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Monday, 20 August 2012

Poem Review: New Year on Dartmoor

This is my fourteenth review of Devon-related literature. The previous review was of Stalky & Co..

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Title: New Year on Dartmoor

Type: Poem

Author: Sylvia Plath

Links to Devon: This poem is about Dartmoor, inspired during a walk Sylvia Plath took with her young daughter.

When I read this: 20th August, 2012

Summary: This short poem (9 lines long) was written after Sylvia Plath went for a wintry walk on Dartmoor with her daughter, who would have been not quite two years old at the time. In it, she describes the “newness” and wonder of everything her daughter sees, but the tone of the poem is tinged with the anxiety of the mother, who sees “every little tawdry obstacle” through older, jaded eyes.

Strengths: In such a short poem, Plath manages to create a vivid image of the frosty moor through her careful choice of words, including “glass-wrapped” and “glinting”. I think my favourite two lines are:

There’s no getting up it by the words you know.
No getting up by elephant or wheel or shoe.

These two lines capture the essence of the poem for me, painting such a picture of innocence, whilst hinting of hardships to come.

Weaknesses: This is not so much a weakness, as a query I have about the last line: what does Plath mean by the phrase “the world in a glass hat”? I guess it alludes to the frost they see on Dartmoor and links to the hints of future disappointments, but is that all? I have tried to research online what Plath meant here, to no avail. Is this a reference to Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, perhaps? It makes me think of snow globes, which I’ve always loved, but such an allusion does not fit with the rest of the poem. Perhaps that is why it feels such an odd, inconsistent ending to me.

Overall Opinion: I like this poem, as I can see so much in such a few short lines, and will add Sylvia Plath to my “must read more” list. Any recommendations?

Rating (out of five): ”Four

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The next review will be of the children’s book The Tale of Little Pig Robinson by Beatrix Potter...

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