Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Short Poems by Sylvia Plath

A quick post amidst a busy, busy week: two poems by Sylvia Plath, whose work I'm returning to for a session of the 3 Poems By discussion group.  I've appended a note on the Hanged Man card from the Tarot deck by way of explanation.  I found both these short poems intriguing. 

The Hanging Man

By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me.  
I sizzled in his blue volts like a desert prophet.

The nights snapped out of sight like a lizard’s eyelid:  
A world of bald white days in a shadeless socket.

A vulturous boredom pinned me in this tree.  
If he were I, he would do what I did.

On the Hanged Man card from the Tarot Deck:


Basic Card Symbols

A man hanging by one foot from a Tau cross - sometimes from a bar or tree. His free leg is always bent to form a "4," his face is always peaceful, never suffering. Sometimes his hands are bound, sometimes they dangle. Sometimes coins fall out of his pockets or hands.

Basic Tarot Story

The Fool settles beneath a tree, intent on finding his spiritual self. There he stays for nine days, without eating, barely moving. People pass by him, animals, clouds, the wind, the rain, the stars, sun and moon. On the ninth day, with no conscious thought of why, he climbs a branch and dangles upside down like a child, giving up for a moment, all that he is, wants, knows or cares about. Coins fall from his pockets and as he gazes down on them - seeing them not as money but only as round bits of metal - everything suddenly changes perspective. It is as if he's hanging between the mundane world and the spiritual world, able to see both. It is a dazzling moment, dreamlike yet crystal clear. Connections he never understood before are made, mysteries are revealed.

But timeless as this moment of clarity seems, he realizes that it will not last. Very soon, he must right himself, and when he does, things will be different. He will have to act on what he's learned. For now, however, he just hangs, weightless as if underwater, observing, absorbing, seeing.

Basic Tarot Meaning

With Neptune (or Water) as its planet, the Hanged Man is perhaps the most fascinating card in the deck. It reflects the story of Odin who offered himself as a sacrifice in order to gain knowledge. Hanging from the world tree, wounded by a spear, given no bread or mead, he hung for nine days. On the last day, he saw on the ground runes that had fallen from the tree, understood their meaning, and, coming down, scooped them up for his own. All knowledge is to be found in these runes.

The Hanged Man, in similar fashion, is a card about suspension, not life or death. This is a time of trial or meditation, selflessness, sacrifice, prophecy. The Querent stops resisting; instead he makes himself vulnerable, sacrifices his position or opposition, and in doing so, gains illumination. Answers that eluded him become clear, solutions to problems are found. He sees the world differently, has almost mystical insights. This card can also imply a time when everything just stands still, a time of rest and reflection before moving on. Things will continue on in a moment, but for now, they float, timeless.

Thirteen's Observations

Neptune is spirituality, dreams, psychic abilities, and the Hanged Man is afloat in these. He is also 12, the opposite of the World card, 21. With the World card you go infinitely out. With the Hanged Man, you go infinitely in.

This card signifies a time of insight so deep that, for a moment, nothing but that insight exists. All Tarot readers have such moments when we see, with absolute clarity, the whole picture, the entire message offered by a spread. The Hanged Man symbolizes such moments of suspension between physical and mystical worlds. Such moments don't last, and they usually require some kind of sacrifice. Sacrifice of a belief or perspective, a wish, dream, hope, money, time or even selfhood. In order to gain, you must give. Sometimes you need to sacrifice cherished positions, open yourself to other truths, other perspectives in order to find solutions, in order to bring about change. One thing is certain, whether the insight is great or small, spiritual or mundane, once you have been the Hanged Man you never see things quite the same.


   I'm the riddle in nine syllables,
   An elephant, a ponderous house
   A melon strolling on two tendrils.
   O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
   This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
   Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
   I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
   I've eaten a bag of green apples,
   Boarded the train there's no getting off.

This is a Dickinsonian style riddle-poem.   9-lines, of 9 syllables each, jam-packed with metaphors for ...


One from the master, to round things out:

baby sparrow--
even when people come
opening its mouth
translated by David G. Lanoue


PS  Get 2 free issues     Get 2 more free issues     Lillie poem archive

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 79 songs
Hear all 79 at once on the the LitRock Jukebox


Anonymous said...

just the other day
in between this
&that I discovered
(another) that that
there is a "Sylvia Plath"
site on the net I think I got to
it via Ron's blog-roll

as for your new 'thing' linking many to facebook...
I dropped facebook.... in favor of
replying to emails, letters, post-cards, phone-calls
and VISITS ...(remember those?)

cold cold here put another log on the fire
&spend the day re:visiting Sylvia Plath's work
& (maybe) into Ted Hughes' ...too.

thanks for the "goose". I needed ...that!


Anonymous said...


in that now ancient Charles Olson .... 5 + hour performance in what
CO said:

(something like) "well, I AM the Hanged Man" (then a chuckle he).


Jhon Baker said...

INteresting, Plath must me on the mind of everyone lately - I posted about her the other day with a work of my own. Check it out if you have time.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Lots have dropped from Facebook and understandably. For the mag it is helpful.

Love the Olsen quote.

Real cold out here in the woods. Back to sunny, warm Pittsburgh very soon.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Jhon, thanks for the note and the tip, will do. Don

Charles Gramlich said...

I've liked everything by Plath I've ever read.

Conrad DiDiodato said...

I'm with you, Charles.

I love this woman and her poetry!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, she is amazing in both her artistry and power ...

Thanks, too, Conrad ... glad you liked.