Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of two German-speaking intellectuals: Otto Plath, professor of biology at Boston University and author of Bumblebees and their Ways; and Aurelia Schober, who had met Otto Plath while studying for master's degree in German. Sylvia spent an ocean childhood in the seashore of Winthrop, Massachusetts, and felt that my vision of the sea is the clearest thing I own.

In 1950 she went to Smith College a scholarship. As well as poetry prizes she won, first, a national fiction contest, and then, a guest editorship with Mademoiselle magazine. After four hectic weeks in New York, she returned home in deep depression and tried to kill herself. The circumstances of this episode form the substance of her autobiographical novel, The Bell Far, published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in 1963. In 1954 she studied German at Harvard, took courses in creative writing, and worked at her Smith thesis on the double personality of Dostoevsky's novels. Simultaneously she was developing a poetic personality and earned $750 from published pieces and prizes in the years 1954 and 1955.

She graduated in 1955 and went to Newnham College, Cambridge, on a Fulbright Fellowship. At Cambridge she met Ted Hughes and the couple was married on 16 June 1956. They spent a summer in France and Spain before returning to Cambridge where she continued her studies while her husband worked as a schoolteacher. In 1960 she published her book The Colossus, showing her still very much American poet in manner and motivation. After she separated to his husband, she continued to write emotionally intense and formally bottle poems some of which, like Edge, dramatically anticipate her death. This finally came on 11 February 1963 after she had gassed herself.

It would be a mistake to regard her final work only was clinical of suicidal despair. To the end her work displayed universally valid insight with a consummate artistic integrity.

Sylvia Plath had all the prerequisites for happiness: she was brilliant, talented, and beautiful. An honor student in high school and college, she won awards for her writing. The intense agony she experimented also fueled some startlingly original poems. Though not the first to write about such volatile issues and mental illness, emotional distress, and suicide, Plath became the model by which all poets writing on these subjects were judged. In her case, self-revelation made for great art.



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