Plath's "Black Rook in Rainy Weather" is a brilliant poem that marks the beginning of her inward journey. It's one of her finest early poems and, like "Sonnet to Satan," which we looked at in the last post, this poem is deeply psychological. There's a lot I could say about this poem's relationship to Poe's "The Raven," to Shakespeare, to Ted Hughes's fascination with crows, and to Plath's superstitiously scientific view of nature.
But instead, I'm going to confine myself to just three thoughts about the poem.
The first is that, from the opening lines, Plath looks "out" in order to gaze "in." I use the quotes there because the whole point of the poem is that there is no separation between the inner world of emotion and the outer world of nature, but that the illusion of separation is what causes emptiness and mortal fear.
On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
The word "up" establishes a searching, religious feeling. As the speaker looks up, the poem turns inward at the same time to contemplation of existence. This brings us to the second insight I want to share, which is that Plath introduces nature first and then steps, full of questions, into the scene. This is a very subtle detail, but the whole energy of the poem turns on it. Had Plath introduced "I" before she described the upward gaze to the rook, the poem would have been only half as successful.
By stepping upward into nature full of questions -- the poem soars from its opening, while the bird itself refuses to move, a la Poe's raven. The bird is still, but the speaker of the poem is a whirl of psychological energy.
This brings me to the final insight I want to offer: that the image of the bird, still and at peace in the tree is the answer to the speaker's mental and emotional angst. The speaker is looking for a fiery omen, but nature's message is simply to be in harmony.
This same potential connection with nature continues through all of Plath's work.
You can read the full poem by clicking Plath's picture above. I hope you'll read or reread it, and then come back and tell me what you think.
Next Monday we'll talk about Plath's incredible poem, "Full Fathom Five" which is an early poem that tackles her father issues square on.
Meanwhile, if you'd like some help editing or polishing your poetry, contact me @ email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or click one of the button-links below.