What Lies Ahead

2012 has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Look at it written out: twenty-twelve. It sounds really fresh and sharp, but also has a tone of valor and assuredness, optimism and resolve. The alliteration and concise rhythm add to that tone. Twenty-twelve. Of course neither I nor anyone else knows if this year will unfold with such attributes. We’ll see.

Because I was just in Boston last week, I thought I’d post a New Year’s poem by a Boston native: the one and only Sylvia Plath.  She found the inspiration for “New Year on Dartmoor” as she was taking a walk with her young daughter. While the child sees the end-of-year surroundings with wonder and “newness”, the mother’s voice – the cynical and apprehensive adult – points out the superficiality of it all, knowing that challenges and uncertainty lie ahead. Plath presents it like only Sylvia Plath can.

New Year on Dartmoor, by Sylvia Plath

This is newness: every little tawdry
Obstacle glass-wrapped and peculiar,
Glinting and clinking in a saint’s falsetto. Only you
Don’t know what to make of the sudden slippiness,
The blind, white, awful, inaccessible slant.
There’s no getting up to it by the words you know.
No getting up by elephant or wheel or shoe.
We have only come to look. You are too new
To want the world in a glass hat.

You can read a superb analysis of this poem here.

Happy 2012 to all of my readers. Let’s hope for peace, prosperity, love, and strength in the New Year. Looking forward into the future, we all have much to think about.

A beauty from Frederic Lord Leighton, this is Solitude:

11 thoughts on “What Lies Ahead

  1. Happy new year, Claudia! I hope it’s a great year for you and all of us.

  2. Dave says:

    Happy New Year, Claudia! And thanks for sharing the poem. I think I’ll share it too.

  3. themofman says:

    Beautiful poem, gorgious painting; Happy New Year!

  4. Andrew says:

    Sylvia’s poem is quite a contrast to the usual new-year platitudes.

    From the analysis link: “Perhaps she even envies the child’s inability to understand the difficulties that lie ahead in the life to be led.” In other words, ignorance is bliss. If only life was really that simple.

    • artmodel says:

      Andrew,

      Contrast indeed. None of the usual trite fluff from Sylvia Plath, that’s for sure. I thought the same thing about “ignorance is bliss” when I read that sentence. But life definitely isn’t that simple.

      Happy New Year, friend!

      Claudia

  5. Bill MacDonald says:

    I agree — the child’s inability to understand the difficulties is enviable. But Sylvia Plath was an exception — her ignorance led to despair rather than bliss. You fall, well, you get up. Life throws a punch at you, you duck. Sylvia Plath never learned how to duck. That inability led to the development of a sensibility that left us great poetry, but I have to wonder about the price.

    So my wish for you, Claudia, and the rest of us for the new year is that we slip all the punches 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      Plath’s depression was so severe. Like you suggested, I wonder if she could have treated it differently or what was available to her in terms of therapy, medication, etc. I believe she had attempted suicide a couple of times before her final act, and her marriage to Ted Hughes was very troubled. So tragic. A great poetess.

      Happy, Happy New Year’s wishes to you Bill! My MFA tour guide 🙂

      Claudia

      • Bill MacDonald says:

        I believe that she received shock treatments. Unfortunately, her son subsequently committed suicide as well. Hughes’s mistress subsequently committed suicide in the same way as Plath, killing their love child in the process. The whole thing reads like a Greek tragedy.

        Sylvia Plath died in 1963.The efficacy of lithium in bipolar disorder was established in 1949, but I don’t think it was widely prescribed until later in the 60’s. Lowell was prescribed lithium, but it isn’t the perfect therapeutic agent by any means — there are toxicity and compliance issues, for example. There just isn’t any magic bullet.

        Life is definitely not simple, eh?

        Best wishes,
        Bill

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