On Wednesday afternoon, I got lost in the poetry section at Borders (not my first choice for poetry, I must admit, but I had a $5 gift card. Of course, I was so distracted by the fun I had that I didn't remember to use it).
I pulled a few books off the shelf and settled into a comfy leather chair with my iced mocha (with whipped cream!) and began to read the pages of the poems of Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac, and Naomi Shihab Nye.
I discovered something that people who have visited poetryland for years now already know. There is a rhyme and reason to the order of poems in a book of poetry. I suppose on some level I understood this. However, I didn't really "get" this until I started reading this book of Sylvia Plath's poetry. This is the collection of her poems that was published by her husband, Ted Hughes, after her death. When he published them, he, as her daughter explains in the foreword of the book, "left out some of the more lacerating poems." It seems he did this in an attempt not to alienate the reader or hurt her friends and family. Some of you may be familiar with this story. I was not. Freida Hughes (Plath's daughter) explains some history here that may be eye opening for some. Again, I am new to Plath's poetry and this story, so I will not even try to speak to all of this here. I am simply intrigued by it all. (And on a sidenote, I didn't realize until I came home from the bookstore to read my email that netflix has sent the movie Sylvia to be delivered tomorrow. Another layer of the story will be given to me I suppose. Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath...walking across my life this week. I guess since they sit beside each other on my bookshelf they must have decided to cook something up and get me to start really reading them.)
This edition includes all of the poems Plath intended for this volume of poetry. It even includes facsimiles of her typed pages in the arrangement she had planned. There are other interesting surprises in the book as well. For example, the hand-written, then typed, drafts of the poem "Ariel." A tiny glimpse into the thought process of this woman. I loved this. Knowing Sylvia Plath had many drafts of one poem. I sat there and took a breath, reminded once again that I am not alone.
As I began to understand that, to the poet, the order of poems is significant, I turned to this book and started to read from the first page. I read the first few...then skipped to the middle and read a few in order there. Ahhh...how interesting.
Of course, these two books came home with me, so that I can continue to read and contemplate and curl up in the words of these two insightful, questioning, courageous, brilliant women. And I suspect that sometimes, I will have to shut the book and sit, with eyes closed, and try to take it in...because these two poets will invite me to look at aspects of my life that may not be as comfortable and question if I am really living or just watching my life.
Click here to read "Morning Song" by Sylvia Plath (from her collection of poems in Ariel).
Click here to read "Streets" by Naomi Shihab Nye (from her collection of poems in Words Under the Words: Selected Poems).
Happy reading...maybe you will feel invited to head to the poetry section and get a little lost yourself.