Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Queen Bees Knees

Taken almost three months to get through Kathleen Spivack's "With Robert Lowell and His Circle." It's just a thin thread keeping me attached to somewhere besides work bed work bed work. The book is terribly in need of an editor; full of redundancies and cliches next to astounding observations. And hilariously funny in many parts. I love it; you should read it.

Despite an acutely rendered scene of afternoon tea with Mr. and Mrs. Hughes (the big dark brooder stuffed himself with tea cookies and the two carrying on a muffled Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf-ian vaudeville), she's one of the few who has some sympathy for Sylvia Plath. Here's one of those artless and absolutely on-target observations: "Sylvia had no sense of humor. Ever!" That's about the size of it.

You know what Spivack gets here, she gets the money thing. She gets that Sexton used her grant to put in a swimming pool and that she caught a lot of crap for it, but that swimming pool probably did more good to more writers and artists than any fucking Intensive Program. I'd do it if anyone ever gave me a dime, which they don't, and I'd call it the Sexton Memorial Pool besides. She gets the money thing:

"According to Anne Sexton, Sylvia was paid $50 by her publishers as an advance for her first book, The Colossus. But follwing her death, several publishers advanced prospective biographers more than $20,000 each, an unheard-of sum of money in those days. So suicide increased Sylvia's worth, much as she could have used the money in her lifetime."

She gets the exhaustion, too. At a certain point, you'd just do it to get some sleep.

say what you will about her making her own bed
and making her own bread and lying
how she was so mean she wouldn't get stung
by her own bees when she yanked their honey
right out from under their bobbling asses.
she sure could have used that money.
i will tell you that money damn well does
serve to keep a woman alive in winter
with the diapers and the rashes and
her head full of pus. that money,
once, it meant coming home with her hair
fresh golded and twined goddess and
yes, he'll see me, he'll see, he'll see,
crossing paths with him, and that
as much as you'd like to say poems
and clean living and keeping an even
keel and as mad as it makes you to be
above it all like they tell you you should
even when you're on that floor that will
never come clean and as ashamed as it makes you
to admit it damn you new clothes and
smooth hair and money yes the money
yes the money would have kept her alive,
liar, it would have taken nothing more,
and that fact doesn't make her less.

Image: God knows. Her father was a bee expert, you know; she raised her own honey.

1 comment:

Slothrop said...

So great, almost tourette-like in its raw spooling beauty. Even if I would've damned its gist at age 20. Know better now. When I lived in Northampton I would walk past her house most days, wondering if that huge side-porch had been her apiary. Wondering if the bracing denial she felt in the rocks in the nearby park hardened around her insides until she split. They looked like tumors. When I worked in her Smith dorm I felt the shadow of that husked asylum on the hill, just like her. But I always always always loved her humor. "Cow heavy in my floral nightgown"? Wanted to split a sixpack w/ her at the Calvin & mock Joyce some more. And god did she ever love Salinger. Would've kicked the ass of Franny Glass.