'Tulips' by Sylvia Plath
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The Collected Poems1961The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons.They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage ----
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
Stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free ----
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I hve no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Tulips by Sylvia Plath: A Masterpiece of Confessional Poetry
Sylvia Plath's Tulips is a poem that explores the themes of identity, isolation, and mortality through the imagery of tulips, which symbolize life, death, and renewal. The poem is a masterful example of confessional poetry, a genre that Plath helped to popularize in the 20th century. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the meaning and significance of Tulips, and how it fits into the larger body of Plath's work.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American poet and novelist who is best known for her confessional poetry, which is characterized by its deeply personal and emotional subject matter. Plath's life was marked by tragedy and mental illness, and her poetry reflects these struggles. She committed suicide in 1963, at the age of 30, and her work has since become more popular and widely studied.
Tulips was written in 1961, just two years before Plath's death. It was published posthumously in the collection Ariel, along with some of her other most famous poems. The poem has become one of Plath's most famous and widely anthologized works, and it is often cited as an example of her ability to combine vivid imagery with complex psychological themes.
The poem begins with the speaker describing a hospital room, where she is recovering from an illness. The room is described in vivid detail, with the "white curtains, a white ceiling, and a white piece / Of paper with a circle of words" serving as a stark contrast to the colorful and vibrant world outside. The speaker is isolated from this world, and is forced to confront her own mortality in the sterile and clinical environment of the hospital.
However, the speaker is soon distracted by the arrival of a bouquet of tulips, which serve as a symbol for the beauty and vitality of life. The tulips are described in sensory detail, with their "redness" and "brightness" serving as a stark contrast to the whiteness of the hospital room. The speaker is drawn to the tulips, and begins to identify with them, stating that "I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions."
This identification with the tulips is a key theme of the poem, as it represents the speaker's desire to escape from her own identity and to merge with the natural world. The tulips become a symbol for life itself, and the speaker is drawn to them because they represent a kind of purity and vitality that she feels she is lacking. However, this identification with the tulips is also a source of anxiety, as it represents a kind of loss of self and a surrender to the natural world.
The poem takes on a more ominous tone in the second stanza, as the speaker begins to describe the tulips in more detail. She notes that they seem to be "too red in the first place," and that their "light lies on a gray wall." This description of the tulips as being too bright and too intense serves as a metaphor for the overwhelming nature of life itself. The speaker is overwhelmed by the intensity of the tulips, and is unable to escape from their pull.
The poem reaches its climax in the final stanza, as the speaker is forced to confront the reality of her own mortality. She describes the tulips as "opening out of the darkness," and notes that "the water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea." These lines serve as a metaphor for the cycle of life and death, and the speaker's realization that she is a part of this cycle. The warm and salty water represents the tears of those who have come before her, and the darkness represents the unknown future that awaits her.
The final lines of the poem bring the themes of identity and mortality together, as the speaker acknowledges that she cannot escape from her own identity, even as she longs to merge with the natural world. She notes that "I have nothing to do with explosions," and that she is "nobody." This represents a kind of resignation to her own mortality, as she acknowledges that she is a finite being, with limited time on this earth.
Tulips is a deeply personal and emotional poem that explores some of the key themes of Sylvia Plath's work. The poem is a masterful example of confessional poetry, as it draws heavily on Plath's own experiences of illness and isolation. The hospital room represents a kind of purgatory for the speaker, who is forced to confront her own mortality in a sterile and clinical environment.
The tulips serve as a symbol for life, and the speaker is drawn to them because they represent a kind of purity and vitality that she feels she is lacking. However, this identification with the tulips is also a source of anxiety, as it represents a kind of loss of self and a surrender to the natural world. The tulips are described in sensory detail, with their "redness" and "brightness" serving as a stark contrast to the whiteness of the hospital room.
The second stanza of the poem takes on a more ominous tone, as the speaker begins to describe the tulips in more detail. She notes that they seem to be "too red in the first place," and that their "light lies on a gray wall." This description of the tulips as being too bright and too intense serves as a metaphor for the overwhelming nature of life itself. The speaker is overwhelmed by the intensity of the tulips, and is unable to escape from their pull.
The final stanza of the poem brings the themes of identity and mortality together, as the speaker acknowledges that she cannot escape from her own identity, even as she longs to merge with the natural world. She notes that "I have nothing to do with explosions," and that she is "nobody." This represents a kind of resignation to her own mortality, as she acknowledges that she is a finite being, with limited time on this earth.
Overall, Tulips is a masterful example of confessional poetry, and a deeply personal exploration of the themes of identity, isolation, and mortality. The poem is a testament to Sylvia Plath's skill as a poet, and her ability to create vivid and compelling imagery that speaks to the human experience.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Tulips: A Masterpiece by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and her work continues to inspire and captivate readers around the world. Her poem "Tulips" is a masterpiece that explores themes of identity, isolation, and the struggle for selfhood. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this iconic poem, and explore the ways in which Plath's words continue to resonate with readers today.
The poem "Tulips" was written in 1961, during a period of intense emotional turmoil for Plath. She had recently undergone a miscarriage, and was struggling with feelings of depression and isolation. The poem reflects these experiences, and explores the ways in which Plath sought to find meaning and purpose in her life.
The poem begins with the speaker describing a hospital room, where she is recovering from an illness. The room is described in vivid detail, with the speaker noting the "white curtains" and "white walls" that surround her. The use of the color white is significant, as it represents purity and innocence, but also suggests a sense of emptiness and isolation.
As the poem progresses, the speaker becomes increasingly aware of the tulips that have been placed in her room. The tulips are described as "too excitable" and "too red", and the speaker notes that they are "too much" for her. This suggests that the tulips represent a kind of excess or overwhelming emotion that the speaker is struggling to deal with.
The tulips also serve as a symbol of the outside world, which the speaker is trying to distance herself from. The speaker notes that the tulips are "out there in a riotous blaze of color", and suggests that they are a reminder of the chaos and confusion of the world outside her hospital room. The speaker longs for the peace and quiet of her hospital room, and resents the intrusion of the tulips into her space.
However, as the poem progresses, the speaker begins to feel a strange affinity with the tulips. She notes that they are "opening and closing their reds and whites", and suggests that they are a kind of mirror for her own emotional state. The tulips become a symbol of the speaker's own struggle for selfhood, and represent the conflicting emotions that she is trying to reconcile.
The final stanza of the poem is particularly powerful, as the speaker describes the moment when she finally gives in to the tulips. She notes that she "let them take me", and suggests that she has finally surrendered to the overwhelming emotions that the tulips represent. This moment of surrender is both terrifying and liberating, as the speaker finally allows herself to feel the full force of her emotions.
Overall, "Tulips" is a powerful and deeply moving poem that explores the themes of identity, isolation, and the struggle for selfhood. Plath's use of vivid imagery and powerful symbolism creates a sense of intensity and urgency that is both captivating and unsettling. The poem is a testament to Plath's skill as a poet, and her ability to capture the complexities of the human experience in a few short lines.
In conclusion, "Tulips" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that continues to inspire and captivate readers today. Plath's words are a reminder of the power of language to capture the complexities of the human experience, and to help us make sense of the world around us. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply looking for a powerful and moving piece of literature, "Tulips" is a must-read that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
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