Women’s History Month: Sylvia Plath

The name Sylvia Plath incites thoughts of deep, depressive poetry and a woman who abruptly ended her life. But her raw, revealing writing has inspired and influenced generations of new writers and poets.

Born in 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts, Plath had always been drawn to language. From the age of eleven, she kept a journal and published poems in her regional newspapers and magazines. In 1850, following her high school graduation, Plath’s first national publication was printed in the Christian Science Monitor.

Plath completed her undergraduate degree at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After graduation, she moved the Cambridge, England as a Fulbright Scholar where she met Ted Hughes, whom she married in 1956. One year later, she returned to Massachusetts and studied with the writer Robert Lowell. From there, she had success publishing her first poetry collection, Colossus, in England and had two children named Frieda (1960) and Nicholas (1962).

Most of Plath’s poetry and writing drew from her personal experiences and struggles. While attending Smith College, she spent a disastrous summer living in New York City. Her experiences from that summer worked as the basis for her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, released in 1963. The novel was originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. By sharing her deeply personal experiences, Plath had a great impact on the genre of confessional poetry.

Her tragic death left behind many unpublished works. Those poems were gathered and published posthumously in 1982 as The Collected Poems. Unfortunately, she was not alive for the moment that collection won her the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Plath’s words continue to stand out in time, providing insight into the darkness of life and Plath’s experience of life. Plath was deeply connected to her consciousness and self, something that carried depth within her writing. As Sylvia Plath describes, “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”

 

Video: Sylvia Plath reads her poem “Daddy”

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