Plath’s “Tulips” is a perfectly serviceable poem, I suppose. The poem was written surrounding her stay in a hospital after an appendectomy shortly after a miscarriage. The poem is heavily laced with feelings of impending death and the poet’s own feelings of helplessness. The tulips in the poem are signs of her death, killers waiting for their chance to strike when she is not fully able to defend herself.
The tulips are presented as wild animals that should be caged, as violent and rushing, and as stealing the air she breathes. I don’t think that Plath is looking forward to death in this poem, rather she is fighting to live, which is what makes the tulips predatory nature so despicable. She sees tulips as out of place in winter, just as she is out of place in the hospital. The tulips almost become a symbol for her feelings about being in the hospital itself, a place not of healing and life, but of death (a feeling carried in from her recent miscarriage). She cannot speak of the hospital in a way that reflects death, however, as it has saved her from appendicitis, so she superimposes these feelings onto the flowers in her room.
Just as the hospital should be a place of healing, so should the tulips be symbols of life, but she sees only death in them. This is a perfectly serviceable poem, I suppose.