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: June-July 2000

    I would be very interested in your comments when you have finished reading 'Journals' Anne. It was the first of Sylvia Plath's work I have ever read. I am now reading 'The Bell Jar'. Which quite frankly, so far (I am half way through) I do not think is worthy of her. One critic described it as 'juvenile', I agree. She was a big fan of J.D. Sallinger and I detect his style. It is very easy to read, and very funny in parts, one could finish it in a night without taxing the brain at all. Her one subject was herself, so she does an excellent job of describing her feelings of her nervous breakdown. I am sure in later years when she had matured in style, and after successful treatment for her monomania when hopefully she would have taken an interest in other subjects besides herself, she would have looked back on this first novel with a much sharper eye.

    Buddy Willard in the book of course is Richard Sassoon, but her interpretation of events in the novel gives a different impression from her journals. I have written in my notes on 'The Journals' (Journal 15th July 1956) that Sylvia Plath was still madly in love with Richard Sassoon, and hardly knew Ted Hughes on April 18th. (last entry previous chapter). She married Ted Hughes less than two months later, on June 16th. that is how madly and ferociously she transferred (or perhaps even sublimated) her love. "He a genius, I his wife."

    Cressida Hope-Bunting
    Alabama, USA
    Monday, July 31, 2000

    Thank you Shelley for those comments on "ELM". They are most helpful - I find it a really knotty poem, layers and layers of ideas, feelings.

    Like you, Cressida, I am reading the Journals. I too have been struck by Plath's intensity: it is invested in everything she writes about. It really is as if she has "no skin", as you say. It really reminds me of Emily Dickinson@s writings - that same profound response to the smallest stimulus.

    Ann Hyland
    Wexford, Ireland
    Saturday, July 29, 2000

    Thank you Matt for your comments regarding Plath's use of Holocaust imagery. I agree with your assertion that suffering is subjective, and that individual experiences of persecution are as powerful in their own right as that of the Holocaust. Believe it or not, your comments (although in reference to Plath's work) are helping me come to grips with the Patrick White novel I referred to in my eariler posting, and at this stage of my studies any little bit helps!!!

    With regards to Ann's question about the middle stanzas of 'Elm'. I have always taken those lines to be a reference to Plath's experiences of shock treatment. The lines

    are reminiscent of an earlier poem 'The Hanging Man', where Plath writes:

    As a whole, I beleive 'Elm' expresses an interalised feeling of apprehension that the speaker is struggling to articulate and thereby exorcise. Throughout the poem the these apprehensions (given form by the 'elm') taunt the speaker for her fear of the unknown - the 'bottom'. As the poem progresses, this fear begins to become somewhat clearer, as the speaker identifies it as her fear of the internal unrest she is experiencing:

    In these stanzas the speaker recognizes her own self-destructive potential. The line 'Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.' recalls the line in 'Tulips' where the speaker describes the photograph of her husband and child as 'little smiling hooks', but from the opposite perspecitve in that in this case the speaker is looking for loving (or familial) associations upon which to anchor herself in the face of her 'dissatisfactions'.

    In her biography of Plath, 'Bitter Fame', Anne Stevenson offers some insightful observations into the development of this poem. She discusses it in light of Plath's personal domestic situation at the time - worth checking out if you are interested in that perspecitive. She also notes that the first draft of the poem contains the line 'Stigma of Selfhood', pointing to this as an indication of the personal turmoil that Plath was beginning to experience in the Spring of 1962 that precluded her marriage breakdown and the magnificent Ariel poems of the Autumn and Winter of 1962. It is interesting to note that Stevenson looks upon this particular poem in much the same light as many critics look upon 'The Moon and the Yew Tree' as being an early indication of the new style that Plath was developing as she started to find her 'voice'. Both poems use trees as their central image and also draw on the mythology of the moon. I hope this helps, but I am sure that many others have many different interpretations

    Saturday, July 29, 2000

    I am so glad I found this discussion forum. It is interesting and up to date. The website is clear and easy to manage (unlike CNN's message boards). Thank you Cath for the photograph of Frieda and Nicholas, you are right it IS spooky! And thank you Elaine for this great site.

    Cressida Hope-Bunting
    Alabama, USA
    Saturday, July 29, 2000

    Half an hour ago, I opened up this morning's Guardian to discover the news about the Blue Plaque at Chalcot Square.

    There is a very spooky picture of Freida and Nicholas Hughes looking like their parents, even (consciously?) assuming a pose I vaguely recollect from one of the photos.

    Cath Morgan
    Leeds, USA
    Saturday, July 29, 2000

    (Thanks Cath. See photos section - EC)

    I have just finished reading "The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950 - 1962" I have made many notes and have many questions. First of all I would like to say that it is an excellent book, once started, I could not put it down. The first entry is a sample of things to come:-

    Her writing is so beautiful, she was SO gifted, what a waste of a life.

    My calculated feeling about her was that she was manic-depressive, and today of course her illness would have been treatable with Lithium or Prozac or a similar drug, but then it was therapy, (which she underwent extensively) and electric shock treatment. I cannot recall anywhere in the book where she mentions medication, except for her frequent sinus infections. She was a very pretty, slim girl, sexually attractive to men, vivacious and sociable. She was academically brilliant and seemed to have everything going for her. However, the one thing which struck me forcibly a few pages into the book is how abnormally sensitive she is, but that I know, was part of her gift. One talks of someone as being "thin-skinned", it seemed to me that she had NO skin at all! That her very raw nerve ends were exposed. Where someone with a more normal disposition would shake off slights and snubs, the slings and arrows of misfortune, and weather the ups and downs of life, she dwelt on them excessively; but she was mostly obsessed with herself, analysing everything she felt, even to the pleasure she derived from picking her nose. Her negative qualities were that she was narcissistic, selfish, critical to the point of meanness and of course pathologically introverted.

    There was a great love in her life before Ted Hughes, Richard Sassoon, but unfortunately this was mostly unrequited love which gives rise to much angst on her part. When Ted Hughes came on the scene she fell headlong in love with him. She adores him and gives him her all, he is passionately attracted to her and they marry within four months of their first meeting. It is easy to see how when he becomes unfaithful to her she cannot contemplate life without him.

    I could go on and on about this book. This is not the original thread, a discussion on Birthday Letters, so please forgive me for butting in, but I would be very interested to hear any comments you may have about what I have just written. Thank you.

    Cressida Hope-Bunting
    Alabama, USA
    Saturday, July 29, 2000

    Thank you Douglas for posting the news of the Blue Plaque. I find it's about time. Indeed one must wonder about the choice of house. Perhaps The Heritage does not favour two Blue Plaques on the same property? I hope someone, anyone can be there to report.

    Peter K Steinberg
    Springfield, Virginia, USA
    Friday, July 28, 2000

    Re Jenni's questions. Plath was born 27th October 1932. She was a Unitarian by birth/upbringing, although much of her mother's family was Roman Catholic. She did of course dabble in what might be termed the occult (cf. poems like Ouija) and was very aware of other cultures' myths and religions, especially ancient - she took a Philosophy of Religion course at Smith College, and Hughes too was interested in paganism, and introduced Sylvia to books like Robert Graves' The White Goddess.

    What she actually believed is up for debate. There are comments in Letters HOme (about the time she moved to Devon) about the local church she looked at joining, and she gives some indication of what she at least professed in terms of Christian belief. But of course that was edited for her mother. Her poetry shows a great knowledge of and love for the Bible (Hughes and her Journals attest to her reading Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah very deeply). More than half of the Ariel poems are explicitly religious. And the "Ariel" of the title poem owes more to Isaiah's Ariel (ch 27 or 29, I think) than to Shakespeare's. Though few of the critics seem to acknowledge this.


    London, England
    Friday, July 28, 2000

    From J.D.'s gossip column in tomorrow's Times Literary Supplement:

    [I get my TLS a day early by mail as I subscribe]

    Douglas Clark
    Bath, England
    Thursday, July 27, 2000

    Re Jenni's questions. Plath was born 27th October 1932. She was a Unitarian by birth/upbringing, although much of her mother's family was Roman Catholic. She did of course dabble in what might be termed the occult (cf. poems like Ouija) and was very aware of other cultures' myths and religions, especially ancient - she took a Philosophy of Religion course at Smith College, and Hughes too was interested in paganism, and introduced Sylvia to books like Robert Graves' The White Goddess.

    What she actually believed is up for debate. There are comments in Letters HOme (about the time she moved to Devon) about the local church she looked at joining, and she gives some indication of what she at least professed in terms of Christian belief. But of course that was edited for her mother. Her poetry shows a great knowledge of and love for the Bible (Hughes and her Journals attest to her reading Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah very deeply). More than half of the Ariel poems are explicitly religious. And the "Ariel" of the title poem owes more to Isaiah's Ariel (ch 27 or 29, I think) than to Shakespeare's. Though few of the critics seem to acknowledge this.


    London, England
    Thursday, July 27, 2000

    I.m on vacation in Paris, and wandering through the Louvres Egyptian antiquity collection the other day I was reminded of Plaths poem Sarcophagus in which the speaker imagines her life after death in which she is comforted by things reminding her of her everyday life rouge pots etc. I began to wonder whether Plaths feelings about life, death and art in her last months were in any way influenced by the ancient Egyptians. Im sure the British Museum must have an impressive Egyption collection, and I wonder if and when Plath saw it.

    The Egyptians belived in preserving the body through mummification so it would be able to live after death. At the Louvre there is an incredibly moving mummy of a women whose body is still intact because of this process, though it is many centuries old. The dead were buried in crypts with food so they could live on and statues of loved ones enabling them to remain in contact with their significant others. They were surrounded by items that had been meaningful to them. When pets died they would be mummified and buried with their owners, and families would be buried together.

    I wonder if Plath in the midst of the pain, anguish and turmoil of her last months had a longing to die so to speak to save herself from her own destructivity and somehow in an afterlife reconnect with her lost loved ones her father, her husband, possibly even her mother and the many American friends and relatives she had psychologically wounded through The Bell Jar, which was published shortly before her death.

    If anyone has any thoughts on this subject I would love to hear them. I dont remember ever reading that Plath was influenced by or even interested in ancient Egypt, but who knows.

    Paris, France
    Thursday, July 27, 2000

    In response to Shelley's posting.. Critics who accuse Plath of misusing the Holocaust to aid her descriptions of suffering seem to me to ignore the fact that suffering is subjective. People with certain psychological conditions (e.g. schizophrenia, depression) may experience great suffering in the absence of "legitimate" environmental causes. Plath did share certain sufferings with Holocaust victims in losing her father at a young age. The Holocaust was horrible in part because of its magnitude. On an individual level there are many cases of persecution, loss, and suffering that occur to this day, and those individuals may experience similar feelings to individuals who suffered in the Holocaust.

    NY, USA
    Tuesday, July 25, 2000

    I have enjoyed reading back through the many contributions from so many different people. And I have been re-reading Plath - thenks Jack too for your recommended reading: I found "Rough Magic" interesting, though perhaps a little one-sided? Some of the suggestions in it seem pretty poisonous, and unsubstantiated (but also irrefutable because they are so tenuous) e.g., the idea that Hughes may have in some way caused Plath to commit suicide by hypnotic suggestion.

    Having just finished the "Collected Poems" of Plath, I find the level of anguish in the final poems almost unbearable. It is so difficult to know how someone could have lived with such hopelessness.

    One poem that I find puzzling is "Elm". The middle stanzas

    baffle me. I wonder could anyone have any suggested readings?

    Ann Hyland
    Wexford, Ireland
    Tuesday, July 25, 2000

    I am a poet living in Sheffield and am trying to find out more about the film which Alison Owen is producing about Sylvia and Ted having heard an inetrview with Alison on Radio 4 earlier this year. Does anybody have any news about it or any means of getting in touch with Alison? Thanks.

    Chris Blackmore
    Sheffield, UK
    Sunday, July 23, 2000

    I was particularly interested in what Stewart Clarke had to say about the Anne Sexton poem My Friend, My Friend and agree that Plaths Daddy does appear to have drawn considerable influence from both the style and subject of this poem. What drew my attention specifically were the comments about both Plath and Sexton identifying suffering (and legitimate reason for suffering) with Judaism.

    I am currently completing a Masters Thesis on the Australian author Patrick White, and am at the moment focusing on Whites 1961 novel 'Riders in the Chariot' in which he focuses (in part) on the experiences of a Jewish refugee from the Holocaust. The novel is primarily set in early post war Australia, but White does give considerable attention in the narrative to Himmelfarbs life in Germany which culminates in a brush with and escape from a Nazi death camp.

    My research indicates that White was recorded several times as saying he identified with the experience of Jewish refugees in Australia as he himself had been subject to the hate and contempt with which he is often received. While my focus is predominately on the novels portrayal of Australian society ('Riders in the Chariot' horrified many Australians when it was first published because of its scathing cynical portrayal of suburban society, and the brutality of the persecution it described), I am also interested in Whites depiction of the Jewish experience in Germany - an aspect of the novel which reviewers and (particularly Australian) critics all seem to be unequivocal in their praise and approval.

    I find it remarkable that White was praised for his recreation of events of which he had only second-hand experience, and was at the same time criticized for his depiction of Australian society (of which he was intimately acquainted and had experienced and interacted with on a daily basis for much of his life). This seems to me to be an interesting juxtaposition. Particularly in light of the mixed reaction that Daddy occasioned, and the criticism that Plath received for her use of Holocaust imagery, and her comparison of her own suffering with Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Which brings me to the question: is the Holocaust legitimate subject matter for all artists, or is it an experience that can only be explored by those who have first-hand knowledge of it? Is it an experience that is so horrific it represents the ultimate in suffering, therefore serving to act as a reference point for all expressions of suffering? I was wondering if you knew how Sextons poem was received when it was first published? Did she too come in for the same criticism as Plath? Or were critics more comfortable with her poem because she did not take it to the same level as Plath in that she merely expressed an empathy for her Jewish friend rather than taking the experience on as her own? I believe White was one of the first artists to attempt to come to grips with the effect of the Holocaust on Western Society and I am wondering if he was praised for his attempts because his focus was interpreted to be broader than Plaths. One of the strongest messages to come out of 'Riders in the Chariot' is that any society, no matter how egalitarian and tolerant it claims to be, is capable of the same persecution and violence as was seen in Nazi Germany. Plath on the other hand invokes the suffering on a far more personal level going so far as to suggest that her own suffering was compar

    able to that of Belsen and Auschwitz. I guess I am asking if there ways of using Holocaust imagery that are considered more acceptable than others? Is the way Patrick White brings to life the death camps more valid than what Plath does in Daddy? Is Sextons admission that it would be better to be a Jew because it would give a historical basis on which to reference her suffering more acceptable than Plaths suggestion that her internal torment was as horrific as that which was enacted in the death camps? Plath herself certainly believed that pscyological pain was as real as physical pain and is known to have spoken about her concentration camp in the mind (or words to that effect)

    I would be very interested to hear any thoughts on this subject, or on any other Plath poems

    Saturday, July 22, 2000

    Ooops... Had a memeory lapse re: the Sexton poem, "My Friend My Friend." I was beginning to think it was gone for good (I have lost my photocopied version), when I remembered posting the poem here myself two years ago. I copy it here again, in case I sparked anyone's interest. It truly is fascinating. See Stewart Clarke's response in the June 1998 Forum archive for some very smart insight into how this poem motivated Plath.

    My Friend, My Friend
    by Anne Sexton

    --for M.W.K. who hesitates each time she sees a young girl wearing The Cross.

    Michael McGraw
    New York City, USA
    Monday, July 17, 2000

    I have searched everywhere for Plath's birth date. All I can find is the year but I would like to know the exact date. I also noticed in the FAQ page that religion was some sort of pagan religion. What exactly was her religion? Thank you so much in advance. I think your site looks great and is very helpful.

    Jenni G
    Reston, Va, USA
    Monday, July 17, 2000

    Re: Matt's question yesterday: provenance of "What did my arms do before they held you, what did my heart do with its love?" It comes from Three Women - a radio play about three experiences of pregnancy. It is such a moving line, and would be so beautiful for the naming ceremony - congratulations on the pregnancy and I wish you all the best. (By the way, the long poem has always been a favourite of mine - I directed a staging of it whilst at University and so frequently want to go back to it.)

    Re: Annabelle Owen's question about a month ago re: loneliness and isolation. Do you still have to write the essay, or was it due ages ago? If you do, post on this site again, or contact me via: - I have heaps of ideas!

    London, England
    Thursday, July 13, 2000

    Does anyone know where I might find a copy of Anne Sexton's poem, "My Friend, My Friend"? I found a dissertation on it several years ago, which compares it to "Daddy." Sexton's poem predates Plath's, and with its assonance and repetition, seems to have heavily influenced Plath's style. A very interesting comparison---but I cannot find the poem anywhere now. (It's not in Sexton's Complete Works.) Thanks.

    Michael McGraw
    New York City, USA
    Thursday, July 13, 2000

    I'm trying to locate a poem by Sylvia Plath. The only thing I know about it is the following line:

    I'm expecting a daughter in November and I would love to have this poem read at the naming ceremony. I think it's suitable for this event because I found the line of text on a baby naming web site.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2000

    Hello I am just about to embark on writing an essay about Plath's brilliant way of expressing herself in the Belljar when she is actually losing the ability to articulate. I am concentrating on the section after she comes back from New York. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on this or could recommend any books/articles/websites to help me with this essay. thankyou very much.

    Jenny Price
    Cornwall, England
    Tuesday, July 11, 2000

    Neil, the "gummy dark bar" is still open and is actually called "Stubbing Wharfe" named after the canal wharfe that it is built beside. It is about a quarter of a mile out of Hebden Bridge town centre, set back slightly from Burnley Road which runs between Hebden and Todmorden. If, like me you need other landmarks, then it is past St. James church and Mytholm Hall Old People's Home. Hope you find it and enjoy the ambience.

    Elaine Connell
    Hebden Bridge, UK
    Saturday, July 8, 2000

    In 'electra on azalea path' there is a quote from something in the 4th stanza:

    Where is this from? my first thought was that it is a quotation from the tragedy "electra", indicated in the title and 'i borrow the stilts of an old tragedy', but i need to know if this is true, and if i'm not where this comes from. please respond by e-mail to . thankyou.

    Louise Cooke
    Bourton on the Water, England
    Saturday, July 8, 2000

    Thankyou for all the information I was given on Plath's "Lady Lazarus", it came in incredibly handy, and no doubt contributed to my A+ grade on my paper.

    Ruth McLean
    Saturday, July 8, 2000

    Could anybody please help me identify or locate the "gummy dark bar ... between the canal and the river" in Ted Hughes' "Stubbing Wharfe" (The Birthday Letters)? I'm guessing that it's somewhere in Calderdale ("a gorge of ruined mills and abandoned chapels" etc). It would be very special to visit the scene where Sylvia and Ted sat drinking and pondering their future in the area.

    Neil Stapleton
    Manchester, UK
    Wednesday, July 5, 2000

    I am writing a research paper on Sylvia Plath and I thought perhaps you could give me your opinion on something. My thesis is that Sylvia Plath may have suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder as well as chronic depression. I would really appreciate it if you could weigh in on this issue. Do you think that SP may have suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

    Also, I love your site!! I have hit it many times in the past 2 weeks (since I found it). Thanks!

    Lisa Daniel
    Monday, July 3, 2000

    Ann Hyland, and doubtless others, would love to see a single companion work that would explain the background of many of Sylvia's images, metaphors, and other references. I've been in Sylvia-biz a longlong time, but I know of no single source that would do the job. When I get a query from someone (or get stuck myself) on a reference nowadays, I usually go first to Janice Markey, then to Pamela Annas ("A Disturbance in Mirrors," Greenwood Press, 1988), then maybe to Linda Wagner-Martin's new book. Occasionally Kroll's mythic bias or Bundtzen's feminist bias is useful. Best if you're really curious, is to try to find a convergence among several sources. Because I am Sylvia's exact contemporary in time and place (1950s Massachusetts and England), I do often recognize what younger readers might not. In any case I am always glad to try to help, never claiming that my answer is the only or best one. Unlike some scholars and critics in the field, I can boast that the older I get, the less I know -- this because I know more and more what I do not know.

    Jack Folsom
    Sharon, Vermont, USA
    Saturday, July 1, 2000

    Thanks Jack - Interesting and helpful. And I'll have to read your comments more carefully to find out if you're being cynical.

    As you are so au fait with this poem, I wonder if you could recommend a straightforward "companion" to her poems which might elucidate other expressions/phrases which are meaningless without some background information?

    Ann Hyland
    Wexford, Ireland
    Friday, June 30, 2000

    "The Times are Tidy" was written in 1958 at the height of the materially, politically, and socially complacent era of President Eisenhower (some wags thought that he was so inert in the White House after his heart attack that he must have died and been been stuffed) and the ever-delightful Richard M. (expose the commie pinko rats!) Nixon. Sylvia's purpose, as Janice Markey points out in "A Journey into the Red Eye," is "to deflate ceremony or behaviour she finds questionable.... The poem focuses on the collapse of moral standards and the all-pervasive addiction to comfort and conformity which so strongly characterised the 1950s"

    "The province of the stuck record" refers (a) the tendency of the needle on a well-worn LP or other disc record to stick and go "ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh!" and (b) to the social monotony which that metaphor implies. The "watchful cooks" would be critics of the status quo who were often fired or blacklisted as trouble makers. The mayor's rotisserie turning round of its own accord: I, as a native of Boston of that era would see as the endless process of corrupt porkbarrel politics and associated graft, for which Boston and Massachusetts are justly famous.

    Ironically, the poem was first published in the young woman's wannabe-mag, "Mademoiselle" as part of a close-up on SP & TH -- not that the editors had a clue about the purpose of the poem. The article was more likely published to give a ready-made conversation piece for trendy young women seeking to impress trendy young men at cocktail parties. Do I sound cynical? Heavens, no!
    Cheers! Jack

    Jack Folsom
    Sharon, Vermont, USA
    Friday, June 30, 2000

    I enjoy your Sylvia Plath Forum: interesting and enlightening! I have a query about one of her poems which I find really hard to decipher: The Times Are Tidy - (No.91 in Collected Poems). The opening stanza refers to

    Can anyone help me to identify what "stuck record" "watchful cooks" and "Mayor's rotisserie" are about? Thanks!

    Ann Hyland
    Wexford, Ireland
    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    I'm trying to understand Sylvia Plath's poem "Elm" and am having a bit of trouble getting started. If anyone can help me out that would be great! Thanks.

    NY, USA
    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    I would like to know more information about the forthcoming movie of the life of Plath. I'm looking for more information about that movie. Can anyone provide me with more info.?

    I've read Bitter Fame and thought that it was a brilliant and classic biography. Anyone interested to share more about her life and work, please do so.

    "Oh, only left to myself, what a poet i will flay myself into..."

    Ahmad Zuhairi
    Wednesday, June 28, 2000

    There is a good book, "Revising Life: Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poems," by Susan Van Dyne (University of North Carolina Press/Chapel Hill). It has analyses of many Ariel poems and is particularly interesting because it includes excerpts of S.P.'s various drafts and how she revised them to produce the published versions. It's good because you get to see S.P.'s process of poetry writing and revision.

    NY, USA
    Monday, June 19, 2000

    Does anyone know of a publication that could be viewed as (if it is not actually) a textbook on Plath's poetry? I'm not thinking of the many writings that discuss in broad terms the themes of her poetry, (with comparisons to her personal life, the father/husband issues, etc.,) but something more specific that would literally dissect her poems line-by-line as to their meaning (or at least, the author's interpretation of their meaning), and also give examples and explanations of her poems technical brilliance (as might be taught to a poetry class.)

    I often find myself perplexed as to what many of her poems are trying to say, and why some of her poetry is deemed exceptional, while some is classified "not as good" by critics. Perhaps that is the beauty of them (their sometimes ambiguous meanings), but I was just wondering if anyone had ever tried to dissect them in detail in published form. Thank you.

    Indiana, USA
    Wednesday, June 14, 2000

    I had to do a research paper on Plath for an English course last year & fell in love with her work. One of the most talented and tortured figures in both American and British literature (I personally consider Plath more British, not because she lived there for so long, but because her work was so influenced by British writers), Plath attained a unique voice which has, since her death, been immensely missed. I love this woman.

    Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
    Monday, June 12, 2000

    : Does anyone know the whereabouts of David Hamish Stewart, a friend of SP's while at Cambridge? Thank you

    A. R. McKim
    Erin, Canada
    Sunday, June 11, 2000

    Sylvia has been with me since I was 15, now I'm 32. Ted was there too but he took longer to sink in.

    Re: Birthday Letters: It is no coincidence that they were published when they were. The book is beautiful and full of genuine pain, regret, love, war of brilliant egos. I think Plath and Hughes are each the epitome of the Female and Male stereotype, the high culture version of Men are from Mars Women are from Venus, and for real; he dour Yorkshireman with too much testoserone, she brittle, American, terrible PMS. The Birthday letters kind of seal their myth, they made their own myth. I think.

    Birmingham, UK
    Wednesday, June 7, 2000

    Robin - the lines you quoted are from Plath's "voice play" Three Women. The lines are spoken by the 1st voicewoman, after she gives birth to a son. You can find the entire play/poem in her Collected Poems. Hope that's helpful!

    Detroit, USA
    Wednesday, June 7, 2000

    Hi! I'm going to Boston for a few days and was wondering if anyone knows how to get to Wellesley (without a car)? I wanted to see Plath's former home on Elmwood Road but maybe it's hard to get there without a car? I'm also not sure where in Wellesley Elmwood Road is located. Marian

    Brooklyn, USA
    Wednesday, June 7, 2000

    Hola! I don't have any fascinating insights to make about Plath. I can only say she was a fantastic poet, which is neither fascinating OR insightful, but one comment I wanted to make was that people on the site dont REACT to each other. Although maybe emails are sent and recieved, I think people should make an effort to pay attention to the postings sent in and respond to them onsite. I know it might ba a bit problematic for the poor person who sorts though the emails, but, just a thought...

    I think Annabelle Owen has an amazing intellect for one so young! Also Anja's points were fascinating reading and very lucidly put. I think everyone involved in posting messages, organising items and producing the website should be congratulated. It's a real masterpiece, and a great form of communication!

    Un abrazo,

    MariaJose Blanca
    Barcelona, Spain
    Tuesday, June 6, 2000

    An obituary of Leonard Baskin -- a friend of Plath and Hughes from their Northampton days -- appeared in today's Washington Post. It really sheds a lot of light on the nature of his work. (The Post archives are available for two weeks from the date of publication.)

    On a different note ... What happened to all the great literary and cinematic discussions of yore -- many of which I didn't fully understand myself? I'm currently plodding through the Journals between diaper changes and would love to discuss.

    Falls Church, Virginia, USA
    Tuesday, June 6, 2000

    I am looking for a poem by Sylvia Plath with begins "What did my arms do/before they held you/what did my heart do ...". Does anyone have the full text of this poem, the title or the collection it comes from?

    Robin Harper
    Melbourne, Australia
    Tuesday, June 6, 2000

    It is clear that, toward the end of her life, Plath begins to 'unpeel' the 'dead hands, dead stringencies' of her habitual larger stanzas, as seen in 'The Moon and the Yew Tree' and 'The Bee Meeting', in preference of shorter 3 or 4 line stanzas. Due to this shedding of all extraneous part, the later poems rely heavily on the essence of the poem rather than the language with which it is expressed. The simplistic and minimalist style of poems like 'Arial' and 'Nick and the Candlestick' means that the poetry walks the thin line in between making sense and losing sense. For example, I am very curious as to the significance of 'the waxy stalactites' or 'tears' which 'the earthen womb/exudes from its dead boredom'. If anyone could help me with the meaning of these lines, I would greatly appreciate it, since my A-level English teacher doesn't have a clue!

    Secondly, this particular A-level English teacher has set me an essay dealing with the fact the Plath's poetry is heavily concerned with the themes of isolation and loneliness. If anyone has any thoughts on which poems I should analyse with reference to these themes or any ideas whatsoever that would be suitable for an A-level essay, feel free to email me. I am finding it rather daunting to deal with such broad concepts.

    Annabelle Owen (age 16)
    Canterbury, UK
    Monday, June 5, 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.