BANGALORE : October 27th is the 82nd birth anniversary of Sylvia Plath, one of the most important female poets and writers of the 20th century. Her life has been variously celebrated and appropriated by feminist academics, ordinary American housewives and successive generations of students and aspiring poets. Her poetry and fiction drawn from her personal life and experiences, left an indelible impression on the history of modern English literature.
Most discussions and debates around Plath's work touch upon her history and struggle with depression as well as her suicide at the young age of 30. It is this fact combined with Sylvia Plath's turbulent marriage to poet Ted Hughes, her own almost therapeutic examination of her mental state through her writing, her very public attempts to exorcise her personal demons and literary as well as real exploration of the ideas of mortality and suicide (Plath tried to kill herself on numerous occasions), that led to her posthumous reimagining as a Greek tragic heroine, 'a feminist martyr' and an all-round 'Queen of Sorrows' who died at her creative zenith.
However, Plath's legacy lies in the often gut-wrenching, stark and raw appeal of her writing more than the circumstances of her death.
If anything her early demise only heightened the tragedy of an unfulfilled creative life that promised far greater height than what she had already scaled.
Her innate poetic talent, her elemental imagery, her rich inner life and her ability to explore all that lay at the hidden edges of a woman's mind and body made her a literary icon for all time.
Just before her death, Plath was writing prolifically and had just
published her semi-autobiographical and stirring novel The Bell Jar which was an unabashed and candid insight into the troubled mind of a young poet.
She also wrote some of her most powerful and highly regarded poems during this period, many of which were published in 1965 as the posthumous collection titled Ariel (edited and put together by Ted Hughes). The poems represent all that was prophetic, larger than life and a portent of things to come—namely the cult of Sylvia Plath that persists till this day—drawn from reality and a collective public imagination about an enigmatic young woman who took her own life at a young age and an extraordinarily gifted poet who could fashion art out of ordinary words.
In the title poem, Ariel, Sylvia bares her mind to the world, eerily foreshadowing her own end:
And I Am the arrow, The dew that flies Suicidal, at one with the drive Into the redEye, the cauldron of morning.