1001 Ways to die (9) – Sylvia Plath, American, Poet, Novelist


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.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Lady Lazarus, Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath, photographed in a hallway of Smith College, 1952

Sylvia Plath was born in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts on October 27, 1932 the oldest child of Otto and Aurelia Schoeber Plath. The daughter of a Boston Univesity German and entomology professor and a high school English teacher, Plath was raised in a household that valued learning highly.  While in college, in August of 1953, Plath attempted to overdose on sleeping pills. This suicide attempt would be recalled years later in her poem, Lady Lazarus. Plath was able to return to college and only graduated a couple of months behind her class.

Ted Hughes

After receiving a Fulbright scholarship, she began two years at Cambridge University. There she met and married, in 1956, the British poet Ted Hughes.

Hughes was born on 17 August 1930 in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, and raised on local farms. According to him, “My first six years shaped everything”. He studied at Cambridge University and first published poetry in a journal launched with fellow students called St Botolph’s Review. It was at the launch party for the magazine that he met Plath, and they married in 1956.

Sylvia Plath in 1957

They separated in 1962.

On February 11, 1963, after carefully sealing the kitchen so her children would not be harmed, Sylvia Plath took a bottle of sleeping pills and stuck her head in a gas oven.

As Plath’s widower, Hughes became the executor of her personal and literary estates. He oversaw the publication of her manuscripts, including Ariel in 1966. He also claimed to have destroyed the final volume of Plath’s journal, detailing their last few months together. In his foreword to The Journals of Sylvia Plath, he defended his actions as motivated by consideration for the couple’s young children. He wrote about his relationship with Plath, and his response to her suicide, in Birthday Letters. It was his final collection and one of his most successful works.

In 1969 Hughes suffered another loss when his mistress, Assia Wevill, also gassed herself and their daughter in an apparent copycat suicide.

In 1982, Plath became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously, for The Collected Poems. She also wrote The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death.

Ted Hughes died from cancer in 1998.

On 23 March 2009, CNN reported:

Nicholas Hughes (right) in 1999

“The family history of poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath took another tragic turn Monday when it was revealed that their son had committed suicide after battling depression.

Nicholas Hughes, whose mother asphyxiated herself in 1963 by putting her head in a gas oven at her London home while her two children slept in the next room, hanged himself at his home in Alaska, his sister Frieda told The Times newspaper.

Hughes, 47, was unmarried with no children of his own and had until recently been a marine biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.”

O love, how did you get here?
O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.
The pain
You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,
I have hung our cave with roses.
With soft rugs----
Sylvia Plath, Nick and the Candlestick
Sylvia Plath: Boat in Rock Harbor, Cape Cod

A selection of 44 ink and pen drawings by Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was exhibited for the first time between 2 Nov and 16 Dec 2011 at the Mayor Gallery in London, displaying Plath’s love for her “deepest source of inspiration”, art. Sam Leigh wrote in “The Guardian”:

“Nearly half a century after her suicide, the great poet is capable of surprising us. A selection of her drawings that have just gone on display at London’s Mayor Gallery shows us a new side of her. I found these drawings moving: not because they feed into the legend, but because they sidestep it. They bring us a fresh look at a woman now so barnacled with myth it’s hard to see her clearly. And – wow – they’re really good….

To see these drawings as in some way complementary to the poems, as some will doubtless try to, seems to me off-beam. Plath did once tell the BBC: “I have a visual imagination.” But what’s so striking about these drawings is exactly their difference from the visual world of the poems. These are pictures that revel in the thinginess of things: in wine bottles, an old kettle, a pair of shoes, the uneven timbering of beached boats, the architectural curlicues of a Parisian roof.”


  1. εξαιρετικό post

    Μου αρέσει πολύ η ποίηση της Sylvia Plath κι έχω διαβάσει αρκετά για τη ζωή της… πράγματι πολλές αυτοκτονίες έγιναν τριγύρω της, εκτός από τη δική της…

    • Ναταλια, ενα θολο τοπιο δυσδιακριτο και καταρρεον. Με καταληξη στον αυτοσχεδιο θαλαμο των αεριων. Συμπτωση;

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