Sylvia Plath

1932 - 1963

'Even amidst fierce flames, the golden lotus can be planted'

 

Sylvia Plath is buried in St.Thomas' Churchyard, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, England. (Her epitaph comes from the Bhagavad-Gita.)


Gravestone of Sylvia Plath
Photographs by Tim Simpson

 

Her grave bears the name 'Sylvia Plath Hughes' as she was married to fellow poet Ted Hughes. The pair met in 1956 when Plath studied at Newnham College Cambridge on a Fulbright scholarship from the United States. They married in the same year.

Her first collection The Colossus appeared in 1960 and her only novel The Bell Jar in 1963.

After a spell teaching in the US the couple returned to England - living first in London and then at North Tawton in Devon. When they separated Plath moved back to London and rented a flat that had once been the home of W.B. Yeats. It was here that she committed suicide on the 11th of February, 1963 by gassing herself. She was 30 years old. Before killing herself, Plath left food and drink out for her children Nicholas and Frieda, and made sure they were safe in their bedrooms. She had previously made two suicide attempts and bore a scar on her cheek as proof.

Plath's famous collection Ariel was published two years after her death and contained many of her well known poems such as: Lady Lazarus, Daddy, The Bee Meeting and Tulips. It was edited by Ted Hughes. Her two other collections: Crossing the Water and Winter Trees were also published after her death and edited by Hughes. Despite the circumstances of their separation, Hughes was always keen to see that Plath's work was available to the world. It also proved to be a major commercial success.

Plath  frequently wrote about child birth, hospitals and suicide and employed disturbing and distorted imagery. Her work has often been compared to that of Anne Sexton. Larkin called her the 'Horror Poet'.

Ted Hughes left Sylvia Plath for Assia Wevill with whom he had a daughter Shura. Tragically Assia also committed suicide and killed their daughter too in the same manner as Sylvia Plath. Hughes dedicated Crow - his bleak 1972 collection to them.

Plath's relationship with Ted Hughes was the subject of the 2003 feature film entitled Ted and Sylvia which starred Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.


      

 

The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons.

From Tulips

 

 

 


 

 

 
 
 
 

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