Tag: Sylvia Plath

Home for Christmas

Friday, 22 December, 2017 0 Comments

Mademoiselle was an American women’s magazine first published in 1935. It was popular and profitable for six decades but changing tastes and the arrival of new media platforms led to a decline in readership and a loss of advertising revenue. The November 2001 issue was the final one. Fashion was the primary focus but Mademoiselle was also known for publishing stories by authors such as Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Sylvia Plath, James Baldwin, Jane Smiley, Paul Bowles, Barbara Kingsolver and Alice Munro.

In 1955, Mademoiselle published “Home for Christmas” by Elizabeth Bowen. The theme is the returns and reunions that are hallmarks of the season but there’s another current running through the piece and it’s manifest in the final brace of sentences: “Dearer than memory, brighter than expectation is the ever returning now of Christmas. Why else, each time we greet its return, should happiness ring out in us like a peal of bells?” In this way, Bowen lets us know that the spiritual and Christian aspects of Christmas are central to its meaning. The opening of the story is magical:

“This is meeting-again time. Home is the magnet. The winter land roars and hums with the eager speed of return journeys. The dark is noisy and bright with late-night arrivals — doors thrown open, running shadows on snow, open arms, kisses, voices and laughter, laughter at everything and nothing. Inarticulate, giddying and confused are those original minutes of being back again. The very familiarity of everything acts like a shock. Contentment has to be drawn in slowly, steadingingly, in deep breaths — there is so much of it. We rely on home not to change, and it does not, wherefore we give thanks. Again Christmas: abiding point of return. Set apart from its mystery, mood and magic, the season seems in a way to stand outside time. All that is dear, that is lasting, renews its hold on us: we are home again.”

Bowen's Court

What a perfect phrase: “Christmas: abiding point of return.” Tomorrow, here, the Christmas toast at Bowen’s Court.


Love’s austere and lonely offices

Sunday, 23 November, 2014 0 Comments

What are the chances of having the word “blueblack” appear here twice in one week? On Wednesday, we had Sylvia Plath describing “The night sky is only a sort of carbon paper, Blueblack with the much-poked periods of stars”, and today Robert Hayden recalls his father dressing “in the blueblack cold.” Hayden’s beautiful acknowledgement of “love’s austere and lonely offices” is a reminder of this tragic truth about human affairs: love isn’t always articulate, and it’s often expressed too late.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Robert Hayden (1913 — 1980)

My good shoes


Blueblack, bonewhite light

Wednesday, 19 November, 2014 1 Comment

Light

“The night sky is only a sort of carbon paper,
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole —
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.”

Sylvia Plath


Earless and eyeless and perfectly voiceless

Sunday, 1 September, 2013 0 Comments

Mushrooms Overnight, very Whitely, discreetly, Very quietly Our toes, our noses Take hold on the loam, Acquire the air. Nobody sees us, Stops us, betrays us; The small grains make room. Soft fists insist on Heaving the needles, The leafy bedding, Even the paving. Our hammers, our rams, Earless and eyeless, Perfectly voiceless, Widen the […]

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