At one time "The Devil of the Stairs" was Sylvia

Plath's intended title for what eventually became her published collection of

poems "Colossus". I've never been able to ascertain the reason she chose to change titles.

The Devil of the Stairs

There was much in her madness to draw us in.

Poetry was payback, electroshock for readers,

collusion between self and the culture oppressing women.

Rebelling against the limitations of a woman's sphere,

seeking refuge in career, a feminist before it was chic,

writing poems as a poultice against death

lurking in the shadows of a conflicted mind.


Sylvia, what was the dialogue you had with Death?

He deceived you in the mirror,

made you tremble at the foot of the stairs,

hissed from the potatoes in the kitchen,

till you sought solace in the oven's jets.

You were an artist out of time.

It's safe to come in from the depression now.

Poetry by Brian Oarr
Read 511 times
Written on 2012-06-17 at 14:14

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The list of self-destructive poets is a rather long one. Poetry as therapy seems quite true, certainly literally so in Sexton's case. "What was the dialogue you had with Death" is stunningly and sadly accurate, though in the end it seems not to have been palliative nor healing . . . rather (figuratively) picking at scabs until they bled to death.

Elle The PoetBay support member heart!
Her villanelle about the circus is one of my favourite poems - I think like a lot of tormented souls, the art of finding true happiness always eludes.


She was the consummate craftsperson whose celebrity overshadowed her genius. I have a friend who teaches lit classes and he says that her poem Daddy is always the most popular text in his classes.

There is a poem she wrote about red poppies that just amazes me every time I read it.

I didn't know that there was an alternative title for Colossus. I sort of like both titles equally.

Also like Anne Sexton, sadly another suicide.