Guest poem sent in by Ronald Lundquist
(Poem #678) Mirror
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. What ever you see I swallow immediately Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike . I am not cruel, only truthful--- The eye of a little god, four-cornered. Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall. It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers. Faces and darkness separate us over and over. Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me, Searching my reaches for what she really is. Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon. I see her back, and reflect it faithfully. She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands. I am important to her. She comes and goes. Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness. In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
(1932-1963) This poem is haunting, beautiful, gripping and breaks your heart. There are many websites that discuss this poem, most of them interpret the poem in terms of chronological aging (I list a few below.) I am not so sure. Perhaps Plath refers to emotional aging, the evolution from a lively young woman (pre Ted Hughes?) to an angry depressed suicide waiting to happen. Don't misunderstand me. Although I am no deep student of the Plath-Hughes relationship I do not believe Hughes can be blamed for Plath's self-induced demise. They separated in 1962. She wrote this poem in 1961. She killed herself in 1963, three days before Valentine's Day. Anyway I am digressing from the analysis of Mirror. Perhaps Plath is telling us that we uncover to ourselves when we are alone who we really are - or who we want to be or we wish we were. Sometimes it takes a while for the self to discover who he/she is or is not. And maybe that discovery unveils the self to be an angel, at other times it discloses the self to be a terrible fish. Which are you? If you are unhappy with your answer don't worry. Time changes everything. Thr following biography is from Biography.com: Plath, Sylvia 1932 -- 1963 Writer. Born October 27, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts. Plath's father, a German immigrant, was a professor of biology and a leading expert on bumblebees. An autocrat at home, he insisted his wife give up teaching to raise their two children. He died at home after a lingering illness that consumed the energy of the entire household and left the family penniless. Sylvia's mother went to work as a teacher and raised her two children alone. Plath was an outstanding student. She won a scholarship to Smith College, published her first short story, "Sunday at the Mintons," in Mademoiselle while she was still in college, and won a summer job as "guest managing editor" at the magazine. After the job ended, she suffered a nervous breakdown, tried to commit suicide, and was hospitalized. She returned to school to finish her senior year, won a Fulbright to England, and went to Cambridge after graduation, where she met poet Ted Hughes in February 1956. They married four months later. Plath took a job teaching at Smith, which she kept for a year before quitting to write full time. She and Hughes lived in Boston, and she attended poetry workshops with Robert Lowell, whose confessional approach to poetry deeply influenced her. Hughes won a Guggenheim fellowship in 1959 and the couple returned to England, where Plath had her first child. Her first poetry collection, Colossus, was published in 1960 to favorable reviews. The couple bought a house in Devon and had a second child in 1962, the same year that Plath discovered her husband was having an affair. He left the family to move in with his lover, and Plath desperately struggled against her own emotional turmoil and depression. She moved to London and wrote dozens of her best poems in the winter of 1962. Her only novel, The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical account of a college girl who works at a magazine in New York and suffers a breakdown, was published in early 1963 but received mediocre reviews. With sick children, frozen pipes, and a severe case of depression, Plath took her own life in February 1963 at age 30. Hughes edited several volumes of Plath's poetry, which appeared after her death, including Ariel(1965), Crossing the Water (1971), and Collected Poems (1981), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. He received criticism for publishing a severely edited version of his wife's journals, The Journals of Sylvia Plath, in 1982. After Hughes' own death in 1998, Plath's journals were published in full, as The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath,Links discussing Mirror: [broken link] http://www.smithtown.k12.ny.us/highschl/depts/english/fc/mirror.htm [broken link] http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/plath/mirror.html -Ronald