ORR: Setting aside poetry for a moment, are there other things you would like to write, or that you have written?
PLATH: Well, I always was interested in prose. As a teenager, I published short stories. And I always wanted to write the long short story, I wanted to write a novel. Now that I have attained, shall I say, a respectable age, and have had experiences, I feel much more interested in prose, in the novel. I feel that in a novel, for example, you can get in toothbrushes and all the paraphernalia that one finds in dally life, and I find this more difficult in poetry. Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline, you’ve got to go so far, so fast, in such a small space that you’ve just got to turn away all the peripherals. And I miss them! I’m a woman, I like my little Lares and Penates, I like trivia, and I find that in a novel I can get more of life, perhaps not such intense life, but certainly more of life, and so I’ve become very interested in novel writing as a result.
ORR: This is almost a Dr. Johnson sort of view, isn’t it? What was it he said, “There are some things that are fit for inclusion in poetry and others which are not”?
PLATH: Well, of course, as a poet I would say pouf! I would say everything should be able to come into a poem, but I can’t put toothbrushes into a poem, I really can’t!
What ceremonies do we believe in?
Every morning we brush our teeth.
What is the evidence
that brushing our teeth does any good
And you start wondering.
Are we all imagining that,
as the earth turns
and the orbit has an edge between light and dark,
that along that edge all the people
are doing the same ritual—
brush, brush, brush—
for no good reason?
Have you tried to picture
this perpetual line of toothbrushes going around the earth?