I am Vertical Poem by Sylvia Plath Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “I am Vertical” was written by Sylvia Plath. The poem was first published in her poetry collection named “Crossing the Water” in 1971. This collection was published posthumously by her husband Ted Hughes. Through this poem , Plath compares herself with natural objects. Most of the her poem had indicated her suicidal thoughts. This poem was written two years before her death in 1963.

About the Poet:

Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Most of her writings are grouped under the genre named the confessional poetry. She is best known for two of her published collections, The Colossus and Other Poems (1960) and Ariel (1965). She has also published The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel shortly before her suicide in 1963. The Collected Poems was published in 1981, including previously unpublished works. For this collection Plath was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for Poetry. So, she is the fourth to receive this honour posthumously.

Historical Background:

Sylvia Plath wrote the poem “I Am Vertical” on 28 March 1961. Plath had a miscarriage in the same year. Most of the poems written during this phase address this event. “I am Vertical” is one among them. Here, the speaker wishes to find relief and a sense of purpose. The poem was first published posthumously in her poetry collection, Crossing the Water in 1971.


The poem “I am Vertical” is a two-stanza poem. Each stanza contains ten lines. It is a confessional poem. It is a style of poetry that is personal. These poems mostly contain the personal pronoun “I”.


The poetess has written the poem “I am Vertical” without using a perfect metre. Though she has composed this poem with iambic pentameter. There are some variations.

Speaker of the Poem:

The poetess Sylvia  Plath herself is the speaker of the poem. It is hinted with the use of person pronoun “I”

I am not a tree with my root in the soil

Sucking up minerals and motherly love

Poem Analysis:

Stanza 1:

Lines 1-4:

But I would rather be horizontal.

I am not a tree with my root in the soil

Sucking up minerals and motherly love

So that each March I may gleam into leaf,

The poetess herself is the speaker of the poem. In the title of the poem she declared herself as a vertical. In the first line of the first stanza,she mentions that she wishes to be a horizontal person. Here, “horizontal” refers to the common way of life. She says that she is not a tree that is rooted in the soil to suck up the minerals and the motherly love. She is not this kind of being. Here life is not full of happiness and goodness.

Lines 5-10:

Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed

Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,

Unknowing I must soon unpetal.

Compared with me, a tree is immortal

And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,

And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.

In these lines she continues the description. She says that she is not a beautiful garden that attracts others using the colourful flowers. So, her life is not shining with the blooming flowers. Instead she feels that her life is dull and unhappy. She knows that a flower’s life span is too small, yet it lives happily. In the next few lines she compares her life with a tree which lives more immoral than her. So, she wish to live a long life like a tree and combine it with the daring life of a flower.

Stanza 2:

Lines 11-13:

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,

The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.

I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.

In the second stanza, the speaker is describing the present moment. The previous stanza is just her inner thoughts. Now, the speaker is looking at the infinitesimal light of stars. She is looking at the tress. She feels the odours of the tree and beautiful flowers. She starts to walk among the trees and feels she is unnoticed. She wants to get noticed as she is noticing the trees and plants.

Lines 14-20:

Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping

I must most perfectly resemble them —

Thoughts gone dim.

It is more natural to me, lying down.

Then the sky and I are in open conversation,

And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:

Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

In the next few lines she compares herself with the flowers. Oy during her sleep she feels that she is resembling the flowers. Suddenly this thought vanished. While lying down she prefers to have conversation with the sky. This interaction is more natural in her life as she chose to interact with nature rather than people. In the final lines of the poem she says that she will be useful when is dead. The thought of “death” doesn’t make her feel sad but she feels happy that the earth will take her and flowers will touch her once she is dead.

“I am Vertical”.