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‘Winter Words’ by Sylvia Plath

By Faber Editor, 27 September 2017

‘Winter Words’, a new, unseen poem by a 23-year-old Sylvia Plath, was written in 1955 whilst she was at Smith College, Massachusetts.

In the pale prologue
of daybreak
tongues of intrigue
cease to speak.

Moonshine splinters
as birds hush;
transfixed the antlers
in the bush.

With fur and feather,
buck and cock
softly author
icebound book.

No chinese painter’s
brown and buff
could quill a quainter
calligraph.

On stilted legs the
bluejays go
their minor leagues a-
cross the snow,

inscribing cryptic
anagrams
on their skeptic
search for crumbs.

Chipmunks enter
stripes of black
in the winter
almanac.

A scribbling squirrel
makes a blot
of gray apparel,
hides a nut.

On chastely figured
trees and stones
fate is augured
in bleak lines.

With shorthand scratches
on white scroll
bark of birches
tells a tale.

Ice like parchment
shrouds the pond,
marred by misprint
of north wind.

Windowpane wears
gloss of frost
till dawnlight blurs
and all’s erased.

About the Author

Sylvia Plath (1932-63) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

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Sylvia Plath