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The Colossus and Other Poems Paperback – May 19, 1998


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The Colossus and Other Poems + Ariel: The Restored Edition: A Facsimile of Plath's Manuscript, Reinstating Her Original Selection and Arrangement (P.S.) + The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International ed edition (May 19, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375704469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375704468
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"[Her poems] have that exquisite, heart-breaking quality about them that has
made Sylvia Plath our acknowledged Queen of Sorrows, the spokeswoman for our most
private, most helpless nightmares. . . . Her poetry is as deathly as it is impeccable;
it enchants us almost as powerfully as it must have enchanted her." --Joyce Carol Oates,
The New York Times



"Sylvia Plath's eye is sharp . . . and her wits responsive to what she sees." --Richard Howard,Poetry

"...The Colossus, which appeared earlier in England to unusual acclaim [was] her first volume to be published in America. Certainly the praise bestowed on her by British critics is warranted; Sylvia Plath is indeed a rare talent and a consummate craftsman...her powerful poems crackle and smolder with energy."--Guy Owen, Books Abroad

"She steers clear of feminine charm, deliciousness, gentility, supersensitivity and the act of being a poet. She simply writes good poetry."--Al Alvarez, London Observer

From the Inside Flap

With this startling, exhilarating book of poems, which was first published in 1960, Sylvia Plath burst into literature with spectacular force. In such classics as "The Beekeeper's Daughter," "The Disquieting Muses," "I Want, I Want," and "Full Fathom Five," she writes about sows and skeletons, fathers and suicides, about the noisy imperatives of life and the chilly hunger for death. Graceful in their craftsmanship, wonderfully original in their imagery, and presenting layer after layer of meaning, the forty poems in The Colossus are early artifacts of genius that still possess the power to move, delight, and shock.

More About the Author

Sylvia Plath was born in 1932 in Massachusetts. Her books include the poetry collections The Colossus, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees, Ariel, and The Collected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Plath is credited with being a pioneer of the 20th-century style of writing called confessional poetry. Her poem "Daddy" is one of the best-known examples of this genre.

In 1963, Plath's semi-autobiographic novel The Bell Jar was published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas"; it was reissued in 1966 under her own name. A complete and uncut facsimile edition of Ariel was published in 2004 with her original selection and arrangement of poems. She was married to the poet Ted Hughes, with whom she had a daughter, Frieda, and a son, Nicholas. She died in London in 1963.

Customer Reviews

Images of distant objectivity are chosen as pivots for the most intimate meditations, physical and personal.
Billyjack D'Urberville
Even so, as a first collection of poetry it is impressive and certainly required reading for anyone wishing to understand the development of her work.
Carl Rollyson
These earlier works do have a more formal structure than the later works, but they are still in line with the less rigid style of the 1950s.
Christopher Barrett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Defreitas on January 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Sylvia Plath's initial volume of poetry is very much in the formalistic style that was prevalent in the 1950s, but she brings to verse-making a "diction that is galvanized against inertia" (to quote Marianne Moore in a different context), a heavily alliterative, percussive idiom in which we discern kinship to Dylan Thomas and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
In "Hardcastle Crags," we have an analogue for a woman's heels against the pavement: "Flintlike, her feet struck / Such a racket of echoes." We have the slovenly slush of the tide at Point Shirley, where the poet's grandmother "kept house / Against what the sluttish, rutted sea could do." We have in other slant-rhymed terza-rima, and intricate stanza shapes reminiscent of Richard Wilbur and his lyric called "Beasts."
And has anyone captured the somnolent wakefulness of "the chilly no-man's-land of five o'clock in the morning" better than Sylvia Plath in "The Ghost's Leavetaking"?
There are poems about mushrooms, moles, and men in black. There is a homage to the artist Leonard Baskin, renowned as a maker of woodcuts. A keen visual sense in these poems leads us not to be surprised when we learn that Plath worked well as a painter of watercolours.
Her second pre-posthumous volume, "Ariel," is perhaps more famous for its unselfsparing chronicle of a crashing marriage and of suicidal depression. Its fiercely unfettered cadences and controversial images attracted immediate attention, praise and opprobrium. But this reviewer feels that the poems of "Colossus" represent the superior achievement, possessing a technique and a sonic command surpassed by precious few poets of our age.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul-John Ramos on December 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
In a well-known 1962 radio interview with Peter Orr of the British Council, Sylvia Plath downplayed her achievements in 'The Colossus' by explaining that she was 'bored' with the poems. By this time, she had entered the period of freer forms and dazzling imagery that fueled 'Ariel,' a volume now securing her legacy.

Plath died at a young age and might have changed her mind about 'The Colossus' poems had she lived long enough to reevaluate them. Fortunately, her public sees a great deal of the collection's value, at least in terms of its refinement and precision. Even when disregarding its subject matters, 'The Colossus' can be viewed as a woman's treatise on the poetic art.

First published in 1960, 'The Colossus & Other Poems' offers forty titles, many of which were written at the Yaddo artists' colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, and published in such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Encounter. The poems do not follow a specific order, but are arranged to supply contrasts in mood. Several of Plath's best known poems, including 'Night Shift,' 'The Colossus,' 'The Disquieting Muses,' 'The Beekeeper's Daughter,' and 'The Stones,' can be found in this 84-page collection.

On the surface, Plath's early poetry looks naïve. Her stanzas are always flush left with capital letters. The number of lines per stanza is usually consistent. Her metrics are flawless. But when examining the poems repeatedly, it becomes clear that Plath's work has manifold meanings; how deeply we see is based on how deeply we're willing to look. Even in simple narratives like 'Sow,' 'The Bull of Bendylaw,' and 'Snakecharmer,' Plath seems to be winking at us through her underlying ideas on human relationships.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Le on September 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
The Colossus," from what I understand, was Plath's first published collection of poetry. During this early phase of Plath's career, she still treated the act of writing poetry as a laborious and painstaking process, often diligently lookig up words in the thesaurus and then inserting many synonyms of one word into a single composition. This rather pedantic attitude toward poetry shows in these poems, many of which devoutly adhere to difficult rhyme schemes (albeit frequently using slant rhymes) and all of which are marked by a studied attention to detail, both visual and sonic. These poems simply don't *soar* the way the free-verse poems in "Ariel" (Plath's second book) do; they are just not as vibrant or as lively as her later work. These are bleak poems, characterized by a wealth of vivid tactile detail, but somewhat lacking in color and movement. Plath frequently uses the terza-rima rhyme scheme that Dante patented, as though to suggest that life, for her, is a slow, laborious plod into (or through?) hell. In this book, Plath shows that she can write good poems, but she does not make the art of writing good poems seem easy.

I do not, however, mean to imply that this is not a useful book for aspiring poets to read. It is, doubtless, a very important book to read if one wishes to understand how Plath developed into the brilliant, oracular voice that spouted "Ariel." And since Sylvia Plath started writing poetry seriously at a very early age, it is perhaps unfair to dismissively refer to this book -- which she published at the ripe old age of 25 -- as her "early work." There are many remarkable things about this book, not the least of which is the way Plath elevates mundane topics (e.g., men working the night shift, or prize pigs) to the level of high poetry, armoring them with an impervious Dante-esque dignity. To Plath, even the smallest things in life are worthy of attention.
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