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Stillborn by Sylvia Plath - Poem Review

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by Juran Hakim (subscribe)
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Published June 20th 2014
Sylvia Plath - Stillborn poem
(Courtesy of

At face value, what is understood to be the meaning of the poem, read through once, will more often than not baffle the average reader. The significance of the prose is seemingly wrapped inside a parable or allegory perhaps, making it difficult to comprehend. Although the first line "These poems do not live: it's a sad diagnosis" give the impression as to what the poem may be entailing, the following stanzas follow to become much more elusive in its revealing of the denotation.

The title of the poem also gives an inclination; Stillborn, a word meaning 'dead at birth' or 'born dead', projects the image of a fetus, an unborn child, brought into the world dead. The wills, hopes and dreams the mother had for her child are gone and 'primarily' not there, as if it was always meant to be, stolen in an incomprehensible misfortune and calamity.

Plath takes the role of the mother to her poems in this piece, the position is in fact made unambiguously from the opening lines as Plath accounts the growth of 'poetry' and makes note of its condition which she asserts is a 'sad diagnosis'.

The imagery creates an almost mise-en-scene atmosphere when reading lines like:

"They grew their toes and fingers well enough,
Their little foreheads bulged with concentration."

Plath is able to acutely splash colours of description and personification, yet wrap the message behind it in a way that challenges the reader, which works well.

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