Welcome to the Sylvia Plath Forum which began January 1998 following the surprise publication of Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters. The forum is moderated and maintained by Elaine Connell.
Poem Analysis

  • The Bee Meeting
  • Cut
  • Mirror
  • The Moon and the Yew Tree
  • Mystic
  • The Thin People
  • Tulips
  • Poems inspired by Sylvia

    Contributions: March 2000

    Well, since my last posting about 12 hours ago, has now raised the price of the Journals back to 24 pounds ( a 20% discount, as opposed to the 40% I referred to yesterday) They contacted me to tell me that I would receive the discount since I had ordered before the change in price - I assume that would apply to anyone else, but it is probably best to inquire. So, you may want to try Waterstones after all. Of course, tomorrow Amazon may change the price again....! I hope this is somewhat helpful and not too tedious....

    Detroit, USA
    Thursday, March 30, 2000

    I just checked, and the price of Plath's Journals seems to have come down again to 18 pounds. Since they sent me an email today, telling me they had shipped my order, quoting me a price of 24 pounds, I assume the price change happened sometime this morning EST. Needless to say, I have emailed them re: the price change and told them I expect the new pricing to be reflected in my bill. We shall see. Anyone else who has an order in transit may wish to do the same.

    Detroit, USA
    Thursday, March 30, 2000

    Thanks to those who have provided information about the newly released Journals. I will be ordering them soon!

    I was wondering if anyone might have information regarding the ever-present-yet-strangely-absent Plath movie? Has anyone been able to contact producers/directors in order to provide scholarly advice? I am finishing a doctoral dissertation on Plath and have been absorbed in her work for many years as have many on this list. Any information on how to go about getting our voices heard would be really appreciated. Thanks,

    Ellen Miller
    Turnersville, NJ, USA
    Thursday, March 30, 2000

    Just finished reading the unedited journals and am left with the feeling that the old debate about Hughes' controversial editing of the extant Journals was largely unfounded.

    Seems to me that he and Frances McCullough did a pretty sensitive job of protecting Plath's friends from revelations about infertility and rape, and Aurelia from the worst of Plath's hatred.

    But it was always those little ellipses in mid sentence that troubled me most, rather than the idea of wholesale excisions to protect third party identities. What terrible revelations and insights into her marriage was he keeping from us with those ...'s?

    In the end, just a few sentences on dirty hair and ragged fingernails! And most queerly, all of her references to his good smells also. Compare and contrast:


    'A wall, soundproof, must mount between us. Strangers in our study, lovers in bed. Rocks in the bed. Why?...If I write eleven more poems I will have a book.


    'A wall, soundproof, must mount between us. Strangers in our study, lovers in bed. Rocks in the bed. Why? He sleeps like a sweet-smelling baby, passion gone into the heat of his skin.'


    'I have fourteen months 'completely free' for the first time in my life, reasonable financial security, and the magic and hourly company of a husband so magnificent...big, creative in a giant way, that I imagine I made him up.'


    'the magic and hourly company of a husband so magnificent, sweet-smelling, big, creative in a giant way, that I imagine I made him up.'

    What do you all make of that? Hughes being merely bashful? Or something more calculated? His being mindful of his famous poet image? For he seems happy leaving in gushing bits that reinforce his resemblance to his iron man/force of nature poetic tropes (ie, he isn't shy of descriptions like 'voice of god' 'hulking Adam'). But anything that gives us a sniff of the real, fallible, flesh and blood bloke was dotted out.

    And - judging by all those obituaries in 1998 (Poet of the Spirits of the Land; The God of Granite Who Could Shatter Stones With Plain Words) - his little editorial tricks worked wonders!

    Bristol, England
    Thursday, March 30, 2000

    Another possible method of obtaining the new Journals might be Thanks to Lena Friesen, I was able to order a copy for 17 pounds - a considerable savings from However, I have no experience with Waterstones, and I'm not sure how reliable their shipping is. I do know that a few Plathians have received their copies from amazon, while I have not yet received even shipping confirmation from Waterstones. So it might be worth it to pay a few extra pounds for the immediacy of amazon. But if you are willing to wait, and want to save a little money, try Waterstones.

    Just a comment, though. From the bits I've read in the New Yorker and the Guardian, I am largely underwhelmed at what previously was unpublished. I must wonder at Aurelia's motives for keeping these bits private and unaccessible. I do understand her wishes to keep Sylvia's friends' protected from her personal criticisms, but some of the more "erotic" musings that were previously unavailable to us seem little more than the explorative fantasies of a young woman becoming comfortable with her own sexuality. But I'll wait until I've read the entire book before passing full judgment.

    Carol Petrone
    Southfield, Michigan, USA
    Thursday, March 30, 2000

    Yes, indeed, the price on the Journals from is now down to 24 pounds from 36. I welcome comments on their marketing/pricing policies.

    Jack Folsom
    Sharon, Vermont, USA
    Thursday, March 30, 2000

    Does anyone know where i can find SP's first poem, published when she was eight? I remember reading it in a book long ago, but have forgotten which one. Thanks. ...Also, does the handwriting on the back cover of The Voice of the Poet not look like Plath's?

    Berkeley, USA
    Thursday, March 30, 2000

    I think what you are doing is wonderful.

    As soon as I had the internet address in my hand I logged on: waiting was impossible.

    There are no real questions I wish to ask specifically about Plath, but please would you read my thoughts below and see if you think I have any perceptive comments to make about her work.

    Parts of Plath's work present ideas that are ambiguous. (This is particularly true of 'Ariel', I believe.) And, to help me in my comprehension of her writings, I find that by working through and really analysing and examining her language the, or at least a, meaning is discernible.

    Suchlike must be done with the work of any poet, but especially of Plath's; for although her ideas, symbolism, and imagery are often horrifyingly graphic and real, the inherent significance is difficult to grasp. That is, her words can create an image in one's mind's eye so powerful they are; yet what she is really wanting to say is almost imperceptible to the non-analyst.

    What I should really like to say about Plath's work is that she had a wonderful ability to evoke emotions. For instance, in 'The Bell Jar', as she is being driven over the bridge on the way to the psychiatric hospital she thinks to herself: 'If I just open the door and jump over the railings ...' (paraphrased). I, personally, felt her desperation: she craved to quit this life. There was no 'wish to', 'want to' or 'would like to': there was some real desire within her to leave, go, cease.

    Thank you greatly for having read this little note. I am sorry it is not much.

    Farquharson, England
    Thursday, March 30, 2000

    So far, there is no American edition of the new Journals. From the U.S., the Faber & Faber edition can be ordered from for GBP 36.00 plus 4.95 shipping, total 40.95 pounds, which figues out at about $65.50 US and can be charged on your credit card.

    Jack Folsom
    Sharon, Vermont, USA
    Wednesday, March 29, 2000

    Does anyone know if there is a U.S. publisher for the journals? I am unfamiliar with procedure? How long does it typically take for a book to come out? Thanks!

    St. Louis, USA
    Wednesday, March 29, 2000

    Like others, I came to SP by reading The Bell Jar as an unhappy teenager - thirty years ago. My memory of the book is of considerable humour and optimism in with the angst. I knew nothing of her then, and remember being cheered that this young woman had survived, so would I. It was thus a considerable shock to find soon after that she was already dead.

    I am now a teacher working with adult basic skills students, (school drop-outs) and regularly introduce them to SP. Just recently. we have been looked at the SP/TH versions of "The Rabbit Catcher". I don't know if the students are interested, but I have been fascinated. It occurs to me that SP was, to some extent, a wounded animal and TH a man who believed animals were to be trapped/eaten. The enduring fascination of this pair lies in the rawness of the juxtaposition of the instinctual v the cultivated. I am new to this kind of forum. I hope it doesn't show.

    Maureen Barnes
    Sunday, March 26, 2000

    The internet just saved me four bucks: This is the link to the Atlantic Monthly review of Sylvia Plath: The Voice of the Poet, as just posted!

    Peter K Steinberg
    Springfield, Virginia, USA
    Friday, March 24, 2000

    To accompany Stewart's posting of 21.03.2000, the current newsstand issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a review of the recent RandomHouse audio series 'The Voice of the Poet' (each $15.95, series editor J.D. McClatchy) of which the first three are W.H. Auden, James Merrill and our own Sylvia Plath. As far as I know it is the first review of the series published some time last year! (I haven't read it yet, I didn't even buy it yet--but I plan to!) There is a drawing of a woman writing at a desk and I took this to be Plath. It's on page 120. The Voice of the Poet is an audio tape (60 minutes) of the poets most famous poems and a booklet with the poems and an essay by McClatchy. The poems Plath reads span her entire recording history and include Sow, Fever 103, On the Difficulty of Conjuring Up the Title of This Poem and Lorelei.

    Peter K Steinberg
    Springfield, Virginia, USA
    Friday, March 24, 2000

    Does anyone know of anywhere I can purchase a photo of Sylvia Plath? I have several nice black and white photos of other authors and poets that I study in my office and wanted to purchase one of her. I contacted Smith College with no luck. Thanks,

    Mia Roberts
    Elgin, SC, USA
    Thursday, March 23, 2000

    I am writing in for the first time as I begin preparation for my 3rd year degree dissertation. I am studying the concept of "I love the thingness of things" (Sylvia Plath) and would welcome any comments regarding her use of this concept and the effect this has on the reader. Please email me with your ideas!

    Portsmouth, England
    Thursday, March 23, 2000

    One for British Plath fans only, I'm afraid. On Sunday 26th March, BBC2's new Art Zone slot is going to be doing a review of The Journals. The review programme in full is only half an hour, so the Sivvy bit will be quite brief. But still, it'll help pass the time til Amazon delivers us all our very own copies next week!

    Bristol, England
    Thursday, March 23, 2000

    Yes, Stewart, these New Yorker journal excerpts, had they ever reached Aurelia's eyes, would have given her conniptive fits (or as they say in our Southland, "hissy fits"). What struck me in addition to what Stewart observed was Sylvia's very early assessment of Ted's grossness and waywardness, "up close and personal," as it were. That she still on alternate days adored him shows how much magnetism over women he evidently possessed at that time and later. The Smith College sex scenes are classic 1950s stuff: horny guys, trying to score with horny girls who wanted pleasure, but, eh.. not to go ALL the way!

    Jack Folsom
    Sharon, Vermont, USA
    Thursday, March 23, 2000


    "The Journals of Sylvia Plath," edited by Karen V, Kukil, will be published on April 3...the diaries, serialized in London's The Guardian newspaper this week and due to be published in full for the first time next month, provide new details about Plath's troubled life and her turbulent marriage..." (Mara D. Bellaby, Associated Press, San Francisco Examiner, 22 March 2000.

    Kenneth Jones
    San Francisco, USA
    Thursday, March 23, 2000

    Not much space is devoted to Sylvia, but in this month's (April) edition of the Atlantic Monthly, there is an article on the Voice of the Poet recordings (Random House?) of Auden, Plath, and Merrill, which discusses how listening to the poet read impacts one's impressions/interpretations of the poetry. There's an interesting comparison of Sylvia's voice, her tone and emotion, in the earlier recordings to her voice in "Fever 101," "Daddy," and "Ariel," which were recorded a mere four months before her suicide.

    Pamela St. Clair
    New Haven, USA
    Wednesday, March 22, 2000

    Just a quick heads up -- run out and buy this week's New Yorker, which contains some riveting excerpts from the new edition of the journals, including a harrowing description of Aurelia by her daughter that positively bristles with hatred, and a stunning evocation of childbirth in an account of the birth of Nicholas Hughes in Jan 1962. 1962? I guess a "lost" diary has been recovered? I'm not up on the whole thing. But these New Yorker excerpts do whet the old appetite for all things Sivvy.

    Stewart Clarke
    Tuesday, March 21, 2000

    Hello, It's been a very long time since I visited this forum, and I've been rigorously reading all I can about the latest on Plath. Hearing all the time about the publication of the unedited journals. Please could someone fill me in on exactly what's happening with them, if they've been published already, if not when do we expect them?

    I know this may be a lot to ask, but I've been so busy, and therefore out of touch with things. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    London, England
    Tuesday, March 21, 2000

    The al Alvarez programme, called Desert Island discs, is repeated on Friday at 9 am UK time. He did not say much about Sylvia and no more than he has already said. Monday, March 20, 2000

    Mary Mayer
    London, England

    The "lost" diary is not included in the new edition of the journals of SP, see the Guardian this week for excerpts or go to and search for Sylvia Plath to see two articles from Saturday and two from Sunday (Observer) about Plath. It seems that the diary that Hughes did not destroy was stolen by somebody. Anyone who has listened to the Frieda Hughes interview on BBC will know what I mean, she said people stole books from her home because she had signed her name in them or if the book was too big they cut out the bit of the front page where her name was.

    Did anyone listen to (or record??) BBC Radio 4 this morning? Unfortunately I heard about it to late because you can actually listen online. Look what was on air today: 11:15am Desert Island Discs Sue Lawley's guest is Al Alvarez. As the Observer's influential poetry critic in the late 1950s, he favoured a style of writing which reflected the disarray of the times. He championed the likes of Robert Lowell, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and later wrote `The Savage God', a study of suicide in which he recalled Plath's death and described his own suicide attempt.

    Anja Beckmann
    Leipzig, Germany
    Sunday, March 19, 2000

    5. email: Regarding the April publication of the "complete" journals: Can anyone give me some insight into the reference made by to Ted Hughes releasing material from 2 journals, prior to his death in 1998? Are either of these journals the one referred to by Hughes as being lost and which "might presumably turn up someday"? Also, the journal that he destroyed contained entries up to February of 1963 - the 'new' journals supposedly contain entries through 1962. Is it possible that Hughes didn't destroy this last journal and that the 'complete' journals soon to be published contain passages from this lost book? Or am I just hopelessly confused and not making any sense?! I did not notice any reference made to new material being released by Hughes before he died - if anyone has any more information on this, please do let me (us) know. I'd be very interested in finding out what other writings by Plath he has made available for publication.

    Note to Felicity of Hebden Bridge, who asked for information regarding the poem that contained the lines "And did you get what you wanted from this life..." - the poem is by Raymond Carver, though you probably already know that by now, since it's taken me 4 months to get back to you!

    Many thanks in advance

    Detroit, USA
    Sunday, March 19, 2000

    I've been reading Sylvia Plath's poetry since I had occasion to purchase a copy of Ariel back in the mid 70's. Just lately I've taken her up again, with greater insight, 25 years of life experience under my belt, and find her work every bit as compelling as when I was a freshman English major in college. The only difference is now, I understand less how to put into words why her poetry attracts me so powerfully. Her brilliant use of language to describe objects, create sound (as in her use of the phrase "that is that" in Lesbos to imitate the flapping sound of a bat's wings) is what first wowed me 25 years ago. Now I find my 'wows' come as the result of a much more subtle awareness. She really taps into some special source of power that I am at a loss to describe. I am reminded of two reading experiences that moved me similarly: The first was to do with the lurid tabloid headline: 'Man decapitates self after loosing baseball bet.' The headline was accompanied by the photo of a man slicing off his own head! Obviously, it had to have been a fake photo and story, but as a kid, glancing at that photo in a newspaper kiosk it seemed pretty real to me! The second occurred more recently as I very determinedly sat down to read, for the first time, "Macbeth." I was similarly affected. There is a power in that play that is purely pagan. It has a quality about it that reminds me of ancient Native American burial sights. There is something downright primeval about that play. The power of the words struck me like an incantation. If I put these two experiences of reading together, I come close to describing the power of Plath. She has the shocking directness of a tabloid headline, coupled with odd witchy earth power of a pagan ritual. Her voice calls powerfully. Her anger so wonderfully expressed, creates and destroys simultaneously, like an enormous, dramatic conflagration.

    Ken Dunbar
    Dayton, OH, USA
    Friday, March 17, 2000

    Does anybody know where I can get hold of a copy of the magazine Sylvia Plath worked for during her summer in New York? I am still working on my thesis about "The Bell Jar" and therefor I want to have a look at the "Mademoiselle" magazine. Its so hard to find!

    Mannheim, Germany
    Friday, March 17, 2000

    It appears that April will be a major Plath month for Faber & Faber publishers in Britain. On April 3, not only are they releasing the long-awaited expanded Journals, but they are releasing a new analytical work called Ariel's Gift by Erica Wagner. The description says the book looks closely at the genesis of Hughes' Birthday Letters. Both will be out that day in hardcover, with paperback scheduled for a year later.

    Amy Rea
    Eden Prairie, USA
    Wednesday, March 15, 2000

    I have not posted to the list in quite some time as I have been busily completing my dissertation on Plath's poetry and contemporary philosophical questions. I am struggling with a chapter on the Moon and the Yew Tree (poem can be found on this website--thanks for that!!). Has anyone come across (or already performed) a scanning of this poem, the stressed and unstressed syllables? I have described the rhythm and meter of the poem in descriptive language but have not provided a more exact rendering of the poem's meter. I'm a bit out of practice when it comes to scanning poetry and would greatly appreciate any assistance with this.

    Also, what I am struggling with generally is how to describe what this poem does to the reader bodily. That is, how it affects our visual system, motor sensations, our sense of spatiality. Merleau-Ponty writes that when we view artworks we do not merely look at them, rather we see according to them. I am trying to trace out how this poem accmplishes that feat. I would be more than interested in any reactions you might be willing to share.

    Thanks so much,

    Ellen Miller
    Turnersville, USA
    Tuesday, March 14, 2000

    I was just wondering if anybody out there has explored 'ecriture feminine' in relation to Plath's work or knows of any books etc... which do. I adore Plath's work. I read some poetry at GCSE and then read everything I could get my hands on! Now at Uni and trying to incorporate it into into my degree! Thanks for reading this, any comments, ideas will be gratefully excepted. K.

    Congleton, England
    Tuesday, March 14, 2000

    I am also a junior in high school and have to write a research paper and have chosen my topic to be on Sylvia Plath. I am not too familiar with her work though. I have only read The Bell Jar and parts of her Journals. As for my thesis, I was thinking of doing something around the lines of; how her work was greatly influenced by events in her own life -- which bascially everything was. That is kind of part of the problem. I don't know where to begin, I have started searching for information and there is so much out there. Does anyone have any suggestions on what particaular aspects of her life I should focus on, or head me in the right directions of some pieces which I should probably incoporate in the project. Also, does anyone know if there are any transcripts of interviews she had typed up on the web somewhere or possibly in a book? Thanks.

    P'town, NY, USA
    Tuesday, March 14, 2000

    My name is Ashley Zuckerman and I am a junior in high school in Jericho, Vermont, USA. I am currently writing a research paper on Sylvia Plath as she is my favorite female writer, and luckily I had my choice on who to write about. Plath has always interested me, and I have studied her life and work before this so I am very excited about learning more. I do not call myself a poet, as I am simply expressing myself, yet I do write quite a lot of poetry, which I will call it, and have written a couple short stories which I am especially proud of. My thesis for the paper is: "Sylvia Plath's dark childhood had such an impressionable impact on her writing that it imparts a message of false hope." I do not know if you agree with this, but I have read many books on her, including her "Letters Home" which I thought was intriging, as well as her autobiographical novel "The Bell Jar" which I found myself relating to. In addition of course, I have read all the poetry I found on her, and know several verses by heart. My current favorite poems by her are Denouement and Mad Girl's Love Song which I find equally amazing. If you have any insight on any of this, I would love to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to read this, I greatly appreciate it.
    Your Truly

    Ashley Zuckerman
    Richmond, USA
    Monday, March 13, 2000

    I just wanted to say how fantastic this website is! I've only recently discovered Sylivia Plath's work and I absolutely love it. I read The Bell Jar in three days because I just couldn't put it down, and I've just sat on this website and cried after having read Tulips for the first time. If anyone can explain what it is that makes her work so amazing, moving and completely gripping, please let me know - I just can't put my finger on it. Good Luck everyone doing essays!

    Bourne, Lincolnshire, England
    Sunday, March 12, 2000

    I am an English Literature student and am currently conducting an assignment into 'Ariel'. Although to begin with I was a little unsure and unwilling to read the poems, Elaine came into ur class and gave us a fascinating introduction to the book and certainly sparked our interest. Although we have already studied 'Daddy', I am now having a great deal of difficulty with the poem 'Fever 103'. I realise that this is not a site to do my homework for me and I would therefore like to stress that I am not looking for someone to complete my task but am in fact genuinely interested in the thoughts which drive this extraordinary woman.

    I would be grateful for any information. Many thanks, Lindsay

    Manchester, England
    Friday, March 10, 2000

    I should just like to say how useful I have found the Forum. It is beautifully presented and logically laid out. I am not a student, merely a "lay fan" of Plath's work, and have been for many years. She is the writer who completely changed my perceptions of the whole notion of poetry, and influenced me to want to write poetry myself. I have published a book of poetry with Bloodaxe and, although I know that I'll never be anything close to being a poet of the calibre of Plath, nevertheless I am glad that I was inspired to write; it makes me appreciate Plath's work all the more, if anything.

    For various reasons I never completed my University education. I would love to contact students who are studying Plath's work at University, just to bounce ideas around and find out how much I'm missing by not having the training and discipline enhanced by studying for a degree!

    Helen Kitson
    Worcester, England
    Thursday, March 9, 2000

    I'm fascinated by the entire Plath enigma. As a young poet, her work has been my primary inspiration. I am in awe of the way she constantly manipulated linguistic phenomena and oddessy and etched herself into the poetry scene with strenght and clarity. Sylvia never said anything half-heartedly and always executed her themes with both exellence and elegance.

    I am curious to find out who Sylvia herself was influenced by, in literary terms...?

    Ballybug, Ireland
    Monday, March 6, 2000

    I am a first year student analysing Sylvia Plath's The Applicant. I am confused as to whom the poem is addressing, and any help at all with this poem would be greatly appreciated.

    Monday, March 6, 2000

    To tell the truth I had never head of Sylvia Plath beore today(3-1-00). My english teacher gave us a poem to interpet and it just happend yo be "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath. I went home and read it, and it simply took my breath away. So I decided to look her up and find out more about her and her work. I went to many sites and found that this one was the most helpfull to understand what her thoughts and feelings were behind her work. Thank you!!

    Melissa Green
    Jefferson, USA
    Thursday, March 2, 2000

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    This forum is administered by Elaine Connell, author of Sylvia Plath: Killing The Angel In The House - second edition with new preface just out, December 1998. Elaine lives in Hebden Bridge, near where Sylvia Plath is buried and where Ted Hughes was born. Web Design by Pennine Pens. This forum is moderated - contributions which are inappropriate, anonymous or likely to offend may be edited or omitted.