The Experiencer: Inspired by Sylvia Plath’s Poem “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”

India ink, watercolor, and gouache on paper

Day 257 and Sylvia Plath

From my experience, Poetry exists in the spaces between the mind of the poet and the experiencer of the poem. Poetry is not just assonance or cadence or rhyme. Poetry is also the translation of a moment, perhaps a feeling, of something grand condensed, and perhaps confined, to words.

As a child, I was an experiencer of poetry, I let each poem’s world encapsulate me; instead of deducing a meaning, I felt for one. And all the feeling led me to a deeper understanding of what I experienced.

Beginning in my early adolescence and on through my teen years, I often memorized poetry, both to make it a part of me and to recite it. For I realized that by reciting poetry, I could share the experience of the poem, the emotion.

Sylvia Plath was first introduced to me by way of her poem Daddy. It rooted itself somewhere deep inside me, and is still in there, untangling threads. And I can hear Daddy’s echo’s because Plath’s poetry creates its own language, a sound that is stark as it is beautiful.

When I read Black Rook in Rainy Weather, I wanted to share in that language. I attempted to memorize it, and as I tried I took walks in the woods, waiting for the crows that haunt our property to make themselves audible. And when I could not hear the crows, I looked up into the twiggy sky, imagining “those spasmodic/Tricks of radiance miracles.”

Yet life’s fastness and my memory let Black Rook in Rainy Weather slip from my mind. Now all I have is the trickling of the beginning, “On the stiff twig up there/ Hunches a wet black rook“. Yet this beginning is enough to transport me to Sylvia’s world, enough to let me taste her language, and enough to inspire me to share the poem through my art today.

Now its your turn:

Take a moment to experience Black Rook in Rainy Weather. In the video below hear Sylvia’s voice translate the poem, then read it for yourself. It will only take a few moments.

Sylvia Plath’s Black Rook in Rainy Weather

Black Rook in Rainy Weather
Sylvia Plath

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, not seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Leap incandescent

Out of the kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took 
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then —
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

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

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel.
For that rare, random descent.