Analysis of I am Vertical by Sylvia Plath

I am Vertical

Sylvia Plath, known as a confessional poet was born on October 27th 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts. Her interest in writing started at an early age and she started by keeping a journal. She was a troubled poet even from her young age. Her father was a great influence on her and his death, when she was eight, left her very sad. She won a scholarship to Smith College in 1950. Death has been a prominent theme in most of her poems and she tried to take her life a couple of times. Since her life and her poems are very closely related she is considered as a confessional poet. Her poems became more popular after her death in 1963 and she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 1982.

‘I am Vertical’ is an account of the poet’s search for beauty and worthiness in the world. She is not happy with herself as she states‘But I would rather be horizontal’. A tree which is vertical sucks mineral from the earth through its roots. She does not want to be known like that.  She then crafts her image as that someone very dull. No one will say ‘Ah’ when they observe her flowers.  Like her flowers she is dull and without any exciting colours. These flowers are naïve and they do not know that they will ‘unpetal’ soon, meaning, will die soon. She then goes on to compare the flowers with the tree and the tree is thought to be immortal as they last for many years.  She concludes the first stanza by wanting to live long like the tree and be daring like a flower that tries to reach greater heights and startle all.

IGCSE English Past PapersIn the first stanza she speaks about how she felt and what she wanted, but in the next stanza she is ruminating over the present moment, made clear by the word ‘tonight’. That night there were smells of the flowers strewn and it was made beautiful by the ‘infinitesimal light of the stars’. As she walks in this beautiful place she longs to be noticed but in vain. The poet wants recognition in the world but she believed she was being ignored by others. She feels that she is most useful when she is ‘lying down’, like the bed of flowers. When she is lying down she is open to the sky and can have a conversation with the sky. She concludes the poem saying when she finally rests the tree will touch her and the flowers will have more time for her.

‘I am Vertical’ is a poem which is not very dark; it has some sweet moments, a rare aspect in Plath’s poems. The imagery used is vivid yet gentle. The poem has twenty lines in two stanzas. There is no specific rhyme scheme in the poem but the overall feel is lyrical. Plath uses the literary devices of symbolism and personification in this poem. Tree symbolises longevity of life while the flowers were short-lived. The personification of the tree is as one who sucks everything from the earth. Though she starts off by saying she does not want to be like a tree, towards the end she feels when she becomes horizontal, the tree will move towards her and touch her. This poem is one pleasing poem of Sylvia Plath.

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