WINTER TREES by Sylvia Plath


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A great deal of the power of Sylvia Plath's poems has to do with destiny. Not destiny as the donnee relating to her subsequent suicide, but destiny as a philosophical or psychological equation. Character is destiny, says Heraclitus. A woman's body is her destiny, says Freud. In the miraculous posthumously published poems written in the last years of her life, of which Winter Trees is the latest installment, Sylvia Plath continually confronts her complex biology and fierce temperament and seems continually affronted by both. ""There are the clothes of a fat woman I do not know./ There is my comb and brush./ I am so vulnerable suddenly./ I am a wound walking out of a hospital./ I am a wound that they are letting go."" It is her own particular sexual vulnerability and her transcendent awareness of the nature of things (""That is that, that is that,"" she keeps insisting) which gives a terrifically prophetic aura to her voice, her lines and images, the stark and restless landscape over which she travels with such intensity, a landscape seductively beckoning to her for a further advance or a terrifying descent. Though opposites clash and mangle one another, though her humiliating hatreds and loves are so immediately present as to seem almost deranged, the Heraclitean and Freudian strains do finally fuse in Sylvia Plath's work -- as of course they could never do in her life. This contradiction is what her poems are ""about,"" but it is the triumph of that fusion, a triumph of craft and dazzling discrimination, which gives her poems their real ""meaning."" Women's Lib is not wrong to be claiming her as a heroine. Certainly she is topical. But beneath the needs of the moment is a timeless resonance which shall surely reverberate for years to come.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1972
Publisher: Harper & Row