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  • Writer's pictureNazifa Islam

Sylvia Plath Found Poem in Vagabond City

You can read "Apart," a Sylvia Plath found poem, in the new issue of Vagabond City! I wrote this poem using a paragraph from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. Here is the paragraph I used with the words I selected in red:


- The reason that I haven't been writing in this book for so long is partly that I haven't had one decent coherent thought to put down. My mind is, to use a disgustingly obvious simile, like a wastebasket full of waste paper; bits of hair, and rotting apple cores. I am feeling depressed from being exposed to so many lives, so many of them exciting, new to my realm of experience. I pass by people, grazing them on the edges, and it bothers me. I've got to admire someone to really like them deeply - to value them as friends. It was that way with Ann: I admired her wit, her riding, her vivacious imagination - all the things that made her the way she was. I could lean on her as she leaned on me. Together the two of us could face anything - only not quite anything, or she would be back. And so she is gone, and I am bereft for awhile. But what do I know of sorrow? No one I love has ever died or been tortured. I have never wanted for food to eat, or a place to sleep. I have been gifted with five senses and an attractive exterior. So I can philosophize from my snug little cushioned seat. So I am going to one of the most outstanding colleges in America; I am living with two thousand of the most outstanding girls in the United States. What have I to complain about? Nothing much. The main way I can add to my self-respect is by saying that I'm on scholarship, and if I hadn't exercised my free will and studied through high school I never would be here. But when you come right down to it, how much of that was free will? How much was the capacity to think that I got from my parents, the home urge to study and do well academically, the necessity to find an alternative for the social world of boys and girls to which I was forbidden acceptance? And does not my desire to write come from a tendency toward introversion begun when I was small, brought up as I was in the fairy-tale world of Mary Poppins and Winnie-the-Pooh? Did not that set me apart from most of my school mates? - the fact that I got all A's and was "different" from the roughand-tumble Conways - how I am not quite sure, but "different" as the animal with the touch of human hands about him when he returns to the herd. All this may be a subtle way of egoistically separating myself from the common herd, but take it for what it's worth. As for free will, there is such a narrow crack of it for man to move in, crushed as he is from birth by environment, heredity, time and event and local convention. If I had been born of Italian parents in one of the caves in the hills I would be a prostitute at the age of 12 or so because I had to live (why?) and that was the only way open. If I was born into a wealthy New York family with pseudo-cultural leanings, I would have had my coming-out party along with the rest of them, and be equipped with fur coats, social contacts, and a blase pout. How do I know? I don't; I can only guess. I wouldn't be I. But I am I now; and so many other millions are so irretrievably their own special variety of "I" that I can hardly bear to think of it. I: how firm a letter; how reassuring the three strokes: one vertical, proud and assertive, and then the two short horizontal lines in quick, smug succession. The pen scratches on the paper... I... I... I... I... I... I.


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