Keeping and Holding the Rapture

February 13, 1999
Saturday

As of today I have decided to keep a diary again — just a place where I can write my thoughts and opinions when I have a moment. Somehow I have to keep and hold the rapture of being seventeen.
                                         
— Sylvia Plath, 1932-1963
                                             American poet

And of course we all know what happened to Sylvia.

In her introduction to The Journals of Sylvia Plath, Frances McCullough reports that the poet’s diaries had “the usual function of such documents — to chart a life, to pique a memory, to confirm inner life and perhaps to dispel the doubt that one exists at all. . . . ” Plath herself called her journal “a litany of dreams, directives and imperatives, . . . her ‘Sargasso.'”

I found the quotation in Margaret D. Smith’s Journal Keeper, a book of short meditations and writing prompts whose CIP classification assigns it to works on the spiritual life and the religious aspects of diary authorship.

I keep a pen-and-paper journal, more or less regularly, about four days a week. That’s not what this is. When I write in my private journal, I write for myself, and the only audience I hope to be aware of is the future me who will read it again in a month or a year (“Where is that stuff I wrote about my grandmother’s bread bowl?”). What I write here is a public journal, with an immediate and largely anonymous audience.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t authentic. Just shaped.

So why do I write, this journal or the other or anything at all? For all the reasons McCullough suggests. I especially like the one about dispelling the doubt that one exists at all. I want to keep and hold the rapture and (sometimes) the torture of being almost 52, a suburban wife and mother, a writer in search of recognition.

On October 16, 1962, four months before the torture drove out all the rapture, Sylvia Plath wrote to her mother, “I am a genius of a writer; I have it in me. I am writing the best poems of my life; they will make my name . . .”

Come along, while I make my name.

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