Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who the Heck Is Sylvie Plate?!

In my book Alice in Everville, a poet named Sylvie Plate plays a very important role in the plot, and while she doesn't actually appear in the story, we do get to read "her" poems between chapters.  Most readers will probably recognize Sylvie Plate as a reference to the famous poet Sylvia Plath, and some people may wonder why I didn't just use the real Sylvia in my story.  Well...I'm going to tell ya!

The first part of it is completely nonsensical: I actually had a dream in which a girl--sort of me, sort of not, in that way dreams are--believed she'd found a secret code in the poems of "Sylvie Plate."  Yes, the name in the dream was Sylvie Plate, not Sylvia Plath.  I couldn't get the dream out of my head, and from that one strange name, I came up with the idea of a book set in this slightly surreal world where everything has a different name.  So, in Alice in Everville there's a Never 22 instead of a Forever 21, a Flowering-Vale department store instead of a Bloomingdale's, and many more...

But more than that, I needed to create a fictionalized poet for my story to work.  The real Sylvia Plath, of course, did not leave any kind of coded message in her poems (as far as we know!).  By creating a fictional poet, I was also able to write my own poems that followed the "code" and insert them into the story, and I was able to explore themes in these poems that also occur elsewhere in the story.

One reason I wanted to address this topic is...while I tried to make the poems in Alice in Everville as good as possible while still adhering to the code, I realize that my poems are absolutely positively not even in the same league, or universe, as Sylvia Plath's work!  So if you don't like the poems in my novel, please don't write off Sylvia Plath's poetry as well.  Just to prove it to you, here is one of Sylvia's earliest published poems, written while she was in college.  Yup, she was a genius, and definitely an inspiring figure while I was writing Alice in Everville!

Mad Girl's Love Song
"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

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