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by Sylvia Plath
Harper Audio, 2000
Review by Miranda Hale on Oct 14th 2002

Sylvia Plath Reads

            The first impression one gets from listening to Sylvia Plath read her poetry is that she possessed the most haunting of voices.  Her voice echoes throughout whatever chamber it is played in, filling the space and bouncing off the walls with its beautifully clear enunciation and barely contained emotion. Sylvia's words, although very fierce and lovely on the page, become even more so as they come from the mouth of the poet herself: each word seems to take on a shape and feeling of its own, coming out of her mouth with all of the force and desire of one possessed.

            Encompassing twenty-two of Plath's poems, this audiobook has no narrator and no explication; it is merely Plath's voice, on its own, and is all the more emotive, lively, and effective for it. Each poem blends into the next, beginning with the ominous "The Ghost's Leavetaking," in which Plath urges the tangible representation of mortality to


Go, ghost of our mother and father, ghost of us,/ And ghost of our dreams' children, in those sheets/ Which signify our origin and end,/ To the cloud-cuckoo land of color wheels/ And pristine alphabets and cows that moo/ And moo as they jump over moons as new/ As that crisp cusp towards which you voyage now.


            Her word choice is strong and clear, and her voice adds to the yearning present in the lines for a return to an ability to believe in and enjoy things more fully and innocently.  This is the voice of a poet who has been through difficult and trying times and is certain that there is more suffering and trial to come. On "The Disquieting Muses," Plath lets the listener/ reader a glimpse into her private world of mental illness and creative energy, two related sides of herself:


When on tiptoe the schoolgirls danced, / Blinking flashlights like fireflies/ And singing the glowworm song, I could/ Not lift a foot in the twinkle-dress/ But, heavy-footed, stood aside/ In the shadow cast by my dismal-headed/ Godmothers, and you cried and cried:/ And the shadows stretched, the lights went out.


            Throughout this sampling of her poems, Plath deals with the issues and feelings that informed and shaped so much of her poetry: loss, death, fatherhood, love, desire, hope, pain, grief, and mental illness. Listen to this audiobook while reading Plath's poetry: it is an experience that offers an insight into the poet that just one of them cannot, and shows Plath's talent with words/as a poet, as well as her ability to share her grief and feelings unlike most other poets of her generation.


© 2002 Miranda Hale


Miranda Hale is a graduate student in English Literature who lives in Spokane, Washington and who reads entirely too much Sylvia Plath.


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