Sylvia Plath – In Memoriam

Sylvia Plath October 27th 1932 - 11th February 1963

Sylvia Plath
October 27th 1932 – 11th February 1963

I was a few days late with my tribute to the great artist, Amedeo Modigliani. So, I decided to be a bit premature with this one to Sylvia Plath.

Poet, novelist and short story writer, Sylvia Plath committed suicide 50 years ago tomorrow.

She was married to fellow poet, Ted Hughes. And the pair had two children together, Frieda and Nicholas.

On hearing of Hughes having an affair they separated. Plath taking two year old Frieda and nine month old Nicholas with her. Five months later, with the kids tucked up in bed, she sealed the kitchen doors and windows with wet towels and put her head in the oven. She was 30 years old.

The world lost a literary colossus and prodigious talent.

Understandably, Ted Hughes came in for a lot of stick for his part in her death. Exacerbated by the fact that his second wife, Assia Wevill, (the woman he had the affair with), also committed suicide in 1969. And, even more tragically, she also took the life of their daughter, Alexandra.

It’s not my place to vilify Hughes, as I don’t know what went on in their relationship. What I do know, is that he was an outstanding poet too.

Plath’s daughter, Frieda went on to become a successful poet, children’s author and artist. (I think she lives in Australia now.)

Nicholas became a marine biologist. But, like his mum, suffered from depression. And sadly, he also took his own life in 2009 by hanging himself.

The world would have been a better, richer place if she had remained in it.

Here is one of my favourite poems; I love the way the lines break, sending one stanza cascading into the next:


by Sylvia Plath

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.

Screen shot 2013-02-09 at 20.43.38

What a smile – RIP Sylvia Plath


Here’s a lovely little article from the Academy of American poets about

the things that Sylvia Plath loved.

Addendum II

The days before death. Read this honest, harrowing and heart-felt account, by Jillian Becker, about Sylvia Plath’s final days. (I know, as a parent, that I would’ve felt a little put-out at being a nursemaid.) Thank you to Jo Harley Hynes for sharing it with me.


Filed under Art, Books, Children, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Literature, Poetry, Short stories, Writing

8 responses to “Sylvia Plath – In Memoriam

  1. David, such a beautiful tribute to Sylvia Plath and I love your choice of poem. Thanks so much.

  2. Reblogged this on Social Bridge and commented:
    This is one of the most touching tributes I have ever read to Sylvia Plath. Poignant but beautiful and that caption on the final stunning photograph!

  3. David, what a contrast between the two addendums ~ I’m glad I read the last days first and what she loved second.

    All this makes me wonder why so many great female poets have taken their own lives. It seems to be at odds with the current trends where the emphasis is on young men.

    Whoever is involved, it is easy, yet hard, to understand. Life can be tough and people fragile.

    • I read an interview today with Olwyn Hughes in the Guardian, which presented a different slant on things. She is Ted’s sister and executor to Plath’s estate. It’s well documented that there was no love lost between the two. In the interview, Olwyn comes across as being, (understandably), protective of her brother, and also quite damning of Plath as a ‘monster’. However, the fact is, Sylvia Plath was mentally ill. And, if you’ve ever lived with a person dying of cancer, you would find that, they too, are irrational, confused, in despair and lost.

      • I don’t know that I would quite agree that all people dying from cancer are in despair and lost but I have certainly seen the despair and sense of loss associated with mental illness. Just plain sad and poignant and I suppose the most terrifying aspect is the loss of hope and sense of light and colour. I’m not so sure that we have moved on hugely in terms of understanding of the depths to which mental illness can bring those affected by it. Hopefully, this anniversary of Sylvia Plath will go even a tiny way towards redressing that. I think your posts have been wonderful in that regard.

  4. Pingback: 15 Profound Quotes About Heartbreak From Famous Authors | シ最愛遲到.!

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