Saturday, November 27, 2004

Sepia-toned Poetry

I have made up my mind. Poets who committed suicide are disturbing. Don't read them. They don't add value to life.

Sylvia Plath I have already renounced Sylvia Plath - who put her head in the oven at the age of 31. More often than once and by people in separated places, I had been told that my poetry is Plath-esque. When Ted Hughes published Birthday Letters shortly before his death in 1998, the affairs of Plath and Hughes' tragic relationship became a matter of public discussion again. That's when I first read about Plath... though I had one of her letters that deeply touched me... the one that talked of her building a bridge....

But let's not talk of letters of poets who died by way of suicide.

Except that I was upset that Paul Celan, who wrote the very haunting With a Variable Key - theme poem for The Piano, also killed himself by drowning in the Seine in April 1970. Celan's poetry is inspired by the Holocaust. It is not merely poetry, but a technique.

I would not be fond of poets who killed themselves. Their poetry drove them to it, and so can it drive the reader, not that I'd want to inspire any wannaba lunatic out there. But here are the words to With a Variable Key. It's a frosty reading for this weather. Recommended when read cuddled in front of fires, so that's one can't relate to it. One may not!

With a variable key
you unlock the house in which
drifts the snow of that left unspoken.
Always what key you choose
depends on the blood that spurts
from your eye or your mouth or your ear.

You vary the key, you vary the word
that is free to drift with the flakes.
What snowball will form round the word
depends on the wind that rebuffs you.