Intoxicated by writing | Daily News


Intoxicated by writing

The great French writer Andre Gide was gifted for the writing of journals, which he denoted neither as narrative nor as diaries, but as a series of self-expression. True enough, these self-expressions later came to be transformed into novels, short stories that consist of dialogues and monologues.

One good example is Gide’s ‘Counterfeiters’ translated from French into English. Similarly, Marcel Proust happened to be yet another sensitive writer of journals that came to be known both as ‘Remembrances of Things Past’ as well as ‘Swan’s Way’. Perhaps knowingly or unknowingly, quite a number of writers in many parts of the world followed the mode of expression via journals that gave way to classics, some published and some other left unpublished. As a literary genre, journals have come to stay as a mirror of perceiving social order, social forces as visionary expressions on areas of spiritualism and existentialism.

Perhaps Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as Kierkegaard, pioneered the latter. While reflecting on these matters, I had a good chance of obtaining ‘The Journals of Sylvia Plath’ as edited by Ted Hughes and Frances McCullough. Being a well-known poetess who lived in the United States and the United Kingdom, was known as a writer who inspired such intense curiosity about her life expressing the most sensitive experiences of her inner struggle to exist. She is classed as a poetess whose thought, melodic and imagistic works explore the nature of womanhood and her fixation with death.

The best examples come from her poetry collection Ariel and her experimental narrative The Bell Jar (1963). Both works appeared as her posthumous publications as she lived a shorter life than one expects from 1932 to 1963. She is said to have committed suicide, leaving a heap of papers that are indicative of her creative process, revealed through her journals. Her works won her international acclaim as a major US confessional poet.

Her work The Bell Jar considered as a landmark in narratology is a semi-autobiographical narrative about a young woman’s emotional breakdown and her Compete Poems (1981) as edited by her husband Ted Hughes, a well-known poet, is a series of sensitive observations and experiences that she faced and jotted down as notes in the form of verses. Some of these random jottings creatively presented are seen in her journals as well.

In one of the journals, she notes in a poetic form the following lines:

“So, now I shall talk every night to myself.

To the moon, I shall walk,

As I did tonight, jealous of my loneliness, in this silver of the cold moon, shining

Brilliantly on the drifts of fresh fallen snow,

With the myriad sparkles.

I talk to myself and look at the dark trees

Blessedly neutral.

In her journals, she refers to her self-studying process in reading and writing. Here she discloses her studies on poets such as Blake and Yeats in order to achieve her poetic skills and over some her own lack of the academic skills she already possessed. She also refers to the novelist Virginia Woolf in an alternative manner of expression.

“Virginia Woolf helps. Her novels make mine possible. I find myself describing episodes.”

Then she goes on to say how she managed to write like Virginia Woolf. As indicated by the editors of these journals, the writing process is a collaboration of the poet, novelist and the social analyst that looks complex fascinating and perhaps cruel and kind. It is recorded that Sylvia Plath had begun keeping a diary when she was a child. She kept it right up until her death. These journals are indicative of her poetic vision.

As stated by the editors, in these journals, ‘commentary is at a minimum. Because of the cuts and the gaps in Plath’s own papers, the book doesn’t always form a coherent narrative in those cases there are notes to orient the reader. As the reader of these journals observes, there are a couple of longer notes, where it seems important to place the material in some sort of perspective. As indicated, the book as a whole is a treasure house of thousands to loose ends to be caught up in tracing images and ideas to the poems and narratives that include short stories and anecdotes of varying types.

As Ted Hughes points out in his foreword, Sylvia Plath’s journals are different in kind from her stories, poems, essays and letters, and it is to be hoped that publishing them will serve a useful purpose. I sincerely felt that an English reader who so gets the chance of browsing these pages may tend to see a myriad of inspiring insights to one’s own creative writings. This depends on one’s wish and attitude.

As Hughes indicates it as an independent reader observes these journals could be reckoned as Sylvia Plath’s autobiography, where she strove to see herself honestly and fought her way through the ‘unmaking’ and ‘remaking’ of herself. Two epigraphs are entered by Plath in her journals, one by Yeats and the other by Joyce.

They go as:

“We only begin to live when we conceive life as a tragedy.” (WB Yeats)

“Hold on to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past.” (James Joyce)

In one of the journal entries, she writes on writing the following words: “My chain of fear logic goes like this. I want to write stories and poems, and a novel and be Ted’s wife and a mother to be our babies. I want Ted to write as he wants and live where he wants to be my husband and a father to our babies.”

Then she continues elsewhere: “Writing as a profession, turns us inward; we don’t do reportage, criticism, freelance research. Poetry is the most ingrown and intense of the creative arts. Not much money in it, and that windfall.”

The journals too depict the interest she had on the contribution she had made over the years to such journals as ‘Ladies’ House Journal’, ‘McCall’s Journal’ and ‘New Yorker’. She makes us realise the importance of rereading the classics of the past. She refers to works such as Shakespeare’s King Lear and Wuthering Heights and works of JD Salinger. She makes us realise the commitment to cause whether one is dedicated is not is a personal issue. All in all, these journals of Sylvia Plath pave the way for a reader to realise the value of keeping notes as a self-realisation process. I felt that I have not wasted my time reading these journals. As such, I recommend the work to others as resourceful reading.

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