Night Dancing with Plath

Updated on May 12, 2018
snakeslane profile image

Verlie Burroughs is a west coast writer from Vancouver Island.


Night Dancing with Plath - my poem

Like a child
softly sleeping
a Lily’s soul paints
petals on my dreams

And I retrieve her smile
from the grass!

She is dancing
in the moonlight
Her cold shadows
circle me.

Forgetting now our paths
We cross space like falling stars

Gifts of frozen light

Musical interlude...if you start play at 2:38 you miss the long introduction, sorry I wasn't able to set that up for you, it's worth a listen!

The Night Dances by Sylvia Plath

A smile fell in the grass.

And how will your night dances
Lose themselves. In mathematics?

Such pure leaps and spirals-
Surely they travel

The world forever, I shall not entirely
Sit emptied of beauties, the gift

Of your small breath, the drenched grass
Smell of your sleeps, lilies, lilies.

Their flesh bears no relation.
Cold folds of ego, the calla,

And the tiger, embellishing itself-
Spots, and a spread of hot petals.

The comets
Have such a space to cross,
Such coldness, forgetfulness.
So your gestures flake off-

Warm and human, then their pink light
Bleeding and peeling

Through the black amnesias of heaven.
Why am I given

These lamps, these planets
Falling like blessings, like flakes

Six sided, white
On my eyes, my lips, my hair

Touching and melting.

Regarding my response to Sylvia Plath's poem, The Night Dances

I wrote my poem in response to April 2018 poetry month day 29 prompt: respond to a Sylvia Plath poem.

I found myself truly lost with this challenge. I've never been able to access Plath's poetry (her darkness frightens me) and I am also always confused by her use of metaphor, which is of course key to understanding her poems.

This exercise opened the door a crack, as I was fortunate to find a wonderful analyses of The Night Dances by Andrew Spacey, which gave me insight and context into Plath's poem making. I've included a link to his article below.

Thank you so much Andrew!

In the end I attempted to find joy (perhaps my joy in finally connecting with her) in Plath's somber poem, while still respecting where she was coming from.

Note: I've also added a link below to the Jorge Luis Borges' Norton Lectures on Poetry, another amazing resource I found doing this challenge.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Verlie Burroughs


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      • snakeslane profile imageAUTHOR

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago from Canada

        Thank you mar! So happy to have you read. The 30 day poetry challenge with daily prompts took me way past my comfort zone in a good way I think. It was a bit manic though. Nice that you enjoyed the music. Good to see you as always...

      • marcoujor profile image

        Maria Jordan 

        13 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

        Dear Verlie,

        Sylvia Plath' s 'The Bell Jar' was required reading in nursing school.

        I agree with Nellieanna's view that she could be considered the female counterpart to Poe.

        I appreciate how you push past your comfort zone in your profound poetic interpretation. Your work continues to evolve and is most inspiring.

        I also loved the musical interlude - hauntingly beautiful. Love, Maria

      • profile image

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago

        Thank you Genna, you are so generous, makes me feel lucky to have you read. Especially with this challenge where I felt completely out of my depth. I'm not surprised that you know and appreciate Plath, with your clever mind, and your ability to see her imaginations. I take everything (and usually write everything) so literally. This poem was a bit of a breakthrough for me, and I couldn't have done it without Andrew's guidance, as it involves unravelling her metaphor, which I am only starting to get a grasp of.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 

        13 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

        I just LOVE your poetry, and where your mind's eye takes us. Plath is one of my favorite female poets, aside from Dickinson and Angelou. But she isn't easy. She leaves herself from within the context of the reality which began the poem, and us, the reader, as she travels where her imagination, though troubled, takes. It can be challenging to follow her juxtaposed shadows of darkness and light with elusive yet stunning imagery. But you do it well, and make it look easy at the same time. Superb writing, Verlie. Your work should be published for everyone to enjoy. :-)

      • snakeslane profile imageAUTHOR

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago from Canada

        Oh Paula, thank you! I am relieved that you, being a Sylvia Plath fan, approve of my 'take' on her poem. Andrew is really the one to thank for this, as he gave me so much to work with. :) So happy to read your comments...

      • fpherj48 profile image


        13 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        I am a fan of Sylvia's work, despite it's darkness and the goosebumps she often creates. Her writing exposes her mind and accompanying emotions. I love what you have done here. Bill is right. You're very talented! Paula

      • snakeslane profile imageAUTHOR

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago from Canada

        Nellieanna! I'm so excited to have you here! Thanks lady for your wonderful thoughtful comments on the Sylvia Plath legacy. I know you will appreciate Andrew's analysis, he is amazing. I loved that you approved of my Plath poem. I shudder when I think of the ways she must have tried to cope with her debilitating depression, and how it overcame her. Thanks so much for listening to the Olafur Arnalds/Nils Frahm improve, I am happy you enjoyed it.

      • snakeslane profile imageAUTHOR

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago from Canada

        Dear Bill, you are so kind. Thank you for your reading and generous comment. I will await further instruction on a poetry reading. It would be a first, except for a couple of friends who have put up with me over the years, I am not known for my performance skills. lol.

      • Nellieanna profile image

        Nellieanna Hay 

        13 months ago from TEXAS

        Oh, yes. Also, the video so suits the mood of the poetry, and what amazing surround-sound!

      • Nellieanna profile image

        Nellieanna Hay 

        13 months ago from TEXAS

        “Gifts of frozen light - melting." Wow, Verlie!

        You’re brave to respond a challenge to respond to Plath’s poetry, with its supreme negativity., and you’ve done it with supremely believable authenticity, beauty and power. Congratulations! I’d expect no less of you!

        I’m not sure if or how I could respond to it at all. She was born the same year as I, so I guess ‘back then’, I viewed her as ‘just a peer’ in a way, but I’ve avoided her, for the most part, not being especially drawn to a lot of poetry just because it’s poetry, but especially somewhat repelled by negativity.

        In retrospect, hers seemed to be a negative influence on a generation which surely needed more positive models, but it was somehow drawn to her flavor. Who knows what contribution it has been? Perhaps it’s significant that poets CAN seriously influence people! Is that more likely if it’s negative? I wonder.

        But, then, reality is reality and hers was ever under a huge shadow of clinical depression and many horrid personal experiences. Of course, all that would be reflected in her work. One must sympathize with all that and admire her for being able to write about it so effectively, even though, sadly, she was unable to personally resolve it for herself, if she hoped to.

        Perhaps she’s the undated feminine version of poetic Edgar Allen Poe and of prosaic Oscar Wilde. She’s not as brittle as Ayn Rand, at least. She’s obviously highly talented and deserves credit for all of it.

        I’m deeply appreciative of your poetry here, bringing her back into y awareness and I intend to read Andrew Spacey’s Analysis!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        13 months ago from Olympia, WA

        You are scary talented, and I mean that in the nicest way. If I ever travel up to Vancouver Island again, I think we need to meet for lunch...but be forewarned, I'll want a private poetry reading. :)

      • snakeslane profile imageAUTHOR

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago from Canada

        Mike, thanks so much! Your comment is encouraging, means a lot to me.

      • snakeslane profile imageAUTHOR

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago from Canada

        Ann, thanks for checking out my Plath poem, despite the reservations you have, (similar to my own). It speaks volumes about your loyal readership! I'm so happy you could relate.

      • mckbirdbks profile image


        13 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hello Verlie - Your poetry dances. A graceful spiral of beauty flows from your pen. We are fortunate that you are here offering us your words.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        13 months ago from SW England

        A great response, Verlie. I understand your feeling of being frightened by her poetry. I feel the same. The darkness is disturbing.

        I like the opening of the door 'a crack' as you begin to understand. But then I always love the power and imagery of your poems.


      • snakeslane profile imageAUTHOR

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago from Canada

        Thank you Louise! I love that you love poetry, and my poem too :)

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        13 months ago from Norfolk, England

        I love the poetry. I enjoy reading poems, and I love your poem. The words are lovely.

      • snakeslane profile imageAUTHOR

        Verlie Burroughs 

        13 months ago from Canada

        So happy you found this Andrew, thanks again for all you do for poets, and for poetry.

      • chef-de-jour profile image

        Andrew Spacey 

        13 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

        Smiles all round

        retrieved or not.

        And the beat goes

        on for the solo

        sky dancers.

        Now I know my analysis helped at least ONE person! Appreciate the nod.


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