“Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Acclaimed poet and novelist, Sylvia Plath, has never been fully understood. The golden girl who had everything – beauty, brains and great talent – committed suicide at age 31. Born in Boston in 1932, Sylvia began writing at a young age and by the time she graduated from high school, she successfully published in Seventeen and the Christian Science Monitor.
Sylvia attended Smith College where she eventually suffered a breakdown at the end of her junior year. However, she recovered well enough to return and win various literary prizes, work as “guest editor” at Mademoiselle, and graduate summa cum laude. Sylvia went on to Newnham College, Cambridge, in England on a Fulbright fellowship, where she met and eventually married the English poet Ted Hughes.
Once she completed a teaching stint at Smith College, Sylvia returned to England and published her first poetry collection, The Colossus in 1960, which demonstrated her precocious talent, but it was far more conventional than the works that soon followed.
In 1962, Sylvia separated from her husband and began writing with great speed, abandoning the restraints and conventions that marred much of her early work. She channeled her longstanding confusion and doubt into poetic verses of great power, and published in numerous journals.
By 1963, Sylvia published the autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym “Victoria Lucas.” Weeks after her novel published, she committed suicide on February 11th.
The volumes Ariel, Crossing the Water, and Winter Trees were published posthumously. The Bell Jar was reissued under Sylvia’s own name in 1966, and reached American shores for the first time in 1971, making her an instant cause celebre in the literary community.
Although she had lived within the shadows of demons, Sylvia Plath was a gifted writer – lively, funny and brilliant. After all these years, it is ironic how Sylvia’s unexpected death remains her final, unwritten poem.
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