotes her brother. Family Mourns Death of Poet Born in Mountain Home

I love how she talks in this video about the way her own mind works regarding writing and revision. She talks about her mind idling after it takes in information. That she can’t respond immediately. I well know that feeling! How about you? 

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Filed under Editing, Poetry, Writing, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

What I Learned about Revision

I’ve been reading a lot about the revision process this past week. I was particularly taken with a list created by Madeline Sharples.  In her list one particular point stood out.  In fact, I can’t get it out of my mind.

She says “Don’t edit as you write.  Write, wait a while, then edit.”  I thought that for a full-length book she couldn’t possibly mean write one scene or one chapter and set it aside, then revise, then write the next scene or chapter.  That must mean write the whole durn book, then wait a while and then edit.  Wow, why didn’t anybody tell me this before?

For the first couple of years, it’s true that I needed to keep revising because I had to find my story and how to start it.  I thought I had my story—it was about how I grew up with a father who was in some ways wonderful and in other ways a terror.  But it wasn’t until I wrestled with getting my memories down on paper that I learned I had to have a very specific string to hang these beads on.

Well, that’s been accomplished for a year now, and I am still revising by scene and by chapter and listening to a lot of advice from my wonderful and smart readers. But it’s time I take Sharples’ advice and just write the book already.

Then I can set it aside to breathe and start my next book about my goofy husband or maybe my cats.  Maybe finish my play, my young adult novel, or my poetry manuscript.

When I’m ready I can revise the entire book.  Good thing I planned for a ten year process.

Now there’s one caveat to this advice. If you’re a writer like Dylan Thomas , you can skip the advice altogether. He wrote two lines of poetry, revised, and then kept going.  He didn’t go back and revise the whole poem. That’s a writer with the final product in his head from the beginning. I can’t even imagine having that ability.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Poetry, Research and prep for writing