ON POETRY, WRITING AND RANDOM CULTURAL MATTERS

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Writing Workshop - Journeys - with Sylvia Plath

My next Writing Workshop for Paris Lit Up is next Sunday, 3 February, at 12h30 in the Library at Shakespeare and Company. The theme is Journeys. Ahead of that, let's take a look at one of Sylvia Plath's poems and here's a suggestion to write something in response.

In Ariel, Plath's poem Totem, is a journey of a less literal kind. Deceptively it starts on a railway line running through countryside, but from the beginning this life metaphor is unstintingly visceral and threatening: 'The engine is eating the track' and 'the farmers like pigs....(have) blood on their minds'. Indeed the poem is soaked in the red stuff from 'the butcher's gullotine' and the aborted hare to Plato's afterbirth, Christ blood and so on: 'the world is blood-hot and personal'. She returns to the travel imagery towards the end of the poem:

'There is no terminus, only suitcases

Out of which the same self unfolds like a suit
Bald and shiny, with pockets of wishes,

Notions and tickets, short circuits and folding mirrors.'

Mirrors again - a Plath trope. It's a frighteningly uncompromising vision of life's journey and the tied nature of existence:

 '...blue children
In nets of the infinite,

Roped in at the end by the one
Death with its many sticks' 

culminating with death in its last line.

Me and the girls, Bryce Canyon, Utah, 2003.
Here's the writing challenge: think of a mode of transport (there are plenty to choose from Shank's pony to parachutes, sailing ships to skateboards, and bicycles to balloons) that represents or could represent your life journey and use its imagery and specialist vocabulary to say something(s) about either your life so far, the life you plan to have in the future, or the life you wish you'd had in the first place. Enjoy and Good Luck.

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