Sunday, 20 March 2011

Jamaica Plain perfection!

Sylvia Plath's poetry is littered with references to the sea and the ocean. She begins the short story "Ocean 1212-W" (from Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams) with the following: "My childhood landscape was not land but the end of the land - the cold, salt, running hills of the Atlantic. I sometimes think my vision of the sea is the clearest thing I own". It was a source of constant fascination for her. A lot of these imageries of the sea tie in with Plath's deceased father and her recollections of him. Plath finishes that same short story stating "And this is how it stiffens, my vision of that seaside childhood. My father died, we moved inland. Whereupon those nine first years of my life sealed themselves off like a ship in a bottle - beautiful, inaccessible, obsolete, a fine, white flying myth".

Plath used her poetry as a mechanism to try and resolve feelings about her dead father a great deal. The famous 'Daddy' being the landmark piece. I am currently looking at her 'Daddy Issues' for a presentation I'm giving this coming Thursday. I am a member of a Psychoanalytical Research Group at University, so am giving my presentation in accordance with a psychoanalytical analysis of Plath's work. Personally I am not a huge fan of psychoanalysis - particularly when it comes to looking at poetry and literature. And especially in the case of Plath. All too often critics take the 'easy way out' attributing Plath's work as Freudian and no more. They take a 2D approach to 'Daddy' and simply put the entire poem down to father / daughter issues, with some Ted Hughes angst thrown in for good measure. They look at 'Daddy' and adopt a Ronseal Wood ("it does what it says on the tin") attitude. In my opinion, 'Daddy' is a complex poem which of course, deals with father issues but also the place of the literature, people and the world in the aftermath of post-WW2 events, as well as many other themes. Psychoanalysis to me, is mere speculation and I would definitely not base any literary analysis on it alone. Although I do admit, it's important to take into consideration. So - as the resident cynic of my research group, I hope to give two sides in my presentation: the benefits and dangers of psychoanalysis.

While looking at texts relating to Plath and her father, I realised how much "Ocean 1212-W" struck me. The image of Plath's childhood like a ship in a bottle - something that she could merely look back on, but never again feel or relate to. It made me think of Jamaica Plain, where Sylvia grew up. I became curious to see what it looked like and found a wonderful flickr image pool of the area in Massachusetts. Here are some of my favourite images of the area Sylvia Plath lived and spent the first years of her life.

View from a bedroom window.
Perhaps Sylvia herself sat at such a window, looking out at sunset, thinking and dreaming.

A typical house lining the streets of Jamaica Plain.

Personally, I think that Jamaica Plain looks absolutely beautiful. I have always been fascinated with New England landscapes. From the Robert Frost descriptions of lonely wintry woods, to Sylvia's childhood idyll. I think that whole area of the US must be a joy to live in - especially in "leaf season".

Things in the world of my PhD have been very hectic. I've been re-drafting a chapter, preparing for my presentation and writing an article I hope to submit to an online Plath journal. Better to be busy than not though! I turned 26 yesterday and spent the day working on my presentation which was a bit of a downer.. However, once I fulfil my academic deadlines I have a few fun things lined up. My best friend bought me tickets to see my favourite musician in the world, Ryan Adams. The space in my heart that Sylvia does not occupy is filled by Ryan! The concert is in June and I am literally counting the days!! It's great to have such things to look forward to: they make the quiet and lonely times a lot more bearable:)

I'll update later in the week reporting on the success of failure of my presentation!


Michelle McDaid said...

Hi, I came across your blog and I'm practically certain I met you at PhD preparation classes in Coleraine back in September. (I remember your thesis title). I was doing a PhD in Law but quit after six weeks! I'm going to do a primary teaching course instead. Anyway, just thought I'd say I'm glad to see you're still plugging away at it, I'm really enjoying reading the blog!

The Plath Diaries said...

Hi Michelle! Thanks for getting in touch! I remember you too!! :) That's a shame you didn't like the course but good on you for not being scared to keep going on and for hoping to do the primary teaching course instead! :) Glad you liked the blog, I just had a look at yours and love it too! :) Such a pity you aren't around campus, it would have been great to meet up for a cup of tea:)

Take care!

Maeve xox

Anthea said...

What stunning photographs! Did you take them? New England is simply stunning during the Fall/Autumn due to the changing colours of the leaves and the plants. You should definitely try to visit at this time of year. The incredible heat has gone and its just lovely to wander aroudn the countryside to possibly just visit the little towns and villages. It's a lot of fun and totally worthwhile.

Rehan Qayoom said...

She refers to the 'sea-father-god-muse' in the journals.

tulip and willow said...

Sorry this isn't a very intellectual comment but I just wanted to comment about how jealous I am of your phd! It sounds so fascinating and I am really intrigued :) I remember getting her unedited journals I think when I was in sixthform and I spent the whole summer reading and re-reading them.

What do you think about her relationship with Ted Hughes? I realise that is a huge question!

I am so tempted to do a Phd! Not quite yet though. The MA feels so rushed (I know that is partially to do with me working) but I feel like I don't have time to properly explore the people I am looking at and I really feel like a Phd would allow for that.

The Plath Diaries said...

@ Anthea - I would absolutely love to visit New England some time, especially in autumn. I spent a few days in Boston City during a very cold February in 2009 and loved it! The photographs, I cannot take credit for. If you click on them they'll take you to the flickr account of the owner!

@ Tulip and Willow - Thank you so much for your comment! It really is a dream come true to be able to study about Sylvia. I finished my MA in 2007 and went into a job.. I never thought I'd have the chance to study again:) So lucky!

I'd definitely recommend really knowing that you want to do that PhD and having a strong plan upon application as well. The fact all the budget cuts are occuring just makes it all the more difficult! Though your MA seems so interesting as well! Keep in touch! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Maeve,

I was just reading up on Plath on the internet and stumbled upon your blog. Must say, your work is fascinating! Am writing from Assam, India. Would like to interact with you. Here's my email id:

Love, R :)