Edge by Sylvia Plath
performed by Harriet Walter
The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
Interpretation by Daljit Nagra
The distancing third person perspective and the couplets in fairly short free verse lines help establish a resigned, detached quality to the poem. This is enhanced by the elegant references which draw our attention to the self-conscious approach the poet takes to death. The subject of the poem makes us feel as though it is meant to be Plath’s final poem. Hence it forms an edge to the poems as a whole. The egoism of artistic perfection!
The language also creates the resigned note: the Latinate diction, ‘perfected’, ‘accomplishment’, ‘necessity’ or the casual internal half-rhymes such as ‘nothing’ and ‘thing’. The feeling of death is subtly reinforced by the short lines such as ‘Her dead’ or ‘Her bare’ as our gaze is thrown into a pool of white space on the page before we meet the main body of each sentence. I find this dramatic device very moving here.
Daljit Nagra’s first collection Look We Have Coming to Dover won the 2007 Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection. His poems often relate to the experiences of British-born Indians like himself and employ language spoken by Indian Punjabi immigrants.