Sylvia Plath Essays

Sylvia Plath Essays-86
How was it that we had come to see her creative work as a sort of extended suicide note, rather than as the work of an emerging poet whose career and output had been cut short by a tragic, early death?I came into the classroom the first day of the term and found twenty-two young women sitting around a conference table.These poems enter a new tonal register, following such ferocious and annihilating poems as “Lady Lazarus,” “Medusa,” “The Rabbit Catcher,” and “Daddy.” This edition’s final poem, “Wintering,” is calm, the images less associative.

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Castle fails to acknowledge Plath’s long battle with mental illness, which led to bouts of depression, mania, and her eventual suicide.

Instead, Castle refers to Plath as “crazy” and finds little compassion for a young mother who was often ill and who produced some of the most influential poems of the mid-twentieth century.

I remember pausing for a beat before saying, “Good afternoon, ladies,” which got a laugh.

It was as though I had found myself at the Bennington College of fifty years earlier—before the men began to arrive.

She quotes her father as saying, “I simply wanted to make it the best book I could,” though, of course, by seeing this book into the world, Frieda Hughes clearly believed her mother’s version deserved to be read intact.

In Plath’s original version of , the book concludes with the series of poems often referred to as “the bee poems.” In these, Plath writes about her experiences as a beekeeper, which she began doing as a hobby while living in the Devon farmhouse she and Hughes shared.

They have got rid of the men, The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors. While hardly triumphant, this poem is about survival.

Winter is for women— The woman, still at her knitting, At the cradle of Spanish walnut, Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think. The winter is long—a season to endure—but the flowers and insects are beginning to stir.

In it, she summarized the two differing portraits of the poet’s short and sometimes dramatic life, each of which had been told to support a particular claim on her legacy.

It has been fifty years since Plath’s death, and this anniversary has brought with it the publication of two new biographies,by Carl Rollyson, both rehash the details of Plath’s life in an attempt, it would seem, to cast light on possible reasons for the poet’s suicide.


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