“New Year on Dartmoor” – by Sylvia Plath

New Year on Dartmoor
This is newness: every little tawdry
Obstacle glass-wrapped and peculiar,
Glinting and clinking in a saint’s falsetto. Only you
Don’t know what to make of the sudden slippiness,
The blind, white, awful, inaccessible slant.
There’s no getting up it by the words you know.
No getting up by elephant or wheel or shoe.
We have only come to look. You are too new
To want the world in a glass hat.

— Sylvia Plath, December 1961

1 thought on ““New Year on Dartmoor” – by Sylvia Plath

  1. Brian Barder

    I have to admit that I can’t understand a word of this poem. Is the unexplained reference to Dartmoor meant to make us think prison, or moor, or both? What is “this” newness and what has it got to do with Dartmoor and new year? How can an “obstacle” be wrapped in glass — indeed, how can anything be wrapped in glass? Does ‘glass’ refer to ice, perhaps? Even if so, it explains nothing. What is a “saint’s falsetto” and how is it different from anyone else’s falsetto? (If it’s a baby’s cry, it can’t be a falsetto.) What on earth (or outside it) is “slippiness” if not something more easily understood by an ordinary recognisable word? What is this “blind, white, awful, inaccessible slant” that you can’t get up by any known form of transport? The sky? The slanting wall of Dartmoor prison? A snow-covered hill? Where’s the clue to what it is? Who is this “you” who is “too new” to do something unintelligible involving a “glass hat” — apparently becoming more feasible with age? A baby? Whose baby? What’s a baby doing on Dartmoor on 1 January? What is a glass hat, echoing that equally mysterious glass wrapping?

    I must be exceptionally obtuse, but I can’t make head or tail of it. Happy new year!

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