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The Colossus: Poems

The Colossus: Poems [Kindle Edition]

Sylvia Plath
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"'She steers clear of feminine charm, deliciousness, gentility, supersensitivity and the act of being poetess. She simply writers good poetry. And she does so with a seriousness that demands only that she be judged equally seriously... There is an admirable no-nonsense air about this; the language is bare but vivid and precise, with a concentration that implies a good deal of disturbance with proportionately little fuss.' A. Alvarez, Observer"

Book Description

Reissue of Sylvia Plath's first published volume of poetry.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 137 KB
  • Print Length: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Poetry (9 Dec 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004G8QI58
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #54,918 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked masterpiece 23 Oct 2009
I know I'm in a minority on this, but I prefer this book to Ariel. There is always something rather touching about early promise: this was the only volume of Plath's poetry published before her death in 1963 and she was disappointed by its reception, and ultimately by the book itself. (She had been writing towards it since her days at Smith College in the early 1950's.)
Brilliant as parts of Ariel were, I find the book as a whole too much; too fragmented and shrill. And I can never separate the poems from the tragic story of Plath's final months.
The Colossus always reminds me that Plath was once a living, breathing, labouring writer: not a myth. The poet of Ariel seems to belong to today's world of distorted and often pointless celebrity. The poet of The Colossus belongs to another age: before conspiracy theories, the man on the moon, The Beatles, the collapse of the Soviet Union. If it lacks the genius of much of Ariel, it has its own strengths. As Bernard Bergonzi wrote in a review in The Guardian: "It shows what a remarkable talent she already possessed and is a very satisfying volume in its own right."
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love Sylvia 24 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love Sylvia Plath as it is and it's fantastic to be able to see her first adventure into publishing her poetry. Brill condition as well.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Achieving Harmony through Conflict: Plath's Word-Sculptures 21 Jan 2001
By Thomas E. Defreitas - Published on
Sylvia Plath's initial volume of poetry is very much in the formalistic style that was prevalent in the 1950s, but she brings to verse-making a "diction that is galvanized against inertia" (to quote Marianne Moore in a different context), a heavily alliterative, percussive idiom in which we discern kinship to Dylan Thomas and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
In "Hardcastle Crags," we have an analogue for a woman's heels against the pavement: "Flintlike, her feet struck / Such a racket of echoes." We have the slovenly slush of the tide at Point Shirley, where the poet's grandmother "kept house / Against what the sluttish, rutted sea could do." We have in other slant-rhymed terza-rima, and intricate stanza shapes reminiscent of Richard Wilbur and his lyric called "Beasts."
And has anyone captured the somnolent wakefulness of "the chilly no-man's-land of five o'clock in the morning" better than Sylvia Plath in "The Ghost's Leavetaking"?
There are poems about mushrooms, moles, and men in black. There is a homage to the artist Leonard Baskin, renowned as a maker of woodcuts. A keen visual sense in these poems leads us not to be surprised when we learn that Plath worked well as a painter of watercolours.
Her second pre-posthumous volume, "Ariel," is perhaps more famous for its unselfsparing chronicle of a crashing marriage and of suicidal depression. Its fiercely unfettered cadences and controversial images attracted immediate attention, praise and opprobrium. But this reviewer feels that the poems of "Colossus" represent the superior achievement, possessing a technique and a sonic command surpassed by precious few poets of our age.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plath's model of poetic craft 14 Dec 2009
By Paul-John Ramos - Published on
In a well-known 1962 radio interview with Peter Orr of the British Council, Sylvia Plath downplayed her achievements in 'The Colossus' by explaining that she was 'bored' with the poems. By this time, she had entered the period of freer forms and dazzling imagery that fueled 'Ariel,' a volume now securing her legacy.

Plath died at a young age and might have changed her mind about 'The Colossus' poems had she lived long enough to reevaluate them. Fortunately, her public sees a great deal of the collection's value, at least in terms of its refinement and precision. Even when disregarding its subject matters, 'The Colossus' can be viewed as a woman's treatise on the poetic art.

First published in 1960, 'The Colossus & Other Poems' offers forty titles, many of which were written at the Yaddo artists' colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, and published in such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Encounter. The poems do not follow a specific order, but are arranged to supply contrasts in mood. Several of Plath's best known poems, including 'Night Shift,' 'The Colossus,' 'The Disquieting Muses,' 'The Beekeeper's Daughter,' and 'The Stones,' can be found in this 84-page collection.

On the surface, Plath's early poetry looks naïve. Her stanzas are always flush left with capital letters. The number of lines per stanza is usually consistent. Her metrics are flawless. But when examining the poems repeatedly, it becomes clear that Plath's work has manifold meanings; how deeply we see is based on how deeply we're willing to look. Even in simple narratives like 'Sow,' 'The Bull of Bendylaw,' and 'Snakecharmer,' Plath seems to be winking at us through her underlying ideas on human relationships.

Perhaps the strongest element of Plath's verse is its compactness. For such a range of images and emotions, her poems are quite short, rarely lasting beyond two pages. By her mid-to-late twenties, Plath had already disposed of excess, working powerful ideas into taut lines and stanzas. She had also completely mastered techniques such as 'internal' rhyme, alliteration, and enjambment, helped by her love of Shakespeare, Donne, Yeats, Auden, and other immortals.

Plath's choice of 'The Colossus' as her focal poem is interesting, since female oppression does not seem a prevailing theme of this volume. 'The Colossus' is a poem of thirty lines, the first-person account of a woman who must serve as caretaker to the Colossus of Rhodes, a crumbling monument for god Helios. This poem foresees the later Plath of 'Daddy,' 'Lady Lazarus,' and 'The Moon and the Yew Tree,' where she openly rebels against a society that has confined women to limited roles.

Signs of the later Plath are also noticeable in poems such as 'Lorelei,' 'The Ghost's Leavetaking,' 'Full Fathom Five,' and 'The Stones.' These poems are intensely personal, stem from Plath's distinctly feminine voice, and seamlessly combine the real with the subconscious. The only factor working against this volume is the repetitiveness of Plath's imagery as her poems roll on: we are shown oceans, the Moon, and rocks a few times too many. Still, this can be forgiven with the variety of form and approach that Plath offers us. Even if we are looking at a sea or rock for the umpteenth time, we are never looking at it in exactly the same way.

'The Colossus & Other Poems' is too frequently judged as a testing ground for 'Ariel' rather than as a mature collection in its own right. The fact that 'Ariel' became a posthumous sensation hasn't helped 'The Colossus' at all, but it has luckily held its ground amongst readers. I have to claim myself as a member of the group who prefers these poems over 'Ariel.' As a person interested in new ways to utilize old ideas, I am fascinated by how Plath used strict forms as a foundation for her modern creative energies.

Those who have read 'The Colossus' may recall a Vintage softcover edition with blue and orange bars on its cover. In 1998, Vintage International made cosmetic changes; while the inside retains its large typeface, the cover is now in orange, black, and cream with a famous photograph of Plath sitting with her typewriter atop a stone barrier in Yorkshire. This edition and past releases are available just about everywhere, along with her 'Ariel' poems, prose, and published journals.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars does not make the art of writing good poems seem easy 9 Sep 2007
By J. Le - Published on
The Colossus," from what I understand, was Plath's first published collection of poetry. During this early phase of Plath's career, she still treated the act of writing poetry as a laborious and painstaking process, often diligently lookig up words in the thesaurus and then inserting many synonyms of one word into a single composition. This rather pedantic attitude toward poetry shows in these poems, many of which devoutly adhere to difficult rhyme schemes (albeit frequently using slant rhymes) and all of which are marked by a studied attention to detail, both visual and sonic. These poems simply don't *soar* the way the free-verse poems in "Ariel" (Plath's second book) do; they are just not as vibrant or as lively as her later work. These are bleak poems, characterized by a wealth of vivid tactile detail, but somewhat lacking in color and movement. Plath frequently uses the terza-rima rhyme scheme that Dante patented, as though to suggest that life, for her, is a slow, laborious plod into (or through?) hell. In this book, Plath shows that she can write good poems, but she does not make the art of writing good poems seem easy.

I do not, however, mean to imply that this is not a useful book for aspiring poets to read. It is, doubtless, a very important book to read if one wishes to understand how Plath developed into the brilliant, oracular voice that spouted "Ariel." And since Sylvia Plath started writing poetry seriously at a very early age, it is perhaps unfair to dismissively refer to this book -- which she published at the ripe old age of 25 -- as her "early work." There are many remarkable things about this book, not the least of which is the way Plath elevates mundane topics (e.g., men working the night shift, or prize pigs) to the level of high poetry, armoring them with an impervious Dante-esque dignity. To Plath, even the smallest things in life are worthy of attention.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unacknowledged Classic 3 Mar 2006
By Billyjack D'Urberville - Published on
Not Plaths's most famous book, obviously, but quite arguably her best, Colossus is cool and totally controlled. Here Plath finally refines what she had started doing from teenhood -- please consult the juvenelia in Collected Poems to confirm this. Images of distant objectivity are chosen as pivots for the most intimate meditations, physical and personal. The "I" is often seen as if under a microscope, to a degree beyond what was earlier achieved by her tutor confessional poets such as Robert Lowell. Indeed this may eventually be seen as her lasting poetic achievement -- carrying the confessional theory quickly to its absolute brink -- and this book is where it finally breaks the surface of the water successfully.

Painfully, Plath -- an almost merciless keeper of diaries, journals, and notes -- records here the exact incident of her transformation -- in "The Eye Mote." Perhaps lacking the drama of later poems, it is all the more revealing, heavily sad, doubtless true. And the incident (perhaps half-imagined, half real) has nothing of the cultural or personal overlays one finds in 95% of the Plath literature, pro and con. It has a lot more to do with the theory and practice of confessional poetry itself -- its breath-taking possibilities and vast opportunities for a dreadful slip from its tightrope act.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sylvia Plath's first book; skillfully made word-sculptures 20 Nov 2000
By A Customer - Published on
"Hardcastle Crags" and "Point Shirley" are masterpieces. "Grantchester Meadows" shows a keen visual sense; "Man In Black," "Deer Island," and "Sow" display dexterity with slant-rhyme and terza rima. The poems are more formal than those found in "Ariel" and other posthumous books; but "The Colossus" does manage to remain quite vivid in the memory as a formidable achievement by a truly skilled poet, with a painterly eye, and an ear as good as any other midcentury poet.
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