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
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
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.
Here’s a lovely little article from the Academy of American poets about
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.