Poppies in July - Sylvia Plath Essay

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Poppies in July - Sylvia Plath “Poppies in July” is a short poem written in free verse. Its fifteen lines are divided into eight stanzas. The first seven stanzas are couplets, and the eighth consists of a single line. The title presents an image of natural life at its most intense—at the height of summer. It evokes a pastoral landscape and suggests happiness, if not joy or passion. The title is ironic, however, because the poem is not a hymn to nature but a hallucinatory projection of the landscape of the speaker’s mind and emotions.
Sylvia Plath begins the poem innocently, even playfully, as the speaker addresses the poppies, calling them “little poppies.” The tone changes immediately, however, as the poppies become “little hell
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It concentrates and releases the speaker’s anger, like the blow of a fist.
The free-verse couplets also facilitate the presentation of the images of the poem. These follow one another according to the speaker’s associational process in a logic of emotion, rather than the couplet’s usual logic of reason. The images advance leap by leap, each suggesting the next by a shared characteristic, such as color, shape, or texture, in a series that is increasingly disturbing. Plath transforms the images, one into another, in a manner characteristic of motion pictures, in which one image dissolves as another forms to take its place. The poppies fade into flames; the petals dissolve and the skin of a mouth replaces them. This technique contributes to the hallucinatory quality of the poem.
The poem exhibits instances of parallel grammatical and metrical structures, but the parallels do not usually appear together. The word “little” prefaces the images of poppies and flames in the first line, then is repeated in the eighth line in a phrase which is parallel to the first two—“little bloody skirts.” When the three images prefaced by the word “little” are considered together, they form a complex of associations—poppies, flames, skirts—suggesting sexual passion. The first image of a mouth is in the sixth line and the second is in the eighth line, but the third does not occur until the twelfth line, where the speaker thinks she could achieve relief if her mouth could