Friday, June 26, 2015

"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 (poem)

"Tulips" is written in nine seven-line stanzas, totaling 63 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." Renée R. Curry takes this further by claiming the tulips signify "by their glorious and bold colors, glaring Otherness."


Tulips (poem)

External links

Tulips (poem)
  • Critiques on "Tulips, at Modern American Poetry Society

Tulips (poem)
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