Friday, July 13, 2018

#22 Backstory of the Poem "Studying Ariel" by Julia Gordon-Bramer . . .

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***This is the twenty-second in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 

#22 Backstory of the Poem
“Studying Ariel”
by Julia Gordon-Bramer

Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?  I can't really go through a step-by-step process, in part because I wrote the poem ten years ago(!), but it was when I first identified the tarot symbolism across Plath's collection Ariel, and then the title poem "Ariel" was full of Japanese images. When I wrote this poem, I hadn't fully decoded the "Ariel" poem yet. But I was aware of this imagery, and how it all worked together, and I was feeling WWII Japan, if that makes sense, and my poem came from that. (Above Right:  Julia at the St. Louis Renaissance Fair in Wentsville Rotary Park in October of 2016.  Copyright permission granted by Julia Gordon-Bramer for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail.  I honestly don't recall where I was when I wrote the poem. Most of my poems are written from home (but not always). Most are written right at my desk in my home office. (Left:  Julia Gordon-Bramer in September of 2017.  Copyright permission granted by Julia Gordon-Bramer for this CRC Blog Post Only.) 

What month and year did you start writing this poem? 
I also cannot tell you the month, but it was written about 2007, when I first found myself in graduate school and had just discovered the synchronicity between Plath's Ariel collection and the tarot. (Right: Julia Gordon-Bramer in her office in 2009. Copyright permission granted by Julia Gordon-Bramer for this CRC Blog Post Only)

How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?)  I'm frustatingly a computer writer, so I don't keep drafts and have old copies with cross-outs and such, as Plath did! I write a poem and sit with it, and return to it and change a word or two here, or cut a line, or add things, and the process can take a day or many days or weeks or even months. But I don't keep old drafts. A little bit of time and distance from my writing helps me to see if it's good, and so my job is to remove what's not working and enhance what is. (Left:  Julia Gordon-Bramer in September of 2017.  Copyright permission granted by Julia Gordon-Bramer for this CRC Blog Post Only.)

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?  I want readers to be able to see Plath for her symbolism and understand that she is speaking in metaphor, and that her poem "Ariel" has a lot more going on than just being a poem about riding a horse, which is what most people think it to be. (Right:  Sylvia Plath at her Chalcot Square Flat in London in July of 1961.  Two months later she would write "Ariel" on her 30th birthday.  Public Domain) 

*Click on this link to read Syliva Plath’s “Ariel”

(Left:  The painting Ecstasy by Wladyslaw Podkowinski depicting a ride similar to that descried in "Ariel"  Public Domain) 

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?  Poetry is such an emotional experience in general that I don't see one part being more than another. I have just reread my own poem, and if I can return to an earlier question, the one about where I wrote it, I can say that I hope that the poem speaks for itself as far as describing the setting of the library and my research (but I did not write the poem there). And my Tokyo Rose reference has a "post" before it, because I am explaining that Plath was born after WWII, even though her poem is full of imagery from this war.
When I wrote it, it was not as if I was casting Plath as Tokyo Rose or anything like that. I was processing the WWII symbols in Plath's "Ariel"--Plath's "red eye" is the Japanese flag, the flakes are peeling skin, etc.I would rather not suggest Tokyo Rose because I never found evidence of her in Plath's work. You're seeing her in MY work.

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where? 
This was published in the Women Arts Quarterly Journal, Winter 2011   (

Studying Ariel

Bound calm torpor, in this cozy cell.
Drugged, woozy with weight
from twenty sentinels stacked;
their musty smell, bodies’ black
blood and hard spines cracked.
Found notations, little atom bombs
from others fallen; prisoners like me, held
within the magnanimous shifting
of gray library afternoons.
Listening to the seductive multitudes
within you, post-Tokyo Rose.
Twenty-two to my zero
in a system rigged by God
where obstacles are air,
not mushroom clouds;
the body, only thought. Talk
to me of secrets higher than
this sweet grief, Mother Japan.
Your dew tears rise to burn
from their water sign, then turn
toward my arrow. Fixed disintegration.
We fly together, solo kamikazes
the savage, true suicide ride
toward the flagging red eye,
a greater fire.

Julia Gordon-Bramer is the author of Fixed Stars Govern a Life: Decoding Sylvia Plath (2014, Stephen F. Austin State University Press) and the Decoding Sylvia Plath series on Magi Press. In addition to being a poet, she is a professional tarot card reader and occasional professor at Lindenwood University. Her forthcoming release is Decoding Sylvia Plath's "Cut."  Julia’s upcoming projects this year also include The Magician's Girl, a biography of the mysticism of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, and the long awaited publication of her memoir, Night Times, about the years she ran an alternative rock zine in St. Louis in the 1990s as a single mom.


001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021 July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s (It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

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