Biography of Sylvia Plath
Born in 1932 to middle class parents in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Sylvia Plath published her first poem at the age of eight. A sensitive person who tended to be a bit of a perfectionist she was what many would consider a model daughter and student - popular, a straight A student, always winning the best prizes. She won a scholarship to Smith College in 1950 and even then she had an enviable list of publications. While at Smith she wrote over four hundred poems.
However, beneath the surface of her seeming perfection were some grave discontinuities, some which probably were caused by the death of her father, an entomologist, when she was eight. During the summer after her junior year in college, Sylvia made her first (and almost successful) attempt at suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. The experience is described in her autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar , published in 1963. After a period of recovery, which involved electroshock and psychotherapy she once again pursued academic and literary success, graduating from Smith summa cum laude in 1955 and winning a Fulbright scholarship to study in Cambridge, England.
In 1956 she married Ted Hughes, an English poet, and in 1960, at the age of twenty-eight she published her first book, The Colossus in England. The poems found in the book clearly showed the dedication with which she pursued her apprenticeship, yet they only gave a taste of what was to come in the poems she began writing in early 1961. She and Hughes settled for a brief time in an English country village in Devon, England. However, less than two years after the birth of their first child the marriage disintegrated.
In the winter if 1962-63, one of the coldest in centuries, Sylvia lived in a small flat in London, with her two children, ill with the flu and nearly broke. The difficulties in her life seened to reinforce her need to write and she often worked between four and eight a.m., before the children awoke. She would sometimes finish a poem a day. In her last works it seems as though some deeper and more powerful self had grabbed control of her. In those poems death is given a cruel, physical allure and psychic pain becomes almost tactile.
On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath succeeded in killing herself with cooking gas at the age of thirty. Two years after her death, Ariel , a collection of some her last poems was published, that was followed by Crossing the Water and Winter Trees in 1971 and in 1981 The Collected Poems was published, edited by none other than Ted Hughes.
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Sylvia Plath Poems
The prince leans to the girl in scarlet heels, Her green eyes slant, hair flaring in a fan Of silver as the rondo slows; now reels Begin on tilted violins to span
A Birthday Present
What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful? It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges? I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is what I want.
Stasis in darkness. Then the substanceless blue Pour of tor and distances.
I have done it again. One year in every ten I manage it----
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,
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike. I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
Mad Girl's Love Song
'I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my lids and all is born again. (I think I made you up inside my head.)
I'm a riddle in nine syllables, An elephant, a ponderous house, A melon strolling on two tendrils. O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing. I want to fill it with color and ducks, The zoo of the new Whose name you meditate --
Touch it: it won't shrink like an eyeball, This egg-shaped bailiwick, clear as a tear. Here's yesterday, last year --- Palm-spear and lily distinct as flora in the vast
Since Christmas they have lived with us, Guileless and clear, Oval soul-animals, Taking up half the space,
the slime of all my yesterdays rots in the hollow of my skull and if my stomach would contract
Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries, Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly, A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Compelled by calamity's magnet They loiter and stare as if the house Burnt-out were theirs, or as if they thought Some scandal might any minute ooze
A dream tree, Polly's tree:
a thicket of sticks,
each speckled twig
ending in a thin-paned
leaf unlike any
other on it
or in a ghost flower