Mad Girl’s Love Song By Sylvia Plath – A Villanelle

The Literary Nest is now a poetry journal. To mark the new year and new beginnings, I am holding a Villanelle contest.

A villanelle is a form closer to my heart because of the song-like quality and repetition that resounds, emphasizing the claim that the poet wants to make. I’ve been partial to the lyrical poetry since it allows the mind to roam free and still be rooted in reality. In many cases, a villanelle can tell a story like narrative poetry does. Take, for example, Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” True, that the reader has to imagine and fill in the details, but the story builds up to the graceful climax at the end.Similarly, “The House on the Hill” by Edwin Arlington Robinson tells a stark story that a reader can imagine. The tone and the carefully chosen refrains “They are all gone away.” and “There is nothing more to say.”  guide the reader to build a story. The graceful closing leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind about the gradual destruction of the people, the decay of the community, who lived there.

So, what story Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song” tell? With its surreal, dreamlike tone and imagery of heaven and hell, the narrative is far from linear.  There is a story, however.  It’s the story of struggle in the narrator’s mind and the back and forth arguments that lead to the final resolution. During the internal discussion, the story of love and loss unfolds. It turns out that the narrator isn’t a ‘mad girl’ after all. It’s an often-repeated story of the betrayal of the narrator, presumably a young woman, by a deceitful lover. The narrator is left to wonder her sanity, hence the title. Through the waltz-like movements of the thoughts and the poetic lines, the dance of the internal struggle goes on.

The darkness descends when the narrator closes her eyes. The real world comes roaring back when she opens her eyes. The stars waltz in and out of her dreams. She dreams about the lover’s passionate wooing, and she equates it with God’s grace falling over her. As like every other love story, the lover goes away and has no intention of ever returning. “I grow old and forget your name.” She wonders if it was all in her mind. Did she make it all up? In some ways, she did make him up, made up all his desirable qualities because love is born and exists in one’s mind. The physical manifestation of love is not possible without the brain making up the narrative of love. In that realization, one thing is sure: the narrator is not a mad girl, but one who narrates an astute observation about the nature of love.

I hope, readers, that some of you are inspired to narrate your story through the villanelle form and submit. Who knows, you could possibly win. If you don’t remember Annie (as if that’s possible), read her poetry, her poetry textbooks, and join her online poetry groups to exchange information about form and meter. All that information can be found on her website.

 

4 thoughts on “Mad Girl’s Love Song By Sylvia Plath – A Villanelle”

  1. I love Sylvia Plath, but I’d never heard of this poem before. Thanks so much for blogging about it; I went ahead and read it and it was amazing! She has a way of making you feel so many things at once!

    Like

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