American poet, novelist, and short story writer Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, and she passed away on February 11, 1963. Her greatest successes were in the confessional poetry subgenre, which frequently captured her strong emotions and struggle with despair. Despite having a difficult life and career, she was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize and is still well-known and extensively researched as a poet.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Sylvia Plath. She was Otto and Aurelia Plath’s first child. Otto, a professor of biology at Boston University and entomologist by birth (and the author of a book about bumblebees), was married to Aurelia (née Schober), an immigrant from Austria who was of second-generation American descent. Their son Warren was born three years later, and the family relocated to Winthrop, Massachusetts, in 1936.
At the age of eight, while still residing there, Plath had her first poem published in the children’s section of the Boston Herald. She proceeded to publish her writing and artwork in a number of regional publications and newspapers, winning awards for both.
When she was eight years old, her father passed away from complications due to an untreated diabetes foot amputation. The family then relocated to the nearby Wellesley, where Plath attended high school, including Aurelia Plath’s parents. Her first item to be published in a national publication appeared in the Christian Science Monitor right after she graduated from high school.
- American Model-turned-Singer/Actress Marilyn Monroe Biography: Know More! – The Whistler News
- Kingpin of Wall Street ‘J.P Morgan’: Biography, Early Life And More – The Whistler News
Education and Marriage
1950 saw Plath start her studies at Smith College after finishing high school. She excelled academically and rose to the position of editor at The Smith Review, the collegiate publication, which led to a brief (and ultimately terribly disappointing) spell as the guest editor of Mademoiselle magazine in New York City. Her experiences that summer included a missed opportunity to meet the poet she liked, Dylan Thomas, as well as being rejected from Harvard’s writing seminar and beginning her self-harming activities.
By this time, electroconvulsive therapy was being used to treat Plath’s severe depression, for which she had received a diagnosis. She made her first known attempt at suicide in August 1953. She made it through and had extensive psychiatric care for the following six months. Plath’s hospital stay and scholarships were paid for by Olive Higgins Prouty, an author who had recovered from a mental breakdown.
Eventually, Plath was able to make a full recovery, graduate from Smith with the highest honours, and be awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Newnham College, one of the only all-female colleges at Cambridge. She won the Glascock Prize in 1955 for her poetry “Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea” after graduating from Smith.
Ted Hughes was a poet who Plath liked who she met in February 1956 while they were both students at the University of Cambridge. They were married in London in June 1956 after a quick relationship in which they frequently exchanged poems. They honeymooned in France and Spain over the course of the summer before returning to Cambridge for Plath’s second year of study in the fall. During this time, they both developed a deep interest in astrology and other similar paranormal ideas.
After getting married to Hughes, Plath and her husband relocated back to the US in 1957, where Plath started working at Smith. She was frustrated since she had little time to write because of her teaching responsibilities. They then relocated to Boston, where Plath accepted a position as a receptionist in the psychiatric ward of Massachusetts General Hospital and participated in evening writing workshops led by poet Robert Lowell. She started there to create the writing style that would later become her trademark.
Final Works and Posthumous Publications (1964-1981)
- Ariel (1965)
- Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices (1968)
- Crossing the Water (1971)
- Winter Trees (1971)
- Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963 (1975)
- The Collected Poems (1981)
- The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1982)
Following the great release of The Bell Jar, Plath started writing a book called Double Exposure. She apparently completed about 130 pages of it before her death. The book, however, disappeared after her passing; its final known whereabouts was supposed to be in or around 1970. There are several theories as to what happened to it, including that it was lost, destroyed, hidden, or given to another person or organisation.
Ariel, Plath’s actual last book, was released posthumously two years after her death in 1965, and it was this event that solidified her reputation and position in society. It represented her most intimate and painful piece to date, completely embracing the confessional poetry subgenre.
Her mentor and friend Lowell had a big impact on Plath, especially his book Life Studies. Dark, semi-autobiographical themes from her own life, including her struggles with depression and suicide, were included into several of the collection’s poetry.
A few more of Plath’s writings were published in the years following her passing. In 1971, Winter Trees and Crossing the Water, two more collections of poetry, were published. In addition to nine previously unpublished poems from prior versions of Ariel, these volumes included contained previously published poetry.
The Collected Poems, which had an introduction by Hughes and a collection of poems stretching from her early works in 1956 until her death in 1963, was published ten years later, in 1981. The Pulitzer Prize for poetry was given to Plath after her passing.
Some of Plath’s journals and correspondence were also made public after her passing. Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963, edited and chosen by her mother, was released in 1975. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Frances McCullough and with Ted Hughes serving as consultant editor, was a 1982 publication that included some of her adult diaries.
Her final two journals were obtained by her old mater Smith College that year, but Hughes insisted that two of them be kept under lock and key until 2013, the year of Plath’s death.
- What Happened Between The Power Couple Of “Storage Wars,” Brandi and Jarrod? – The Whistler News
- Who Is Juanita Vanoy, Michael Jordan’s First Wife? What Caused The Couple’s Two Divorces? – The Whistler News
Throughout her life, Plath battled sadness and thoughts of suicide. She endured a protracted depression episode in the latter months of her life, which also resulted in severe sleeplessness. She lost over 20 pounds and complained of severe depressive symptoms to her doctor over the course of the months. In February 1963, he prescribed her an antidepressant and set up a live-in nurse since he was unable to get her admitted to the hospital for more immediate care.
When the nurse arrived at the flat on February 11, 1963, she was unable to enter. They discovered Plath dead when she eventually hired a worker to assist her. Thirty was her age. Hughes was saddened to learn of her passing, despite the fact that they had been apart for a while, and he chose the inscription “Even amidst ferocious flames the golden lotus can be planted” for her gravestone.
In Heptonstall, England’s St. Thomas the Apostle cemetery, Plath was laid to rest. Following her passing, it became customary for Plath’s admirers to remove the “Hughes” from her gravestones in retaliation for complaints of Hughes’s management of her estate and writings. In 1998, Hughes himself released a book that included additional details on his friendship with Plath; at the time, he was battling terminal disease and passed away soon after. Her son Nicholas Hughes, who experienced depression like his mother did, too committed suicide in 2009.
One of the more well-known authors in American literature, Plath contributed to the reshaping and redefinition of the poetry genre together with several of her contemporaries. Her work broke through the taboos and cautions of the time with its raw, visceral visuals and feelings, shining light on gender and mental illness topics that had not previously received much attention, or at least not in that brutally honest of a manner.
The legacy of Sylvia Plath is occasionally reduced in mainstream culture to her own battles with mental illness, her darker poems, and her suicide. Of course, Plath was much more than that, and people who knew her well did not describe her as constantly depressed and gloomy. Not only did Plath’s works continue to be produced, but so did those of her children; both of them pursued artistic endeavours, and Frieda Hughes, her daughter, is still active as an artist and a poet and children’s book author.