"Tulips" is a poem by American poet Sylvia Plath. The poem was written in 1961 and included in the collection Ariel published in 1965.
Style and structure
"Tulips" is written in nine seven-line stanzas, totaling 63Â lines, and follows no rhyme scheme. Richard Grey comments on the verse that it is "nominally free but has a subtle iambic base; the lines... ...move quietly and mellifluously; and a sense of hidden melody ('learning' / 'lying', 'lying by myself quietly', 'light lies', 'white walls') transforms apparently casual remarks into memorable speech."
Ted Hughes has stated "Tulips" was written about some flowers she received while in a hospital recovering from an appendectomy." Unlike many of her other Ariel poems, "Tulips" was written long before her eventual suicide in 1963.
The speaker is in a hospital bed and describes her experience using an image of red tulips (presumably a gift) that interrupt her calm stay in the white hospital. During her stay at the hospital she has given up everything, including her identity, as expressed by the lines:
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons.
She wishes to remain in a state of emptiness, but the flowers intrude upon this state:
I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
Eileen Aird remarks: "The world of Ariel is a black and white one into which red, which represents blood, the heart and living is always an intrusion." RenÃ©e R. Curry takes this further by claiming the tulips signify "by their glorious and bold colors, glaring Otherness."
- Critiques on "Tulips, at Modern American Poetry Society