The line is Sylvia's, "Electra on Azalea Path". I have decided to refer to my mad wives by their first names, it is a recent decision, which really is hypocritically hilarious as I hate when my students in their recent essay referred to John Stuart Mill as "John" and Mary Wollstonecraft as "Mary" I hate their casualness while absorbing it, and more than anything I am in despair lately over not being allowed to teach literature, because I have been deemed by the English department unqualified. I am living the life of Sylvia, as I am reading Bitter Fame by Anne Stevenson, a so-so biography (but I hate biographies! I reject biographies!), and the journals, and the Ariel poems, and A. Alvarez' chapter on her in Savage Gods, his work on suicide.
I am living Sylvia's life, I am in my mind writing on her fetishized pink Smith tablets, I am in despair over my students, I hate duty, duty is a loss of self, Camus writes, I go through her lesson plans. I too am agonizing over a Ph.D (Sylvia writes she would rather use D.H. Lawrence selfishly for her own uses than read criticism on DH Lawrence, myself as well), although that decision has been taken from me. I am officially/unofficially/almostofficially shut out from all programs, again. All the CUNY acceptances have gone out, as have Emory's, don't think I have a chance at Washington.
So yesterday I am in Room 376 A, that is the barren library room I have been booking everyday to get away from the dog, and the destruction workers, both of whom derange me, and I have spread out all of these books in front of me, along with Durkheim's Suicide, and researching Assia Weevil, and reading again this NYTimes article about the Americanization of mental illness Repat Blues linked to a while back, about cultural maladies, and reading about amok and berserker and fugue states, which make me so happy, it does, I don't know why. And I am thinking of suicide.
Thinking that the day before was the anniversary of Sylvia Plath's death, which Angela Simione eloquently memorializes, and how I am trying to get back, back, back to those days, those mysterious days, the flat, the phone, the snow, the mistress, the writing oh the writing that fucking writing she who was reading Oesterreich on demonic possession and the Oujia board with Ted and the dybbuk she was possessed channeling that femme fatale that voice that eat-glass voice and I am thinking of the end of Lady Lazarus and the rebirth and I think of the end of The Awakening and how I try to invite my students to think of it as a rebirth, Edna Pontellier as the Birth of Venus and Why Do People Kill Themselves? my students ask me, always, I am the Absolute Authority of Suicide to Them and was Sylvia was Sylvia breaking free, are these poems of glittering hate and demons breathing softly then screaming, screaming her alchemy, her rebirth?
This is all what I want to write to in Mad Wife, while also considering the notion of not writing as a form of suicide. Ted who said that Sylvia died before she died because her journals descended into notes, the ones we are not allowed to read the last maroon-backed ledger WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO READ BECAUSE HE DESTROYED THEM he destroyed them and she destroyed herself.
And thinking of what remains. The manuscript on the desk (her order). That is what remains, now. We have those words. Her last words. Her last will and testament. And thinking of Collobert's notebooks, too, again, the way they strangely commit suicide, and how can a text commit suicide, and how do writers commit suicide (by not writing? or by not living?)
But then conversely thinking of what remains now. Thinking of Alexander McQueen's death. He has left behind his images, his creations, his art. But all the media outlets quoting his Twitter feed. Something so terrible about that to me. That when I die my Rate My Professor reviews and a weird stage review I wrote when I was 21 and some weird paen to shoes I wrote will exist, and people will be able to go there and read something into me. We cannot burn that.
And thinking about when a former friend killed herself, this was my coming to writing, my mother's death was a gestation, but this, this was the real, coming, four years ago, when a former double of mine killed herself (we were one, at one time, we were one, one and the same) I always thought, I always thought, I always thought it would be me. At the time. Or at a former time. I think everyone did. At one time. (but not anymore). At one time.
At the weird Catholic South Side wake, weird because there were her photos on cardboard posters, and she was smiling in all of them, and there she was in a flowery dress she never would have worn in real life, and all I could think was "She got fat" and it was a terrible, terrible catty thing to think, and her ex-boyfriend said "You were a lot alike." And I dismissed the past, I said "I'm fine now." I said "The past is past." Or some such cliche. And there were rumors and there were whispers and we fed fed on her bones like vultures.
And she was my Joan, she was my Joan exactly, the strange double who haunted me, she had slipped deeper, she fell, I never allowed myself to fall again, I stepped always so carefully. And just like Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar I am at her funeral with my heart beating a fervent ego "I am, I am, I am."
The only thing I really love about the book that's coming out are the Maggie sections, she is based on my self (of course) she is fictional (of course) but also on my old twin, my old twin who signed her suicide note with a smiley face, which my Maggie does as well, the poor Dora a victim of the DSM-IV. (I am copying a smidgeon of towards the end, below, I might erase it later)
Maggie rushes towards the light mute yet violent
Maggie sends out invisible SOS’s
The roar of sirensThe men bang down the doorThe men in their white, white coatsThe pharmacistsThe butchers
A body on a slab. A sacrificial victim.
Her exhausted and brutalized body
And I am reminded of Sylvia her images of sacrifice she is not a virgin sacrifice a virginal victim but she is laid on the alter which reminds me of that line by Elizabeth Hardwick on Sylvia:
Orestes rages, but Aeschylus lives to be almost seventy. Sylvia Plath, however, is both heroine and author, when the curtain goes down, it is her own dead body there on the stage, sacrificed to her plot.
Have always been curious about the special hostility Elizabeth Hardwick reserved for Sylvia, who she had dinner parties with, a special hostility of a woman seething with hate and anger, a betrayed wife with her fierce revenge, like a modern-day Medea or Clytaemnestra (and Hardwick who said of her marriage to Robert Lowell that it was the best thing that had ever happened to her.)
But getting back to the friend I knew that died, and what remains after a suicide, she still has a MySpace page. Which sickens me. Which confuses me. Which amazes me. Like she is frozen always in time, this modern technology is turning us all into these public scribes of our dizzied quotidian. Thinking of Durkheim's quote that to suicide is to be an "author of one's own end."
(Note: My partner John my dear John thinks this post could potentially maybe sound like an SOS, a cry for help, a save me from myself, and I replied to him that all writing is a form of an SOS, and he says, you're not helping matters, and he says, I see you here in the kitchen you are eating the burnt dark chocolate cookies and listening to Alice Coltraine, and the books are spread out on the bed, and you just did yoga today, and you are reasonably happy yet melancholy about life/Ph.D programs and you are channeling this character for Mad Wife, and itching to order a romance novel online and trying not to, and I see this, I see that you're not suicidal, but people reading your blog do not see this, do not see you, being reasonable happy and eating sweet potato fries and all of that, so this is to say, I am not suicidal, I have no rocks in my pockets or eminent plans, I have no plans, oh dear, I have no plans, but that is another issue, I am merely engaging with these ideas on a creative/philosophical plane, and so I changed this word and this word and this word then I got mad at John for censoring me as I too am a mad wife and he says I never censor you I would never censor you sometimes I edit you, and I said, there, yes and now he says now this makes me seem paranoid and I said well we can't all be acquitted.)