AUTHOR OF THE DAY: Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts. She is best known for her dramatic, confessional poetry and her tumultuous life, which was reflected by her work.
From the age of eight, Plath published her first poem in the Boston Herald’s children’s section and was known to keep a journal from the age of eleven. When she was eight years old, Plath’s father, Otto, passed away from complications of diabetes. Her father’s overwhelmingly strict and authoritative nature, as well as his death influenced her future relationships and poetry—especially her sorrowful poem “Daddy.”
After publishing several literature, Plath earned a scholarship to Smith College in 1950. In the summer of 1953, Plath’s excellency in academia landed her the coveted position as a guest editor at Mademoiselle Magazine in New York City. Her experience at Mademoiselle proved to be disappointing. She spent six months in a mental health facility to receive treatment after attempting suicide.
She returned to school to finish her degree and managed to graduate summa cum laude in 1955. After graduation, she moved to Cambridge, England, on a Fulbright Scholarship. She met English poet, Ted Hughes at a party. They married on June 16, 1956.
During one of her darkest times she wrote her most famous book, Ariel, which rose her to fame after her death. In 1963, she published The Bell Jar under her pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel, which reflects the experience she had working at Mademoiselle. Plath told her mother The Bell Jar was ”an autobiographical apprentice work which I had to write in order to free myself from the past.” Fellow confessional poet, Anne Sexton revealed:
"Sylvia and I would talk at length about our first suicide, in detail and in depth—between the free potato chips. Suicide is, after all, the opposite of the poem. Sylvia and I often talked opposites. We talked death with burned-up intensity, both of us drawn to it like moths to an electric lightbulb, sucking on it. She told the story of her first suicide in sweet and loving detail, and her description in ‘The Bell Jar’ is just that same story."
On February 11, 1963, Plath was found dead at the age of 30 from carbon monoxide poisoning in her kitchen. She placed her head in the oven and turned on the gas. She sealed her children’s room with wet towels and cloths to protect them.
After her death, Hughes became owner of her estate and published three volumes of her work. Much controversy surrounded his inheritance of Plath’s work. He has been accused of burning her last journal, by revealing that, “he did not want her children to have read it.” Plath was the first poet to posthumously earn a Pulitzer Prize.
Sylvia Plath’s life has become as significant as her work. She is credited to be one of the pioneers of confessional poetry. Plath’s poetry holds strong, violent and sharp imagery. Plath’s literature awakened many women in the 1970s with her use of domestic surrealism. She turned details from her everyday life into the nightmare she experienced inside. Her history is ferociously linked with her literature; her life was raw material for her art. It is unjust to separate the two. Plath has become a voice for women who have felt repressed. She has liberated women by abruptly expressing her dissatisfaction with her domestic life. Her courage to be authentic in the most disturbing way makes her the fiercest female author.
The Colossus and Other Poems (1960)
The Bell Jar (1963)
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (2000)
Read excerpts by Sylvia Plath here! Get her books here!