The majority of Sylvia Plath’s existence was a chronic struggle between life and death. She was known to be a manic depressive; her own husband claimed her death was inevitable. She tried willingly many times to end her own life and one day she finally succeeded in doing just that. Her poem “Black Rook in Rainy Weather,” is one of the many poems she wrote which reflects on the emotional, mental, and spiritual hardships she encountered while being alive. It is also a reflection of her lack of inspiration and her marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes at the time which ended due to her suicidal actions. “Black Rook in Rainy Weather” gives us Plath struggling internally as she questions her values and her beliefs as well as nature & God because these are the things she looks to for inspiration. The poem examines Plath’s feelings through rhymes, its choice of diction, the structure of the poem, symbols throughout the poem as well as metaphors, recurring themes. In the poem “Black Rook in Rainy Weather,” Sylvia Plath is the rook; she is a strong representation of the bird that is seen trying to rearrange its feathers in order to shine. The bird could also be a symbol of religion because she is waiting for a light to shine from it to validate her from her fear of neutrality and light is associated with the supernatural. The poem’s location could be seen as taking place outside on a rainy Autumn day and the speaker seems to be strolling by admiring this bird who just so happens to not only compare to Plath but also is inspiring to her. The bird is clearly black and black just so happens to be associated with the unknown or it can be a reminder of Plath’s depression. The poem makes Plath’s depression pretty apparent to readers. The color black is also a symbol of superiority, nothingness and distance so this black bird could be a reference to the distance between Plath and her husband because of the superiority he displays as a writer based mainly on his ability to be able to write without having to seek out influence while she has to. After all, Ted Hughes does have a poem called “Hawk Roosting” where he displays himself as this superior bird compared to Sylvia Plath who comes off as this hunched Black Rook sitting on a twig reassessing the confidence within itself. Ted displays all the things that Plath does not and this could be a contribution to her self-doubt.
Plath uses the word miracle very often in the poem for example, line four says “I do not expect a miracle or an accident,” we also see this in lines thirty-six through eight, “Miracles occur, if you care to call those spasmodic tricks of radiance miracles.” Is Plath making some kind of religious reference within these lines? It seems as if she is now looking to God to give her some kind of spiritual inspiration and that he, in her opinion did in fact give her this spiritual inspiration by the end of the poem. This is also ironic because Plath tried to commit suicide so many times but she still looks to God for help, she is, in a way, contradicting herself. Many different lines in the poem address religion as well, she uses words like angel & celestial and phrases such as the one in stanza three which says “Although I admit, I desire, some occasional backtalk from the mute sky.” Is she referring to God answering her prayers? Or referring to the heavens here? It is as if she is waiting for God to help her. She also does this in her reference to nature with quotes like “but let spotted leaves fall as they may without ceremony or portent,” “nor seek anymore in the desultory weather some design,” and “for it could happen even in this dull ruinous landscape.” Why does she seek out nature for inspiration when nature is unpredictable? She displays her knowledge of Mother Nature’s inconsistencies as she uses words to describe this inconsistence every time she talks about it. Her choice of diction includes words like spasmodic, random, without ceremony, portent, desultory, politic, occasionally and rare. All these words display the same exact meaning.
The genre of Sylvia Plath’s “Black Rook in Rainy Weather” is confessional because she is letting us into her personal life and life as a poet. She hints us in on her marriage, her mental illness, her view of religion, nature, and how & where she gets her inspiration. She gives us her without any barriers, we see who she is. She shows us how frustrated she is as an artist and that she has to gain her creativity back, her purpose, otherwise life itself would not be worth living because she is not living out her passion. She also shows us how she turns to the supernatural to get this creativity back here instead of waiting on nature or using the things she sees around her to spark her rhythm again. She is again contradicting herself here because she first focuses on science to help her but then turns to God. It is as if she is struggling in what she believes in. Some people believe in science and some believe in religion and the speaker references both in the poem.
The recurring themes in the poem include nothingness, death, darkness, and light, loss of inspiration, religion, science, doubt and desire. Stanza five refers to most of the themes itself “By bestowing largesse, honor, one might say love. At any rate, I now walk Wary (for it could happen even in this dull, ruinous, landscape); skeptical, yet politic; ignorant. Her use of words like dull which refer to darkness or haziness, walk wary which refers to cautiousness as if she is in the dark and cannot see what is in front of her, this also connects back to how she sees nature, how she cannot achieve her inspiration here so she seeks it out in religion. It is kind of like she is stuck in the dark and can no longer see what makes her life worth living; she is blind to what makes her happy. When she says “skeptical, yet politic; ignorant,” it makes me think that she desires something to happen but is at the same time doubting that it can happen. She wants to regain her passion but at the same time she doubts herself.
The way that the poem is structured is with the consistency of five lines in each stanza, rhymes that occur at the end of every two stanzas and random rhymes within the poem that are there to show inconsistency as well to let us know that the poem is not perfect and that life is not either, the offbeat rhymes are like a curveball because we think that everything is consistent in the poem but in all actuality there is some inconsistency and chaos here. It is kind of like a reminder of Sylvia Plath, how she waited for these random acts of nature to occur or acts of God so that she could feel as if she understands the world around her again then gets disappointed because they are taking a little long but finds out that her wait is well worth it in the end. The rhymes every two stanzas end with words like accident, portent, and incandescent, inconsequent, while random rhymes in the poem include words like there, chair, fire and desire.
Sylvia Plath’s life was determined by the world around her and if it did not make sense to her, she waited for it to make sense. Although her love life and beliefs added to this waiting, she came out a better writer and much more inspired. This waiting is what made her one of the greatest poets of all time, her works are still being read all over the world today and her inspiration could be an inspiration to someone else battling depression. Although she eventually gave up on waiting and took her own life she is still remembered for who she really was because she never sugar coated this in her work for anyone. She showed us that even though she was fighting herself, she could still do what she loved.
1.) “Poetry Magazine: Sylvia Plath Biography.” Editorial. PoetryFoundation.org,
2.) “Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes: Summary and critical analysis.” Education.BachelorandMaster.com,n.d.web.21.Nov.2015
3.) Koren, Yehuda and Neger Eilat. “Written out of History.” Education.thegaurdian.com,19