September 11, 2014


By Sylvia Plath
Analysis By 
Janelle Spiers

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes.  We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

            Mushrooms, by Sylvia Plath, does not sound any more exciting than the real organism.  The title of this poem is the simple, edible mushrooms, nothing more.  However, with beautiful choices of words and descriptions, Plath manages to describe something simple and turn it into something grand on a small scale.  The poem is describing the growth and blooming of mushrooms, as they “inherit the earth,” silently, unobserved, poke themselves out of the dirt into the open. 
            Written in tercets of five syllables each, Plath uses metaphors, personification, and imagery to clearly convey the secretiveness of the mushroom bloom.  Personifying the mushrooms with noses, toes, fists, ears, eyes and voices, makes pictures in our minds, allowing us to tie everyday sights to the growing mushrooms.  The attitude of this poem is subdued, yet very confident, as the pluralized colony of mushrooms make their move in the dead of night. 
            Sylvia Plath wrote this poem in 1959, three years after her marriage to Ted Hughes.  Plath had a shattered childhood when her father died from lung cancer.  For years after that, she suffered from depression and made several attempts to commit suicide.  Her career as a writer and a mother ended in 1963 when she finally succeeded in taking her life.
            Perhaps her depressing past and troubled mind affected the writing of this poem.  Maybe she wanted to convey hope, that even though these mushrooms travel through shadow and darkness, they must eventually come out into the light.  It’s possible she wanted to share her own story, silent, unwatched, alone, she tried to convey the lonely, darker side of nature through her poem.  Whatever she intended to convey, one thing is certain, Plath has created a mysterious, silent, yet confident, bold colony of mushrooms, on a quest to divide and conquer.

            Mushrooms by Sylvia Plath is simple, yet elegant.  Her title does not seem to adequately capture the beauty and haunting words of her poem.  She describes a colony of mushrooms, blooming and unfolding in the dark of night, unwatched and stealthy, yet in the morning, they break out of the earth in to the light, revealing themselves to the world.

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