Sylvia Plath: Wikis


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Sylvia Plath
A black-and-white photo of a Caucasian woman with shoulder-length hair in her late 20s. She is seated facing the camera wearing a sweater with bookshelves behind her.
Plath in her late 20s.
Born October 27, 1932(1932-10-27)
Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died February 11, 1963 (aged 30)
London, England, United Kingdom
Pen name Victoria Lucas
Occupation Poet, novelist, and short story writer
Nationality American
Ethnicity Austrian, German
Education Cambridge University
Alma mater Smith College
Period 1960–1963
Genres Autobiography, children's literature, feminism, mental health, roman à clef
Literary movement Confessional poetry
Notable work(s) The Bell Jar and Ariel
Notable award(s) Fulbright scholarship
Glascock Prize

Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
1982 The Collected Poems

Woodrow Wilson Fellowship
Spouse(s) Ted Hughes
Children Frieda and Nicholas Hughes

Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) was an American poet, novelist, children's author, and short story author.

Known primarily for her poetry, Plath also wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The book's protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is a bright, ambitious student at Smith College who begins to experience a mental breakdown while interning for a fashion magazine in New York. The plot parallels Plath's experience interning at Mademoiselle magazine and subsequent mental breakdown and suicide attempt.

Plath, along with Anne Sexton, is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry initiated by Robert Lowell and W. D. Snodgrass.




Plath was born during the Great Depression on October 27, 1932 in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, to Aurelia Schober Plath, a first-generation American of Austrian descent, and Otto Emile Plath, an immigrant from Grabow, Germany. Plath's father was a professor of biology and German at Boston University and author of a book about bumblebees.[4] Plath's mother was approximately twenty-one years younger than her husband.[4] She met him while earning her master's degree in teaching. Otto was alienated from his family because he chose not to become a Lutheran minister, as his grandparents wanted him to be. They went as far as taking his name out of the family Bible.[5]

In April 1935, Plath's brother Warren was born.[6] The family moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts in 1936 and Plath spent much of her childhood on Johnson Avenue. She was raised a Unitarian Christian and had mixed feelings toward religion throughout her life[7] Plath's mother, Aurelia, had grown up in Winthrop, and her maternal grandparents, the Schobers, had lived in a section of the town called Point Shirley, a location mentioned in Plath's poetry. At age eight when living in Winthrop, Plath published her first poem in the Boston Herald's children's section.[8] In addition to writing, she also showed early promise as an artist, winning an award from The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in 1947, for her paintings.[9]

Otto Plath died on November 5, 1940, a week and a half after Plath's eighth birthday,[4] of complications following the amputation of a foot due to diabetes. He had become ill shortly after a close friend died of lung cancer. Comparing the similarities between his friend's symptoms and his own, Otto became convinced he too was ill with lung cancer and did not seek treatment until his diabetes had progressed too far. Otto Plath is buried in Winthrop Cemetery, where his gravestone continues to attract readers of Plath's poem "Daddy." Visiting her father's grave prompted Plath to write the poem "Electra on Azalea Path." Subsequent to her husband's death, Aurelia Plath moved her children and her parents to 26 Elmwood Road, Wellesley, Massachusetts in 1942.[4]

College years

Plath attended Smith College, dating Yale senior Dick Norton during her junior year. Norton, upon whom the character of Buddy in The Bell Jar is based, contracted tuberculosis and was treated at the Ray Brook Sanatorium near Saranac Lake. While visiting Norton, Plath broke her leg skiing, an incident that was fictionalized in the novel.[10]

During the summer after her third year of college Plath was awarded a coveted position as guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine, during which she spent a month in New York City. The experience was not at all what she had hoped it would be, beginning within her a seemingly downward spiral in her outlook on herself and life in general. Many of the events that took place during that summer were later used as inspiration for her novel The Bell Jar. Following this experience Plath made her first medically documented suicide attempt by crawling under her house and taking an overdose of sleeping pills.[11] Details of her attempts at suicide are chronicled in her book. After her suicide attempt, Plath was briefly committed to a mental institution where she received electroconvulsive therapy.[6] Her stay at McLean Hospital was paid for by Olive Higgins Prouty, who had also funded the scholarship awarded to Plath to attend Smith. Prouty had successfully recovered from a mental breakdown herself. Plath seemed to make an acceptable recovery and graduated from Smith with honors in June 1955.[6]

She obtained a Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge where she continued actively writing poetry, occasionally publishing her work in the student newspaper Varsity. It was at a party given in Cambridge that she met the English poet Ted Hughes. After a tempestuous courtship, they were married on June 16, 1956 (Bloomsday) at St George the Martyr Holborn in the London Borough of Camden.[12]

Personal life and poetry

Plath and Hughes spent from July 1957 to December 1959 living and working in the United States, where Plath taught at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The couple then moved to Boston where Plath audited seminars by Robert Lowell that were also attended by Anne Sexton. At this time Plath and Hughes met, for the first time, W. S. Merwin, who admired their work and was to remain a lifelong friend.[13]

Upon learning Plath was pregnant the couple moved back to the United Kingdom. Plath and Hughes lived in London for a while on Chalcot Square near the Primrose Hill area of Regent's Park, and then settled in the small market town of North Tawton in Devon. In 1960, while in London, Plath published her first collection of poetry, The Colossus. In February 1961 she suffered a miscarriage. A number of her poems address this event.[14]

Plath's marriage to Hughes was fraught with difficulties, particularly surrounding his affair with Assia Wevill, and the couple separated in late 1962.[15] She returned to London with their children, Frieda and Nicholas, and rented a flat at 23 Fitzroy Road (only a few streets from the Chalcot Square flat) in a house where W. B. Yeats once lived. Plath was pleased by this fact and considered it a good omen.[16]


Plath's grave at Heptonstall church, West Yorkshire

Plath took her own life after she completely sealed the rooms between herself and her sleeping children with "wet towels and cloths."[17] Plath then placed her head in the oven while the gas was turned on and the pilot light was not lit. The next day an inquiry ruled that her death was a suicide.

It has been suggested Plath's suicide attempt was too precise and coincidental, and she had not intended to succeed in killing herself. Apparently, she had previously asked Mr. Thomas, her downstairs neighbor, what time he would be leaving; and a note had been placed that read "Call Dr. Horder" and listed his phone number.[18] Therefore, it is argued Plath must have turned the gas on at a time when Mr. Thomas should have been waking and beginning his day. This theory maintains that the gas, for several hours, seeped through the floor and reached Mr. Thomas and another resident of the floor below. Also, an au pair was to arrive at nine o'clock that morning to help Plath with the care of her children. Upon arrival, the au pair could not get into the flat, but eventually got in with the help of a workman, Charles Langridge. They found Plath with her head still in the oven.[19]

However, in the book Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, her best friend, Jillian Becker says "according to Mr. Goodchild—a police officer attached to the coroner's office . . . she had thrust her head far into the gas oven. 'She had really meant to die.'"

Plath's gravestone in Heptonstall churchyard bears the inscription "Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted." The gravestone has been repeatedly vandalized by some of Plath's supporters who have chiseled the name "Hughes" off it. This practice intensified following the suicide in 1969 of Assia Wevill, the woman for whom Ted Hughes left Plath, which led to claims Hughes had been abusive toward Plath.[20]



Plath began keeping a diary at age 11, and kept journals until her suicide. Her adult diaries, starting from her freshman year at Smith College in 1950, were first published in 1980 as The Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Frances McCullough. In 1982, when Smith College acquired Plath's remaining journals, Hughes sealed two of them until February 11, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of Plath's death.

During the last years of his life, Hughes began working on a fuller publication of Plath's journals. In 1998, shortly before his death, he unsealed the two journals, and passed the project onto his children by Plath, Frieda and Nicholas, who passed it on to Karen V. Kukil. Kukil finished her editing in December 1999, and in 2000 Anchor Books published The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. According to the back cover, roughly two-thirds of the Unabridged Journals is newly released material. The American author Joyce Carol Oates hailed the publication as a "genuine literary event".

Hughes faced criticism for his role in handling the journals: he claims to have destroyed Plath's last journal, which contained entries from the winter of 1962 up to her death. In the foreword of the 1982 version, he writes, "I destroyed [the last of her journals] because I did not want her children to have to read it (in those days I regarded forgetfulness as an essential part of survival)."[21]


In 1955, the year Plath graduated from Smith college, she won the Glascock Prize with "Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea".

Plath has been criticized for her controversial allusions to the Holocaust,[22] and is known for her uncanny use of metaphor. Her work has been compared to and associated with Anne Sexton, W.D. Snodgrass, and other confessional poets.

While the few critics who responded to Plath's first book, The Colossus, did so favorably, it has also been described as somewhat staid and conventional in comparison to the much more free-flowing imagery and intensity of her later work.

The poems in Ariel mark a departure from her earlier work into a more personal arena of poetry. It is a possibility Lowell's poetry—which is often labeled "confessional"—played a part in this shift. Indeed, in an interview before her death she listed Lowell's Life Studies as an influence. The impact of Ariel was dramatic, with its potentially autobiographical descriptions of mental illness in poems such as "Tulips", "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus".

In 1982 Plath became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for The Collected Poems. In 2006 a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University discovered a previously unpublished sonnet written by Plath entitled "Ennui". The poem, composed during Plath's early years at Smith College, is published in Blackbird, the online journal.

Ted Hughes controversy

In the realms of literary criticism and biography published after her death, the debate concerning Plath's literary estate very often resembles a struggle between readers who side with her and those who side with Hughes.[23]

Hughes has been accused [24] of attempting to control the estate for his own ends although royalties from Plath's poetry was placed into a trust account for their two children, Frieda and Nicholas.[25]


Poetry collections

  • The Colossus and Other Poems (1960)
  • Ariel (1965), includes the poems "Tulips", "Daddy", "Ariel", "Lady Lazarus" and "The Munich Mannequins"
  • Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices (1968)
  • Crossing the Water (1971)
  • Winter Trees (1971)
  • The Collected Poems (1981)
  • Selected Poems (1985)
  • Plath: Poems (1998)

Collected Prose and novels

  • The Bell Jar: A novel (1963), under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas"
  • Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963 (1975)
  • Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary Excerpts (1977)
  • The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982)
  • The Magic Mirror (published 1989), Plath's Smith College senior thesis
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Karen V. Kukil (2000)

Audio poetry readings

  • Sylvia Plath Reads, Harper Audio (2000)

Children's books

  • The Bed Book (1976)
  • The It-Doesn't-Matter-Suit (1996)
  • Collected Children's Stories (UK, 2001)
  • Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen (2001)

See also


  1. ^ Introduction to Twilight at the Equator: A Novel by Jaime Manrique. University of Wisconsin Press, 2003 ISBN 0299187748
  2. ^ Journal of Modern Literature, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1970), pp. 57–74
  3. ^ Zusak interview for The Book Depository accessed 2010-02-21
  4. ^ a b c d Steven Axelrod. "Sylvia Plath". The Literary Encyclopedia, 17 Sept. 2003, The Literary Dictionary Company (April 24, 2007), University of California Riverside. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  5. ^ Kirk, Connie Ann (2004) Sylvia Plath: a biography Greenwood Press, pxvi ISBN-10: 0313332142
  6. ^ a b c Sylvia Plath
  7. ^ Plath Helle, Anita (2007) The unraveling archive: essays on Sylvia Plath University of Michigan Press p41-44 ISBN-10: 0472069276
  8. ^ Kirk, Connie Ann (2004) Sylvia Plath: a biography Greenwood Press, p23 ISBN-10: 0313332142
  9. ^ Kirk, Connie Ann (2004) Sylvia Plath: a biography Greenwood Press, p32 ISBN-10: 0313332142
  10. ^ Taylor, Robert, America's Magic Mountain, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. ISBN 0-395-37905-9
  11. ^ Kibler, James E. Jr, ed. (1980), Dictionary of Literary Biography, 2nd, 6 - American Novelists Since World War II, A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book, University of Georgia. The Gale Group, pp. 259–64 
  12. ^ "Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)". pseudonym Victoria Lucas, Books and Writers, (2000). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  13. ^ "Sylvia Plath". UIUC Library Online, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  14. ^ Marie Griffin. "Sylvia Plath — Poet". "Great talent in great darkness", Bipolar Disorder (2007 About, Inc.). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  15. ^ Richard Whittington-Egan. "Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath—a marriage examined". Contemporary Review (February 2005). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  16. ^ Brenda C. Mondragon. "Sylvia Plath". Neurotic Poets (1997-2006). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  17. ^ Stevenson, Anne (1998), Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, Mariner Books 
  18. ^ Peter K. Steinberg. "Biography (1956-1963)". A celebration, This is; Retrieved 2007-02-28. 
  19. ^ Kirk, Connie Ann (2004) Sylvia Plath: a biography Greenwood Press, p103 ISBN-10: 0313332142
  20. ^ Vanessa Thorpe. "I failed her. I was 30 and stupid". The Observer, Guardian Unlimited (March 19, 2000).,6000,148915,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  21. ^ Wagner-Martin, Linda (1997) Sylvia Plath: the critical heritage Routledge ISBN-10: 0415159423
  22. ^ Al Strangeways. "" The Boot in the Face": The Problem of the Holocaust in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath". Contemporary Literature. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  23. ^ David Smith (September 10, 2006). "Ted Hughes, the domestic tyrant". The Observer.,,1869090,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  24. ^ Gill, Jo (2006) The Cambridge companion to Sylvia Plath Cambridge University Press p9-10 ISBN-10: 0521844967
  25. ^ Hughes, Frieda ed. (2004) Ariel: The Restored Edition, Faber and Faber p. xvii


  • Sylvia Plath (2004, Chelsea House, Great Writers Series) by Peter K. Steinberg, ISBN 0-7910-7843-4
  • Sylvia Plath: Method & Madness (A Biography) (2004, Schaffner Press, 2Rev Ed) by Edward Butscher, ISBN 0-9710-5982-9
  • Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life (2003, Palgrave Macmillan, 2Rev Ed) by Linda Wagner-Martin, ISBN 1-4039-1653-5
  • Her Husband: Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath, a Marriage (2003, Viking Adult) by Diane Middlebrook, ISBN 0-670-03187-9
  • Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath (1991, Da Capo Press) by Paul Alexander, ISBN 0-3068-1299-1
  • The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath (1991, Carol Publishing) by Ronald Hayman, ISBN 1-5597-2068-9
  • Bitter Fame. A Life of Sylvia Plath (1989, Houghton Mifflin) by Anne Stevenson, ISBN 0-395-45374-7

Other works on Plath

  • The 2003 motion picture Sylvia, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, tells the story of Plath's troubled relationship with Hughes.
  • Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and the Story of Birthday Letters (2002, W.W. Norton) by Erica Wagner | ISBN 0-3933-2301-3
  • Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath by Jillian Becker (friend with whom Plath spent her last weekend) (St Martins Press, New York, 2002).
  • Sylvia Plath: The Wound and the Cure of Words (1992, Johns Hopkins University) by Steven Gould Axelrod | ISBN 0-8018-4374-X
  • The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (1995, Vintage) by Janet Malcolm | ISBN 0-6797-5140-8
  • A psychobiographical chapter on Plath's loss of her father, and the effect of that loss on her personality and her art, is contained in William Todd Schultz's Handbook of Psychobiography (Oxford University Press, 2005).

Fictional offerings

External links

Plath's poems


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sylvia Plath (1932-10-271963-02-11) was an American poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist. She was the first wife of Ted Hughes.



  • How frail the human heart must be —
    a mirrored pool of thought.
    • "I Thought I Could Not Be Hurt," quoted in the introduction to Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963 (1975) as Plath's first poem, written at age 14
  • I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
    I lift my lids and all is born again.

The Colossus (1960)

  • So many of us!
    So many of us!

    We are shelves, we are
    Tables, we are meek,
    We are edible,

    Nudgers and shovers
    In spite of ourselves.
    Our kind multiplies:

    We shall by morning
    Inherit the earth.
    Our foot's in the door.

The Bell Jar (1963)

  • It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
    • Ch. 1, Opening line
  • The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence. I knew perfectly well the cars were making a noise, and the people in them and behind the lit windows of the buildings were making a noise, and the river was making a noise, but I couldn't hear a thing. The city hung in my window, flat as a poster, glittering and blinking, but it might just as well not have been there at all, for the good it did me.
    • Ch. 2
  • There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them.
    • Ch. 2
  • I never feel so much myself as when I'm in a hot bath.
    • Ch. 2
  • There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room.
    • Ch. 2
  • If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.
    • Ch. 5
  • What a man is is an arrow into the future and what a woman is is the place the arrow shoots off from.
    • Ch. 5
  • Later Buddy told me the woman was on a drug that would make her forget she'd had any pain and that when she swore and groaned she really didn't know what she was doing because she was in a kind of twilight sleep. I thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent. Here was a woman in terrible pain, obviously feeling every bit of it or she wouldn't groan like that, and she would go straight home and start another baby, because the drug would make her forget how bad the pain had been, when all the time, in some secret part of her, that long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again.
    • Ch. 6
  • I didn't feel like asking him if there were any other ways to have babies. For some reason the most important thing to me was actually seeing the baby come out of you yourself and making sure it was yours. I thought if you had to have all that pain anyway you might just as well stay awake. I had always imagined myself hitching up on to my elbows on the delivery table after it was all over — dead white, of course, with no makeup and form the awful ordeal, but smiling and radiant, with my hair down to my waist, and reaching out for my first little squirmy child and saying its name, whatever it was.
    • Ch. 6
  • Then he just stood there in front of me and I kept on staring at him. The only thing I could think of was turkey neck and turkey gizzards and I felt very depressed.
    • Ch. 6
  • I thought how strange it had never occurred to me before that I was only purely happy until I was nine years old.
    • Ch. 7
  • So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about as numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state.
    • Ch. 7
  • The one thing I was good at was winning scholarships and prizes, and that era was coming to an end.
    • Ch. 7
  • I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
    • Ch. 7
  • If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.
    • Ch. 8
  • "It's a tango." Marco maneuvered me out among the dancers. "I love tangos." "I can't dance." "You don't have to dance. I'll do that dancing." Marco hooked an arm around my waist and jerked me up against his dazzling white suit. Then he said, "Pretend you are drowning." I shut my eyes, and the music broke over me like a rainstorm. Marco's leg slid forward against mine and my leg slid back and I seemed to be riveted against him, limb for limb, moving as he moved, without any will or knowledge of my own, and after a while I thought, "It doesn't take two to dance, it only takes one," and I let myself blow and bend like a tree in the wind. "What did I tell you?" Marco's breath scorched my ear. "You're a perfectly respectable dancer."
    • Ch. 9
  • I began to see why woman-haters could make such fools of women. Woman-haters were like gods: invulnerable and chock-full of power. They descended, and then they disappeared. You could never catch one.
    • Ch. 9
  • "Does she know you love her?" "Of course." I paused. The obstacle seemed unreal to me. "If you love her," I said, "you'll love somebody else someday."
    • Ch. 9
  • They understood things of the spirit in Japan. They disemboweled themselves when anything went wrong.
    • Ch. 11
  • When they asked some old Roman philosopher or other how he wanted to die, he said he would open his veins in a warm bath. I thought it would be easy, lying in the tub and seeing the redness flower from my wrists, flush after flush through the clear water, till I sank to sleep under a surface gaudy as poppies.But when it came right down to it, the skin of my wrist looked so white and defenseless that I couldn't do it. It was as if what I wanted to kill wasn't in that skin or the thin blue pulse that jumped under my thumb, but somewhere else, deeper, more secret, and a whole lot harder to get at.
    • Ch. 12
  • Wherever I sat — on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok — I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.
    • Ch. 15
  • "I hate her," I said, and waited for the blow to fall. But Doctor Nolan only smiled at me as if something had pleased her very, very much and said, "I suppose you do."
    • Ch. 16
  • The bell jar hung, suspended, a few feet above my head. I was open to the circulating air.
    • Ch. 18
  • How did I know that someday — at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere — the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?
    • Ch. 20
  • To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.
    • Ch. 20
  • I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am.
    • Ch. 20
  • There ought, I thought, to be a ritual for being born twice - patched, retreaded and approved for the road.
    • Ch. 20

Ariel (1965)

  • Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
    I have the ticket for that.
    Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
    Well, what do you think of that?
    Naked as paper to start

    But in twenty-five years she'll be silver,
    In fifty, gold.
    A living doll, everywhere you look.
    It can sew, it can cook,
    It can talk, talk, talk.

    It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
    You have a hole, it's a poultice.
    You have an eye, it's an image.
    My boy, it's your last resort.
    Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.

  • Dying
    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.
  • Herr God, Herr Lucifer,

    Out of the ash
    I rise with my red hair
    And I eat men like air.

    • "Lady Lazarus"
  • I am inhabited by a cry.
    Nightly it flaps out
    Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

    I am terrified by this dark thing
    That sleeps in me;
    All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.

  • I am incapable of more knowledge.
    What is this, this face
    So murderous in its strangle of branches? —

    Its snaky acids hiss.
    It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults,
    That kill, that kill, that kill.

    • "Elm"
  • The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
    White as a knuckle and terribly upset.
    It drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet
    With the O-gape of complete despair. I live here.
    • "The Moon and the Yew Tree"
  • You do not do, you do not do
    Any more, black shoe
    In which I have lived like a foot
    For thirty years, poor and white,
    Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
  • There’s a stake in your fat black heart
    And the villagers never liked you.
    They are dancing and stamping on you.
    They always knew it was you.
    Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
    • "Daddy"
  • Darling, all night
    I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.
    The sheets grow heavy as a lecher's kiss.
  • The blood jet is poetry,
    There is no stopping it.
  • The woman is perfected
    Her dead

    Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
    The illusion of a Greek necessity

    Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
    Her bare

    Feet seem to be saying:
    We have come so far, it is over.

    Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
    One at each little

    Pitcher of milk, now empty.
    She has folded

    Them back into her body as petals
    Of a rose close when the garden

    Stiffens and odors bleed
    From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.

    The moon has nothing to be sad about,
    Staring from her hood of bone.

    She is used to this sort of thing.
    Her blacks crackle and drag.

  • Axes
    After whose stroke the wood rings,
    And the echoes!
    Echoes travelling
    Off from the centre like horses.

Crossing the Water (1971)

  • These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.
    I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me
    To the hills' northern face, and the face is orange rock
    That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space
    Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths
    Beating and beating at an intractable metal.
  • These poems do not live: it's a sad diagnosis.
    They grew their toes and fingers well enough,
    Their little foreheads bulged with concentration.
    If they missed out on walking about like people
    It wasn't for any lack of mother-love.
  • Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
    Searching my reaches for what she really is.
    Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
    I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
    She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
    I am important to her. She comes and goes.
    Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
    In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
    Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
  • I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
    An elephant, a ponderous house,
    A melon strolling on two tendrils.
    O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
    This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
    Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
    I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
    I've eaten a bag of green apples,
    Boarded the train there's no getting off.

Winter Trees (1972)

  • You said you would kill it this morning.
    Do not kill it. It startles me still,
    The jut of that odd, dark head, pacing

    Through the uncut grass on the elm's hill.
    It is something to own a pheasant,
    Or just to be visited at all.

    I am not mystical: it isn't
    As if I thought it had a spirit.
    It is simply in its element.

    That gives it a kingliness, a right.

Letters Home: Correspondence 1950 - 1963 (1976)

  • Don't talk to me about the world needing cheerful stuff! What the person out of Belsen — physical or psychological — wants is nobody saying the birdies still go tweet-tweet, but the full knowledge that somebody else has been there and knows the worst, just what it is like.

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (2000)

Karen V. Kukil, ed. Anchor Press, ISBN 0-385-72025-4

  • I talk to God but the sky is empty.
    • Draft of letter to Richard Sassoon (1950-02-19)
  • I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love's not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I'll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time.
  • It is raining. I am tempted to write a poem. But I remember what it said on one rejection slip: After a heavy rainfall, poems titled RAIN pour in from across the nation.
  • With me, the present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead. But you can't start over with each new second. You have to judge by what is dead. It's like quicksand... hopeless from the start.
  • The blood of love welled up in my heart with a slow pain.
  • Frustrated? Yes. Why? Because it is impossible for me to be God — or the universal woman-and-man — or anything much. I am what I feel and think and do. I want to express my being as fully as I can because I somewhere picked up the idea that I could justify my being alive that way.
    • 1950 entry, quoted in Gayle Wurst, Voice and Vision: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath (1999), p. 158
  • If I didn't think, I'd be much happier; if I didn't have any sex organs, I wouldn't waver on the brink of nervous emotion and tears all the time.
    • 1950 entry, quoted in Kate Moses, "The Real Sylvia Plath," (2000-06-01) [3]
  • Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously near to wanting nothing.
  • I must get back my soul from you; I am killing my flesh without it.
    • Draft of letter to Richard Sassoon (1956-03-01)

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

File:23 Fitzroy Road, London - Sylvia Plath - W.B.
The house where Sylvia Plath lived, and killed herself

Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) was an American writer. She was most well-known for her poetry, but she also wrote novels, children's books, and short stories. Her most famous novel is called The Bell Jar, which was partly based on her life. She married another famous poet called Ted Hughes. She suffered from depression and she killed herself in 1963.


Early life

Plath was born in 1932 in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Her parents were called Otto Emile Plath and Aurelia Schober Plath. Her father, Otto, was from Germany. He was a college professor and wrote a book about bumblebees.[1] Aurelia Plath was ten years younger than her husband.[1] In April 1935, Plath's younger brother Warren was born.[2] The family moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts in 1936. This was where Aurelia had grown up. Plath published her first poem here, when she was eight. It was in the children's section of a newspaper called the Boston Herald.[2]

In 1940, Otto Plath died.[1] He was buried in Winthrop cemetery. In 1942, Aurelia and the children moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts.[1]


Plath went to Smith College. After her third year, she became a guest editor for a magazine called Mademoiselle, and spent a month in New York City. At this time, she became depressed. She tried to kill herself by taking too many sleeping pills. After she took the pills, she crawled underneath her house, but she was found and taken to hospital.[3] She went to a mental hospital called McLean Hospital and was treated for her depression. She was given a treatment called electric shock therapy.[2] She began to improve and was able to graduate from Smith College in 1955.[2]

Plath then went to the University of Cambridge in England, on a scholarship called the Fulbright scholarship. She attended Newnham College, Cambridge and carried on writing poetry. She also wrote for the student newspaper at Cambridge. At a party she met an English poet called Ted Hughes. She married him on June 16, 1956.[4]

Later life

After they were married, Plath and Hughes went to live in the United States. Plath taught at her old college, Smith College. They met and became friends with a poet named W. S. Merwin.[5] Plath found out that she was pregnant. They moved back to England. They lived in London for a while, and then in a small town in Devon called North Tawton. Plath published her first collection of poems. It was called The Colossus. In February 1961 she had a miscarriage. She wrote about her miscarriage in some of her poems.[6]

Plath and Hughes' marriage was quite difficult. Hughes had an affair with a woman called Assia Wevill. Plath and Hughes separated (lived apart) in 1962.[7] Plath moved to London with their children, Frieda and Nicholas.


In 1963, Plath committed suicide (killed herself). She sealed the room she was in with wet towels, turned the gas oven on and put her head inside the oven.[8] She died because she was poisoned by carbon monoxide gas. Some people think that she did not mean to kill herself.[9] Her body was buried in a small village in West Yorkshire called Heptonstall.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Steven Axelrod. "Sylvia Plath". The Literary Encyclopedia, 17 Sept. 2003, The Literary Dictionary Company (April 24, 2007), University of California Riverside. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Sylvia Plath
  3. Kibler, James E. Jr, ed. (1980), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator Dictionary of Literary Biography, 2nd], 6 - American Novelists Since World War II, A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book, University of Georgia. The Gale Group, pp. 259–64 
  4. "Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)". pseudonym Victoria Lucas, Books and Writers, (2000). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  5. "Sylvia Plath". UIUC Library Online, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  6. Marie Griffin. "Sylvia Plath - Poet". "Great talent in great darkness", Bipolar Disorder (2007 About, Inc.). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  7. Richard Whittington-Egan. "Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath—a marriage examined". Contemporary Review (February 2005). Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  8. Stevenson, Anne (1998), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath], Mariner Books 
  9. Peter K. Steinberg. "Biography (1956-1963)". A celebration, This is; Retrieved 2007-02-28. 

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