Yesterday was Sylvia Plath’s birthday.
I love everything about her. There is so much richness to her aura that is usually never explored in the mainstream media. Read Pain, Parties, And Work, about her days as an intern at Mademoiselle magazine, and you’ll get a much richer picture of Sylvia, far removed from her infamous suicide.
Sylvia modeled. She was beautiful and vibrant and driven. Her journals recount the dozens and dozens of young men who tried to woo her.
And yet, after that summer at Mademoiselle was when she tried to commit suicide for the first time.
I do think the drive to be perfect, the drive to create something magnificent, is debilitating. It becomes obsessive. I’m not saying that was what triggered her refuge of hiding under the bell jar, but perhaps it could have.
She killed herself less than a month after The Bell Jar was published. That deeply saddens me. She never knew how far deep that book would reach, down into the millions of souls who felt the same things she felt. She provided them comfort, even when she did not have it for herself.
(The Bell Jar has one of the best openings to a story ever, I think).
Another huge facet of her life was Ted Hughes, poet laureate of England. When Sylvia was with him, he was a venerated poet, and she was not. People asked her how she could write, knowing she would never be as good as Ted.
I think she is worlds stronger than him in her poetry. She has a bite that he never had.
I didn’t like Ted Hughes for a long time. He did a lot of awful things.
But he has also done beautiful things. Last summer I read his collection Birthday Letters for the first time. All of the poems are about Sylvia. I think what makes them so striking is her. Her aura seeps into the words, and it rubs off in his hand.
Here is a poem I wrote last year about her. If only the world could have glimpsed more of her incredible talent: