I found a poetic gem while poring over an old bookstore in Florida: “Morning in the Hospital Solarium” by Sylvia Plath. You can read the poem at http://allpoetry.com/Morning-In-The-Hospital-Solarium .
Sylvia Plath’s poems have wonderful imagery, and I think that’s draws me in. I’ve read The Bell Jar and I’ve noticed that she connects items to emotions, which makes them seem larger than life.
This also applies to “Morning in the Hospital Solarium.” A solarium isn’t really used anymore, but back in the mid-20th century, medical treatments were scarce. Exposure to heat and sunlight was believed to be therapeutic.
Plath starts the poem by focusing on a glass of grapefruit juice:
“Sunlight strikes a glass of grapefruit juice” (1).
Even though this may seem odd, the focus on this object helps me see the situation from the narrator’s point of view (although I am not sure who that is). As the poem progresses, I feel like I’m viewing from afar, dreaming. Plath is amazing at creating the scene in creative ways; for example…
“heat shadows waver noiseless in
bright window-squares until the women seem
to float like dream-fish in the languid limbo
of an undulant aquarium” (6-9).
What are heat shadows? Shadows are seen…heat is felt. I’m thinking maybe Plath does this to make the reader more sensitive. As the clouds move, the temperature changes.
The poem takes an emotional turn, and this is my favorite part:
“herald distraction: a flock of pastel pills,
turquoise, rose, sierra mauve; needles
that sting no more than love” (13-15).
“Needles that sting no more than love.” I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of it, but the narrator is obviously preoccupied. This is where I connect it to Plath’s life. Plath wrote this as a teenager. She wrote a lot about her father in other poems.
“Like petulant parakeets corked up in cages
of intricate spunglass routine,
the women wait, fluttering, turning pages
of magazines in elegant ennui,
hoping for some incredible dark man
to assault the scene and make some
gaudy miracle occur, to come
and like a burglar steal their fancy:
at noon, anemic husbands visit them” (19-27).
“Like a burgular to steal their fancy” made me laugh a bit…but other than that, the “dark man” part felt kind of haunting. Considering that this poem is about a well-lit room, the transition to dark intrigues me. Possibly the women are sick of being blinded by light and want to be captivated by darkness.
Regardless, I read over this poem more than once. And each time, I noticed a different aspect. The first time, I noticed the imagery. The second time, I noticed the emotion connected to the imagery. And now, this time, I see it as a message about women. The best poems do that. Plath is so unique, and this poem isn’t just a mere description of a solarium, but a description of human nature.