in Ariel: The Restored Edition
by Sylvia Plath
(New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2004)
First published: 1965

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

In these lines from Plath’s ‘Daddy’, the lyric generates the effect of someone confessing. In this stanza, the speaker terminates a confession; jams the telephone’s wires. Yet despite cutting the conversation off, the speaker still allows the interlocutor to overhear and in so doing, grants power to that listener. In turning away from the eavesdropper (‘So daddy, I’m finally through’), the poem’s speaker sustains the confession; the turning away turns attention to the other listener present: the reader of the poem. This poetry resists psycho-biographical readings in favour of those that are politically inflected by directing our attention to the domestic technology at the poem’s centre. Indeed, the general public’s attitude towards the subject of electronic wiretapping made its way into a wide range of poems as well as public discourse, advertising, editorials and newspapers of the period.

by Tyne Daile Sumner