Sunday, October 27, 2019

In Remembrance: Sylvia Plath

Today would have been Sylvia Plath's 87th birthday. Although there is much controversy surrounding her death in 1963 and her marriage with Ted Hughes, I don't want to focus on any of those things. Today I want to shed light on her writings.

Am I fan of Sylvia Plath? I don't know - I can't say. And perhaps this post will be oddly amusing to some of you because of that. Why would I write a post about a poet and author that I don't know how I feel about? Well, because in some ways I can't help but feel intensely connected to her.

When I read The Bell Jar, I hated it. Perhaps one day I will revisit it and discover that it holds a strong truth for me. Perhaps I read it at the wrong time, or reading about depression was too true and I just found it bleak and colourless. I don't know. But when I read about her, I feel connected to her soul. Some of her poems resonate with me strongly.

Here are a few pieces of her writings that mean a lot to me personally:


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

The whole revolving tall glass palace hall
Where guests slide gliding into light like wine;
Rose candles flicker on the lilac wall
Reflecting in a million flagons' shine,

And glided couples all in whirling trance
Follow holiday revel begun long since,
Until near twelve the strange girl all at once
Guilt-stricken halts, pales, clings to the prince

As amid the hectic music and cocktail talk
She hears the caustic ticking of the clock.


There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself-
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

A grey wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?
Steps at my back spiral into a well.
There are no trees or birds in this world,
There is only sourness.

This red wall winces continually:
A red fist, opening and closing,
Two grey, papery bags-
This is what i am made of, this, and a terror
Of being wheeled off under crosses and rain of pietas.

On a black wall, unidentifiable birds
Swivel their heads and cry.
There is no talk of immorality among these!
Cold blanks approach us: 
They move in a hurry.

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. 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.”

For anyone who wants to know more about her life, or already does, I read this interesting article about her daughter recently about the impact of the controversy surrounding her parents:

Poems have been obtained from All Poetry, and quotes from Goodreads.
Have you previously read any work from Sylvia Plath? What do you know about her? Do you have any authors or poets you connect to, even if you don't like a lot of their work?


  1. This is a beautiful tribute! I have never read anything from Plath but she seems like a beautiful writer!

  2. I read The Bell Jar many years ago, and I did like it a lot back then, but at the same time I'm wary to revisit it, because it shocked me on a few levels. Those quote you chose from the book are among the best, though.

    Another reason why I haven't reread it for years (and this applies to Virginia Woolf too) is that I found articles addressing the racist comments Esther makes through the book (I'm linking to one of them, complete with quotes:, and I realised I didn't pay any heed to them back when I first read TBJ - though they're far from subtle. Am I being a revisionist? I don't know, but I don't find comfortable anymore with rereading such books 😧.

    1. Interestingly enough, thinking about the book, I don't recall any racist comments...that doesn't mean I didn't notice them at the time, but they don't seem to have stuck with me, I'm ashamed to say. I guess we're in the same boat there.