If the moon smiled, she would remember you. You leave the same impression of something beautiful but annihilating.
This quote is from one of my favorite Sylvia Plath poems “The Rival”.
If you read Sylvia Plath you would find that her poetry wasn’t about the beauty that surrounded her, the fruity aroma of the garden flowers or blistering sun shining on her face or the wind sweeping her way. No, it was about none of that. Her poetry style was confessional.
Sylvia Plath was born on october 27 of 1932 in Boston Massachusetts. She was a poet and a novelist who shaped American literature to a great extent. Plath published her first poem at the age of 8 in an American newspaper under the children’s section.From then on Plath went on to write and publish multiple poems in different magazines and newspapers. At the age of 8 Plath also faced a great deal of personal loss, her father passed away due to untreated diabetes. Her father was also a subject for a lot of her poems that she wrote in her later years.
Plath was a good student, she excelled in academics and attended the Smith’s College in Massachusetts. Plath also suffered from depression, which she elaborates in her poems. She underwent electrocution therapy for her depression. We are talking about the year 1950, when mental illness was not a socially acceptable concept. No points for guessing that the electrocution therapy did not work in fact it made matters worse for plath. In 1953, at the age of 21, the feeling of which she describes in one of her works as “blissfully succumbed to the whirling blackness that I honestly believed was eternal oblivion.” plath made her first suicide attempt by taking her mother’s sleeping pills. After this incident she remained in psychiatric care for months.
In 1960, Sylvia Plath released a collection of her poems, entitled the colossus and other poems.. In this collection she talks about death, suicide, her father, and her depressive periods and thoughts.
Sylvia Plath’s poetry wasn’t particularly happy and that is because it was confessional or even autobiographical in a sense and Plath herself was deeply depressed. Here is an excerpt from one of her poems called Lady Lazarus;
“Dying is an art,
like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call”.
If it wasn’t clear until now, then these lines give us an idea of the intensity of torment that her own mind was subjecting her to.
Marriage and the aftermath
Plath married Ted Hughes, a poet and writer in 1956. They had 2 children together. The two later separated in 1962. The couple did not have a great relationship, some controversy and rumors surrounded Hughes even after Plath’s death.
During the last few years of her life Plath published exceptional work, some of the best work ever written. This vey period of Plath’s life is the one that shaped literature and inspired the future confessional poets. Plath poured her heart out on the pages during these years. She published a novel “the bell jar” in 1963 which did exceptionally well. But her career was cut short when at the age of 30, in 1962 after what is described as “a burst of creativity” she took her own life. Her posthumously published collection of poems “Ariel” also attracted a lot of readers and to this day transcends her.