In this episode of 'Poem of the Week' David McCooey reads 'Fleeting: Sylvia Plath at 80'. ABR Editor, Peter Rose, introduces David who then reads and discusses his poem.
Sylvia Plath at 80.
I have outstayed the old millennium,
lost count of years, and jobs, and meals prepared.
My children have careers; the students of my students teach.
I have had some fame, though
a little is enough, I know.
In an earlier age, my youthful world conspired
to render me with fires of grief,
at which I bent, and murmured my beginner's German.
And then came, as if I'd called them up,
the mess of childbirth,
the bedlam of men and women.
I wrote those poems – the ones for which I'm known –
in the coldest winter for two hundred years.
The snow stretched telephone wires to the ground.
The children and I hid from the historic cold
as if hiding from a fairy-tale monster.
The monster froze the river, ground, and air,
while I outstared, through all those monochrome days,
the gaze of that greater madness
I'd called my calling.
Then my discovery: the deranging noise –
like bees or the airy sea – that filled my stony head
was merely fleeting, like snow, or flowers, or husbands' lies
on crackling telephone lines.
Or the brief duration of abysmal sleep.
David McCooey is a prize-winning poet, critic, and editor. His latest book of poems, Star Struck, will be published by UWA Publishing in October. His debut poetry collection, Blister Pack (2005) won the Mary Gilmore Award and was shortlisted for four other major national literary awards. His second full-length collection, Outside (2011), was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards and was a finalist for the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature's 'Best Writing Award'. His work has appeared for nine out of the last ten years in Black Inc's annual anthology, The Best Australian Poems. McCooey is the deputy general editor of the prize-winning Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2009), published internationally as The Literature of Australia (2009), and he is the author of a critical study on Australian autobiography, Artful Histories, (1996/2009), which won a NSW Premier's Literary Award. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared in numerous books, journals, and newspapers. McCooey is also a musician and sound artist. His album of 'poetry soundtracks', Outside Broadcast, was released in 2013 as a digital download and is available for streaming on Spotify and elsewhere. He is a professor of writing and literature at Deakin University in Geelong, where he lives.