(Masterpieces of American Literature)

An early work that is one of the few life-affirming Plath poems is “Black Rook in Rainy Weather,” a description of a bird in a tree that uses terms of the heavenly (“angels,” “radiance,” and “miracles”) to describe things of this earth. One of the most frequently anthologized early poems, it demonstrates the gift of the visual. Like many of the poems in The Colossus, it is formally controlled. It uses a unique stanza form of five-line stanzas with repeating rhymes of Abcde throughout the poem; off-rhymes are common. (For example, the a-rhymes are “there,” “fire,” “desire,” “chair,” “honor,” “flare,” “fear,” and “occur” from the beginning to the end of the poem.) This pattern helps to convey the impression that this is a diminished world with haphazard arrangements.

Seeing a “wet black rook/ Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain,” the observer reflects that she no longer looks for intention in nature. She no longer believes that there is some kind of “design” in the world, that natural phenomena bear God’s signature. She admits to wanting some kind of communication with the Other: “I desire,/ Occasionally, some backtalk/ From the mute sky.” Yet she is willing to accept the physical delight of the occasional natural revelation in its place, the “minor light” that may transform an ordinary object into a vision: “As if a celestial burning took/...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Anderson, Robert. Little Fugue. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005.

Axelrod, Steven Gould. Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

Bassnett, Susan. Sylvia Plath: An Introduction to the Poetry. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

Brain, Tracy. The Other Sylvia Plath. New York: Longman, 2001.

Bundtzen, Lynda. Plath’s Incarnations: Woman and the Creative Process. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983.

Butscher, Edward. Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness. New York: Seabury Press, 1976.

Butscher, Edward, ed. Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977.

Hall, Caroline King Barnard. Sylvia Plath. New York: Twayne, 1998.

Hughes, Frieda. Foreword to Ariel: The Restored Edition, by Sylvia Plath. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

Hughes, Ted. Birthday Letters. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.

Kirk, Connie Ann. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

Malcolm, Janet. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Middlebrook, Diane. Her Husband: Hughes and Plath—a Marriage. New York: Viking, 2003.

Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

Wagner, Erica. Ariel’s Gift. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. Sylvia Plath: A Biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.