Friday, 20 July 2012

Day 29: You're

How do you describe someone you love? Words fail us most of the time. Except for the general and the one-size-fits-all easy flung around adjectives of 'amazing' and 'wonderful' and when it comes to babies - ooh-and-ahhing of the like. 

But if you're a poet, you'll have no end of words. And descriptions. Comparisons. Like Sylvia Plath here in a poem she wrote describing her unborn baby (*or husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes, as a few interpretations go).

There are so many original endearing (and endeared) descriptions here it's easy to get a sense of the loving admiration behind it.

You're - Sylvia Plath

Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo's mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools' Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.


  1. I think this poem 'You're' is about her pregnancy i.e. she is speaking to her unborn child..:-)

  2. Hi Áine, thanks for that! You know - it's quite strange, I came across this poem in a revision book for Leaving Certs a few years ago, and the brief background offered was that it was a character portrait of Ted Hughes, her husband. It wasn't until recently I've read the pregnancy interpretation, but that first reading has just stuck with me! But maybe some of the description in it applies to him too, eg - wrapped up in yourself like a spool' is quite appropriate! But I shall note that, thanks.

  3. I think Aine is right, though only the writer could say for sure. It might be both, really, especially if he was the father. When I read it first-before I read preamble- I thought gilled like a fish (as small embryos literally are) and moon skulled referred to an unborn child. Reading it again, the second stanza seems like it could only be a child reaching full term. It is interesting that your Leaving Cert presented it as a character study of her husband. Was it something Sylvia said about the poem herself, I wonder? I know she is gone, so it is hard to know for sure. An interesting one, either way. Carmel

  4. Yes, it does make much more sense! Especially lines like 'o high-riser, my little loaf' and 'mute as a turnip from the fourth of July to All Fool's Day - 9 months.

    I'd say their interpretation wasn't that well-researched...!

    I can see descriptions relating to him in it too though, like 'vague as fog' and 'looked for like mail' and especially 'wrapped up in yourself like a spool'! He was very self-centred, by all accounts, especially when it came to his own writing.

    I think the comparisons are amazing though - very original.


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