Mad Girl’s Love Song ~ Sylvia Plath

I created this spokenword video back in 2016… I was looking for a poem very different from my own writing.  I found a spoken word poem on a You Tube page by the Radio Theartre Group, the poem was Sylvia Plath’s ‘Lady Lazarus‘ read by Natalie Clark.  I had previously read Sylvia Plath’s poetry but didn’t find I fully related to her subjects.  But it’s amazing how after hearing a poem spoken extremely well with great emphasis, the kind of feeling and emotion Natalie Clark so expertly conveys in her reading, it completely changed my perception of Sylvia Plath and her poetry.  Perhaps hearing a human voice speaking the words is what makes the connection and turns what can be a cold poem into warm reality? 

I reread some of Sylvia’s poems, they began to speak to me in a much more vivid way.  Mad Girl’s Love Song stood out as a poem I might want to try reading, partly because of it’s popularity but also the poem intrigued me as to what it was about.  On the surface it appears to be about a failed relationship, a disappointment in a lover, at least that is what is generally assumed for the poem.  As I began to read it out loud for the recording I felt a little confused at what I was reading… phrases such as ‘God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men‘.  I was literally trying to work out how those strong, slightly biblical statements had anything to do with disappointment in a lover. 

Something in the back of my mind didn’t feel right… I felt foolish reading a poem I was not entirely convinced of it’s true meaning.  I’ve never done that before.  I like to fully understand a poem so I can read it with the right emphasis.  I carried on reading,  ignoring the little voice telling me “you can’t read that, you don’t even know what it’s about!”🙄 

After reading it at least six times, it suddenly dawned on me what it could be about.  Maybe it was not about a human lover bitterly disappointing, but coming to a point in life where the belief in God no longer feels real.

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

Don’t worry… I’m not about go into any lengthy religious explanations, get into whether God is real or not, or suggest my theory on the meaning of the poem is 100% correct.  But just point out some interesting facts I discovered about Sylvia Plath that may make a bit more sense of my theory. 

After the mind blowing poetry reading experience, I searched online for a poetry analysis for ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’.  I found the same kind of unconvincing explanation over and over… it was about Sylvia Plath’s disappointment in her marriage, or maybe an earlier relationship.  When I delved deeper to when the poem was published, I found she didn’t write it as late as I thought.  She wrote the poem in 1951, age 24, while attending Smith College.  It was first published in 1953 in a magazine called Mademoiselle.  She didn’t marry the poet Ted Hughes until 1956.  So the poem couldn’t possibly be about disappointment in her marriage.  It’s also interesting to note, at 8 years old Sylvia’s father unexpectedly died due to complications after surgery.  She experienced a loss of faith after her father’s death and remained ambivalent about religion throughout her life. (Quote from Wikipedia).

I can’t prove my theory is correct, but there is one thing I do know for sure… after waking up, seeing a deeper meaning, I was able to read the poem in a different way.  For a few minutes I felt that state of mind, the cold disappointed honesty in admitting something wholeheartedly believed might not to be true… they didn’t show up, and never would because it was just a comforting invention of the mind, a way of coping, and nothing more.

If you find the subject of interest and you want do some of your own research, you might find this analysis of the poem worth reading. I thought it was excellent, and had some slightly similar suggestions close to my own feelings on the meaning of Mad Girls Love Song.

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The next post will be my own poetry… just in case it looks like I’ve given up writing my own material.  No, not at all, I’ve just been busy with photography and… well, life! 😊