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Sylvia Plath published her first poem at the age of eight. Born in Massachusetts in 1932 to a middle class family, she grew up to be a perfectionist, earning straight A’s in school while maintaining her popularity. In 1950, with an already notable list of publications, she started at Smith College on a scholarship. Over her time at Smith College, Plath wrote over four-hundred poems. Although Plath appeared to be a stable, optimistic perfectionist, this was not truly the case. After her father’s death from untreated diabetes when was eight, her dark internal monologue began to surface. While home from Smith College in the summer before her senior year, she attempted suicide by swallowing sleeping pills, an experience that would one day be described into The Bell Jar, which was published in 1963. In 1955, Plath graduated summa cum laude from Smith and continued on to Newnham College at Cambridge University with a Fulbright scholarship.
In 1956, Plath married Ted Hughes, an English poet. After two years of marriage, and the birth of one child, the marriage fell apart, and in the winter of 1962, Plath found herself alone, ill, and broke with her two children, Frieda and Nicholas, in a small apartment in London. The hopelessness of her life seemed to fuel her need to write, as she began to write from four to eight every morning. The final poems of this dark period of her life are marked by a more urgent, powerful self taking control of her creativity. On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath committed suicide by inhaling gas from an oven.
Plath as a Writer
Throughout her life, Plath kept a journal as a form of documentation of inspiration, a steady confident, and a record of a more private self as it captured her bluntness, her ambitions, and her creative ideas. Sylvia Plath’s writing technique and style both evolved dramatically throughout her life. After publishing her first poem in the Boston Herald in 1941, her writing style developed into what would become an obsession in her college years. Plath’s time at Smith would produce hundreds of poems that were simple and pretty, as she focused on line length, stanza length, syllabics. Plath chained herself to her thesaurus as she worked through poem after poem.
In 1950, Plath was published in a handful of national periodicals. The March issue of Christian Science Monitor featured an article titled “Youth’s appeal for World Peace,” the August issue of Christian Science Monitor printed a poem titled “Bitter Strawberries,” and the August issue of Seventeen Magazine featured a short story titled “And Summer Will Not Come Again.” Over the next decade, she would continue to be published in many popular magazines and periodicals. In 1960, her first book was published in England, The Colossus, which was composed of formal, tight, precise poems. Two years after her unfortunate death, a collection of her last poems was published, titled Ariel. This volume was followed in publication by Crossing the Water and Winter Trees in 1971 and also by The Collected Poems in 1981 which was edited by her former husband Ted Hughes.
The life and works of Sylvia Plath are considered to be a significant contribution to the genre of Confessional Poetry. Many of Plath’s poems are characterized by a strong, personal, emotion-fueled voice as they capture the bleak, grotesque side of life.
Beckmann, Anja. "Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)." SylviaPlath.de. 1996. Web. 17 Oct. 2010. <http://www.sylviaplath.de/>.
Steinberg, Peter K. "A Celebration, This Is." SylviaPlath.info. Dec. 2007. Web. 17 Oct. 2010. <http://www.sylviaplath.info/biography.html>.
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