I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. (Virginia Woolf) We become ourselves through others, and the self is a porous thing, not a sealed container (Siri Hustvedt) En vez de mirarme en mi espejo quiero que mi espejo se mire en mí (Alejandra Pizarnik)
Among repetitions and certain apparently unimportant facts or impressions about the daily life, in Sylvia Plath’s journals one can find illuminating embryos of her work, be it poems or stories.
On December 12th 1958, after having seen doctor Ruth Beuscher, Plath reveals key information about her mother in relation to herself but also to her husband, Plath’s inmmortalised daddy….
In the following texts Plath will undress and show herself powerless, violent, desperate and strong at the same time. She highlights the complicated relationship with her mother and confesses she would have had to kill her for many reasons, the most important one being that she (the mom) had “killed” her husband, Plath’s father figure. But instead, Sylvia Plath tried to kill herself. And in the poem Daddy, as it is well known, Plath also kills her capitalised father for good in order to be able to go on living after her resurrection. For the American poet “killing” seems to be a necessity, a guarantee of inner rebirth.
These impacting fragments of Sylvia Plath’s journal referred mainly to her mother are followed by a video where she marvellously reads Daddy, one of her most intense, confessional, symbolist and painful elegy. It can also be read as Plath’s self-portrait. Undoubtedly, Daddy is one my favourite poems of all times.
On top she is all smarmy nice: she gave herself to her children, and now by God they can give theselves back to her: why should they make her worry worry worry? She’s had a hard life: married a man, with the pre-thirty jitters on her, who was older than her own mother, with a wife out West. Married in Reno. He got sick the minute the priest told them they could kiss. Sick and sicker. She figured he was such a brute she couldn’t, didn’t love him. Stood in the shower forcing herself to enjoy the hot water on her body because she hated his guts. He wouldn’t go to a doctor, wouldn’t believe in God and heiled Hitler in the privacy of his home. She suffered. Married to a man she didn’t love. The Children were her salvation. She put them First, Herself bound to the track naked and the train called Life coming with a frown and a choo-choo around the bend. “I am bloody bloody bloody. Look what they do to me. I have ulcers, see how I bleed. My husband whom I hate is in the hospital with gangrene and diabetes and a beard and they cut his leg off and he disgusts me and he may live a cripple and wouldn’tI hate that. Let him die.” (He died): “The blood clot hit his brain and wasn’t it lucky he died because what a bother he’d be around the house, a living idiot and me having to support him in addition to the two children.”
She came home crying like an angel one night and woke me up and told me Daddy was gone, he was what they called dead, and we’d never see him again, but the three of us would stick together and have a jolly life anyhow, to spite his face. He didn’t leave hardly enough money to bury him because he lost on the stocks, just like her own father did, and wasn’t it awful. Men men men.
[…] Me, I never knew the love of a father, the love of a steady blood-related man after the age of eight. My mother killed the only man who’d love me steady through life: came in one morning with tears of nobility in her eyes and told me he was gone for good: I hate her for that.
I hate her because he wasn’t loved by her. He was an ogre. But I miss him.
[…] I hated men because they didn’t stay around and love me like a father: I could prick holes in them & show they were no father-material. I made them propose and then showed them they hadn’t a chance. I hated men because they didn’t have to suffer like a woman did.
[…] She killed him (The Father) by marrying him too old, by marrying him sick to death and dying, by burying him every day since in her heart, mind and words.
[…] So how do I express my hate for my mother? In my deepest emotions I think of her as an enemy: somebody who “killed” my father, my first male ally in the world. She is a murderess of maleness. I lay in my bed when I thought my mind was going blank forever and thought what a luxury it would be to kill her, to strangle her skinny veined throat which could never be big engough to protect me from the world. But I was too nice for murder. I tried to murder myself: to keep from being an embarrassment to the ones I loved and from living myself in a mindless hell. How thoughtful: Do unto yourself as you would do to others. I’d kill her, so I killed myself…
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. Anchor, 2000.
You do not do, you do not do Any more, black shoe In which I have lived like a foot For thirty years, poor and white, Barely daring to breathe or Achoo. Daddy, I have had to kill you. You died before I had time-- Marble-heavy, a bag full of God, Ghastly statue with one gray toe Big as a Frisco seal And a head in the freakish Atlantic Where it pours bean green over blue In the waters off beautiful Nauset. I used to pray to recover you. Ach, du. In the German tongue, in the Polish town Scraped flat by the roller Of wars, wars, wars. But the name of the town is common. My Polack friend Says there are a dozen or two. So I never could tell where you Put your foot, your root, I never could talk to you. The tongue stuck in my jaw. It stuck in a barb wire snare. Ich, ich, ich, ich, I could hardly speak. I thought every German was you. And the language obscene An engine, an engine Chuffing me off like a Jew. A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. I began to talk like a Jew. I think I may well be a Jew. The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna Are not very pure or true. With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack I may be a bit of a Jew. I have always been scared of you, With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo. And your neat mustache And your Aryan eye, bright blue. Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You-- Not God but a swastika So black no sky could squeak through. Every woman adores a Fascist, The boot in the face, the brute Brute heart of a brute like you. You stand at the blackboard, daddy, In the picture I have of you, A cleft in your chin instead of your foot But no less a devil for that, no not Any less the black man who Bit my pretty red heart in two. I was ten when they buried you. At twenty I tried to die And get back, back, back to you. I thought even the bones would do. But they pulled me out of the sack, And they stuck me together with glue. And then I knew what to do. I made a model of you, A man in black with a Meinkampf look And a love of the rack and the screw. And I said I do, I do. So daddy, I'm finally through. The black telephone's off at the root, The voices just can't worm through. If I've killed one man, I've killed two-- The vampire who said he was you And drank my blood for a year, Seven years, if you want to know. Daddy, you can lie back now. There's a stake in your fat black heart And the villagers never liked you. They are dancing and stamping on you. They always knew it was you. Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.
12 October 1962