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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Thinking about Sylvia Plath as the Winter Darkness Comes On

By November 3, 2013

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Like most women of my age who grew up aspiring to be writers, I felt the shadow of Sylvia Plath over me when I was young. When I’m struggling to fit poetry-making into the other demands of my daily life, I still think about her rising before dawn to write the Ariel poems in a cold, dark house while her children were sleeping. Much has been made of the severity of the winter of 1963 in London, when she killed herself... but then again, I know writers who appreciate the long dark of winter nights as a time set aside from distractions, a haven for writing. Plath was born on October 27th (she would have been 81 this year), and she committed suicide on February 11th—between those two dates lies the heart of winter, the season that brings her always to mind. ~Margy Snyder

Plath’s commitment to the art began very early—her first publication was a couplet in the local Boston newspaper when she was only 8. And she was a diligent, ambitious student of poetic form and technique—witness the previously unpublished Petrarchan sonnet that a student found in her papers from Smith College in the fall of 2006. The poem, “Ennui,” written in response to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, was published online in Blackbird, the journal of Virginia Commonwealth University, and while it seems as mannered and naive as most of her early work when compared with the later poems, it’s clear evidence of her craft, her talent and her appreciation of irony.

But it’s the later work that lingers. After the death of Ted Hughes, who edited and rearranged her poems in Ariel, and who abridged and expurgated her journals before they were published, we saw the publication of the restored Ariel and the unabridged journals—a much fuller and more distinct record of Sylvia’s individual life and voice. That’s why we’ve provided links to buy all of them in the bibliography on our Sylvia Plath profile page.

More on Sylvia Plath:
Our reference page on Sylvia Plath, with links to buy her books and recordings
Sylvia Plath’s Ink Drawings (November 2011)
Ted Hughes’ “Last Letter” to Sylvia Plath (October 2010)
Shrines to Ted and Sylvia (September 2010)
Sylvia Plath Speaks in Her Own Voice (April 2010)
Another Death in the Plath/Hughes Family (March 2009)
A Star Chart for Sylvia Plath’s Birthday (November 2008)
Ted Hughes’ Secret Memorial: The Poet’s Name Inscribed on a Hidden Slab (August 2003)
Review of the restored Ariel by Diana Manister at contemporarylit.about.com


November 8, 2007 at 9:19 am
(1) freestyle says:

We accept poetry from poets across the country. We specialize in Poetry with an urban perspective however we review all poetry submissions.

November 8, 2007 at 12:04 pm
(2) Robert Pullman says:

Thanks for the retrospective and the links!

December 22, 2007 at 10:51 am
(3) limewire says:

Yhanks youf3b20a4ab6989e5070cb0712b4e29911

November 1, 2012 at 11:43 am
(4) david eberhardt says:

I have been clinically depressed myself- suicide can be an act of courage- I see Plath in light of the women’s liberation movement- could have used Adrienne as a friend.

November 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm
(5) patricia Jones says:

She also haunted me for years until I turned her into a book of poems entitled ‘ A Postcard to Sylvia Plath’ now she haunts me in a wonderful way as a poet who liberated me from hopeless depression,
she lives on as all poets do her spirit is with in our words. The Bell Jar
a masterpiece.

March 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm
(6) tim dyson says:

Never a fan of Plath’s poetry nor of the possible motive to abandon your children via suicide. I am probably in the minority with this point of view but I see no reason for any celebratory status concerning her difficult life and self-imposed death.

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