Moon Women

Moon Women
—for Marjorie Perloff, Aurelia Plath,
Mary Ellen Chase, Olive Higgins Prouty,
Anne Sexton and Ruth Beutscher

“your moon was
full of women”
—Ted Hughes,
“Night Ride on Ariel,”
Birthday Poems

too many women—too many alphas
too many moonstruck—eye-sick goddesses

moon-sick—heart-sick women


your moon-mother—lunatic
tyrolean moon-goddess—guttural
mourning and blaming—herself
it was always—big daddy she loved

tender whacko—prouty like
glenda the witch—in wizard of oz
click those—magic ruby slippers
you’re a wicked-witch—now, girl

forget Cinderella—forget the coach
you’ve got a cheesy—zeppelin broom to fly
college courses—mary ellen chase
more moon-daughters—lovely lunar spawn

madam beutscher—queen bee
her moon-shop full—of midget
munchkin mind melds—electro
dismemberment—zap moonshine

full moon—mary ellen chase
bug-eyed moon owl—ogling
thru silver nimbus—luna lit
stealing you—from my nest

all your—finicky moon women
dragging you—dead back
across the atlantic—to moonville
sexton green—with jealousy

your toes curled—you skin blue
phases of the moon—mooning you
across your dismal—dead face
giving me the evil eye—to get even

fairy godmother—no tooth fairy
beneath your pillow—ariel sleeps
down there in daddy’s coffin—no past
so mademoiselle perfect—pouty girl

prouty wants you—back again
beutscher—pulls your magic twanger
frog prince otto—his lovely magnetic
gangrene leg—glowing in the dark

you’re so polite—even in death
tiptoeing through—daddy’s beehive
drones making way—as usual
lesbos worker bees—wings abuzz

busy—mary ellen moonbeam
squeezing smith—and cambridge
just right—your petite physique
so hourglass—and chic

no wonder—they all love you
lesbian moon-women—are yours
they took you—under their wings
what other smith coed—so privileged?

they jammed—my wavelength
with guilt—blaming your flight
fatally flawed—on my bluebeard
male ways—another big daddy!!!

the more I ignored—these harpies
the more they flew—their brooms
swooping at night—seeking vengeance
grande dames—marjorie perloff etc.


Olive Higgins Prouty

“Author of several best-selling novels, including Stella Dallas and Now, Voyager, had endowed the scholarship Sylvia won at Smith and took a personal interest in Sylvia’s career, although she was subsequently pilloried as Philomenia Guinea in The Bell Jar.”—Edward Butscher, “In Search of Sylvia: An Introduction,” Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1977, 237

Anne Sexton

“It was 1959, another watershed year for modern American poetry, a year in which Lowell, Sexton, Snodgrass (a former pupil of Lowell’s), and Ginsberg utilized very private often humiliating aspects of their own lives to illuminate and revitalize the romantic projections of self initiated by Wordsworth generations earlier. Called “confessionalism” by admirers and detractors alike…with its fictions of self more important than clinical revelations. Sexton’s and Lowell’s greater psychic honesty was decisive in demonstrating the need for Plath to break through their disguises, their remoteness, their ironic Audenesque rationalities…promoting conversational voice and true emotional intensity which her poems lacked.”—Edward Butscher, “In Search of Sylvia: An Introduction,” Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1977, 17

Ruth Beutscher

“When news of Sylva’s breakdown and attempted suicide reached Mr. Prouty, she telegraphed that she wanted to help, soon afterward writing an offer to pay for treatment at McLean Hospital in Belmont. Mrs. Prouty herself had suffered a nervous breakdown many years before, and it had taught her, she said, to value life. She would see to it that Sylvia recovered in the best mental institution in the country. McLean, indeed, is famous in Massachusetts as the hospital where Robert Lowell would retreat during his manic periods and where Anne Sexton would periodically be a patient. Sylvia was there nearly four months before she was cured. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Ruth Beuscher, was a young woman with whom Sylvia established a trustful relationship that lasted the rest of her life. The kind of psychiatric treatment Sylvia Plath received in the 1950s now seems almost as barbaric as the rituals of eighteenth-century Bedlam. The horrific course of electroconvulsive therapy during her breakdown and purgatory of her “cure” affected Sylvia more deeply than anyone understood at the time. It may be that she never really recovered from it, that it changed her personality permanently, stripping her of a psychological skin she could ill afford to lose. Attributable to her ECT is the unseen menace that haunts nearly everything she wrote, her conviction that the world, however benign in appearance, conceals dangerous animosity, directed particularly toward herself.”—Anne Stevenson, Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, 47

Aurelia Plath

“The mystery deepened. Where lurked the monster, the maternal ogre depreciated in The Bell Jar and poems like “The Disquieting Muses” and “Medusa”? And she was, she was a monster, this sincere Aurelia Plath of Wellesley, a vampire of the unconscious as fatal as Dracula himself, albeit an unwitting creation, another well-intentioned road-paver. With a sort of desperate love, she had drawn her precocious daughter to her bosom like a threatened mother mouse and never let go, feeding her fat, true, but feeding upon her as well.”—Edward Butscher, “In Search of Sylvia: An Introduction,” Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1977, 8

Aurelia Plath

“This is very normal, of course, in a gross surface way, the inevitable giving and getting involved in any close human union, but the intense parent-child matrix does demand much more from the parent in the end, move giving and, ultimately, unconditional surrender. But Mrs. Plath could not comply when it came time for her daughter to assert her own identity, could not release her emotionally, and used the blanket of “love” to disguise her intentions. Hungrily, vicariously, she lived through her daughter, sucking up her life to fill the empty sack of her own dull existence, a fair exchange, so fair, but their crucial symbiotic relationship evolved (through high school and college) into a dangerous anaclitic tie as Sylvia’s world demanded greater and greater perfection: her mother wanted and needed it; her father had always possessed it; she admired and imitated it and him, driving herself to achieve, to achieve what Mrs. Plath had been denied—a gay social life, many ultra-eligible boy pursuers, superior academic standing, recognized creative productions, the American Dream come alive as it only can in the mind and soul of immigrants’ offspring.”—Edward Butscher, “In Search of Sylvia: An Introduction,” Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1977, 8-9

Aurelia Plath

“A Family reunion is a delightfully vicious exercise in caricature… It made clear, I believe, that the configuration behind the art (which I eventually labeled “the bitch goddess”) was a repressed creature, a conscious persona and unconscious reality that would transform method into creative madness to carve out a unique female power myth.”—Edward Butscher, “In Search of Sylvia: An Introduction,” Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1977, 10

Marjorie Perloff

“Marjorie Perloff having relegated Sylvia to the dungeon of “minor” status and others might think Emily Dickinson more worthy of the title (the first major woman poet in American literature) but her constricting, somewhat virginal whimsy prevented her, despite real brilliance, from ever establishing an entire world in her poetry, at least for me.”—Edward Butscher, “In Search of Sylvia: An Introduction,” Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1977, 237

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