Sylvia

On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath killed herself. She was 30 years old.

I would love to have seen her immense talent mature through the years.

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What had [Plath] experienced to make her feel so ill at ease? On 20 June, at a country club dance in Forest Hills, she had met a Peruvian man, José Antonio La Vias, whom she described in her journal as “cruel”. She did not expand on this, nor did she detail how his cruelty manifested itself. All we know, from the brief entries she made on a 1953 calendar – which featured idyllic scenes of the cities and landscape of Austria – is that Sylvia returned to his apartment on the East Side. What happened there we will probably never know, but if we take The Bell Jar as our guide it seems as though Sylvia could have been the victim of a rape or a near rape.

In the novel, Plath provides a devastating description of a sexual assault at a country club in the suburbs of New York involving Esther, her alter ego, and Marco, a wealthy Peruvian, and a friend of disc jockey Lenny Shepherd. On their first meeting, Esther cannot take her eyes off Marco’s diamond tiepin, which he hands over to her with the promise that, in exchange, he would perform some of kind of service “worthy of a diamond”. As he gives her the jewel, his fingers digging into the underside of her arm, Esther realises that Marco is a misogynist. “Women-haters were like gods: invulnerable and chock-full of power,” Plath writes. Later that night, Marco hits her, repeatedly calls her a slut, rips off her dress and then forces himself upon her.

Andrew Wilson, Sylvia Plath in New York: ‘pain, parties and work‘ (The Guardian).

*****

Most of the poems in The Colossus are the work of an obviously talented writer who is having trouble finding a subject commensurate with her knife-sharp powers of description and emotional clarity.

On Plath’s Colossus, by Craig Morgan Teicher (MPR Books)

*****

The poems [for Ariel] had become unstoppable. She had kind of hit that mother lode, you know, like Brent oil or something. She’d gone through and found the reservoir. She was writing poems of an order that seemed to me quite extraordinary for this century….She was writing two or three a day, as though she’d tapped the mother lode to end all mother lodes of her creativity.

—A. Alvarez, interview for Voices & Visions series, 1988

Quoted by Austen Mallen, “”O My God, What Am I”: Sylvia Plath’s Miracle Month” (BigThink)

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