Dredging Sylvia Plath

I find myself back in Canada, on a lake
less constricting than the puddling oceans of Europe
I am at its pure centre
thankfully alone with Charon’s boat


I breathe in lungsful of the spring scent
I am learning to live in the moment
Oh, how I am enjoying this


Remember our camping at Rock Lake?
Remember my Ocean 1212 W?
You know how much I love water


replete with good intentions I catapult in

lower lower

deeper deeper

become fish gill

become coral reef

shale, elemental, bottoming out


I breathe water
It is no problem


You, absent husband, must be below
on the lake’s bottom
Children believe they can dig to China
I can do better


above me in the distance reflecting wavering
a dredge searches for a drowning victim
with grappling hooks like your Iron Man’s


down here all the accumulated silt from my throat, sand, debris
contaminants, all the dirt of my broken heart and your black one
mountain upon mountain
enough surely to reshape our land


Will. Mine. For. Precious. Elements.
Reclaim. I claw and paw at the sediment          it is not futile                it is not too much
How many of my tears necessary to transfigure this freshwater into our sea?


boom lowered, I vibrate prone on the lake bottom, my lungs alone surely offering

sufficient suction

to pump you
from my



Crystal (Sick Witch) writes, teaches, swim-dances, and creates visual and textile art. crystalhurdle.ca

Questions and Answers

1. Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

I fell in love with Plath in a freshman literature course.  On smeary mimeograph paper were “Lady Lazarus” and “Tulips.” “Who is this woman?” I asked then and have attempted to answer ever since. Seeing Ted Hughes at a rare reading in Vancouver, BC, in the early nineties, I became increasingly fascinated about the pair.

As a partial counterpoint to Hughes’ Birthday Letters, I wrote After Ted and Sylvia: poems (Ronsdale, 2003), allowing Plath a voice in a series of monologues.  The book contains poems written over a ten-year period, variously imagining Sivvy in Las Vegas, in paintings she wrote about, in a computer store. As a featured speaker, I read several of these poems at the 70th international Sylvia Plath Symposium at the University of Indiana in the fall of 2002 and at the 75th in Oxford in 2007.

2.How/where do you find inspiration today?

I am still writing poems about/to/for Plath, who will, I expect, always be my primary muse. “‘Inspire’ so Close to ‘Expire’: Riding out the Pandemic with Poet Partners Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath” is a fifteen-page poem I wrote in COVID-y January 2021 (forthcoming in Plath Profiles), in which I imagined Plath and Hughes being forced to deal with similar pandemic restrictions as I was. The damned pandemic had to be good for something if only raw material . . .

This poem “Dredging Sylvia Plath” originally appeared in Canadian Literature: 252 Canadian Literature (2023): 130-131.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.