Welcome to the Sylvia Plath Forum which began on 20th January 1998 following the surprise publication of Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters. The forum is moderated and maintained by Elaine Connell. Poem Analysis/Discussion

  • The Bee Meeting
  • Tulips
  • The Moon and the Yew Tree
  • Cut
  • The Thin People
  • Books - Links - FAQ - Photos
    Add your thoughts or ideas
    Poems inspired by Sylvia
    Search the Forum

    Hughes is supposed to have fixed it so that unseen material written by Sylvia Plath will be published in 2012. As to whether this will be her 'burnt' journal or not nobody knows but Hughes supposed motives for this burning were to protect his children from words that Plath wrote in this specific journal about them and the way she felt close to her death. If this is the case I doubt that, even if it is not burnt, Hughes would want this to be published. Another theory is that Hughes burnt the journal to protect himself from things she had written about him and the way he treated her. If this is, in fact, the case then, if it is not burnt, Hughes would probably not want this to be published either as it would prove the feminists who hounded him correct.

    Hope that helped. Does anybody have any insight/comparisons in The Lady and the Earthenware Head and The Earthenware Head - poems by Plath and Hughes respectively.

    Manchester, England
    Sunday, November 29, 1998

    As a newcomer to both the Internet and the life and work of Sylvia Plath I was, like other contributors, delighted to find this Forum, which is full of vitality and interest.

    I 'discovered' Sylvia Plath in January this year through a chance remark by my friend Pauline after hearing Ralph McTell's song "Sylvia" on a live album in which he dedicated the song to Sylvia Plath. Who was Sylvia Plath? I must admit that at that time my knowledge of her was scant, but since reading more about, and by her, she has become a virtual obsession.

    An earlier visit this year, with pauline, to Primrose Hill, Chalcot Square, Rugby Street, St.Anne's Bloomsbury was almost a pilrimage.

    I look forward to downloading and reading the contributions to the Forum since January, and look forward to being able to `join in'.

    John Hopkins
    Bridgend, South Wales, UK
    Saturday, November 28, 1998

    Ladies Home Journal has published a nice book featuring their selections for the 100 Most Influential Women of the 20th Century. Sylvia Plath is amongst this list of entertainers, inventors, writers, activists, etc. For those of you beginners out there, you might try to order a book called Sylvia Plath, Revised by C. Hall. She wrote a book originally in 1978 and has completely rewritten the book, taking in account the numerous biogrpahies/biographers along with all the new material. It is strange to think the book was written before there was a Collected Poems, before there was a Bitter Fame and a Birthday Letters. I found my copy from Barnes and Noble's website, and it was about $28; including shipping. It has the easiest, most compact biography on Plath I've read in four years. It also discusses Plath's book collections in good detail, as well as The Bell Jar, Johnny Panic, the Journals and Letters Home.

    Peter Steinberg
    Alexandria, Virginia, USA
    Thursday, November 26, 1998

    Its great to find a forum dedicated to Plath. In my mind she was a fantastic poet - but clearly this does not need to be proven with you guys. I'm am surprised, and delighted, to find so many people who share in my interest although I suddenly feel like a tiny fish in an ocean of Plath experts. I have just begun a dissertation on Plath and her development as a poet. I intend to portray the different ways in which her poetry has been presented, her imagery and the growth from pre-Ted to post-Ted. The disertation is not due in until May 1999, however between now and then I would appreciate as much disscussion on Plath that you guys can handle!! I look forward to hearing from you soon, please e-mail me if possible.

    London, England
    Thursday, November 26, 1998

    Sadness at Ted's death and deeply moved reading Birthday Letters. Does anyone have transcript of Heany's funeral address?

    London, England
    Thursday, November 26, 1998

    To Kimmy Jacobs; Interesting problem. TS Eliot said, Mediocre poets plagiarize, great poets steal. Paul Fussell in his book "Doing Battle" said part of his job as a teacher was to make students understand that all the great poets are writing the same poem, just different parts of it; and that its theme is that sunlight hardens in the garden, the day grows cold, we cannot cage the minutes within these nets of gold. (Let's see, was that MacNeice, or ...) Helen Vendler in her Paris Review interview said the canon is not made by critics, only by the poets. A critic in the New Republic remarked some years back that Plath is more derivative than her acolytes credit her for; but even given that, her metaphysic is so, well, overbearing, that she annexes them to her dark empire, and supercharges with meaning what in the originals now seem, by comparison, mere random tropes. (Example, "clear vowels rise like balloons," as opposed to Lowell's childrens faces on the TV rising like balloons.) Mark Twain in some marginal annotations said that the great poet merely annexes, and adds to his empire what was nearly valueless before.

    Superiority seems inborn; many poets all work the same vineyard with the same language in the same style, but of these, only one or two gets remembered, even when they say the exact same things. American poet --not Berrigan, who? --died 1967, leap from a bridge--what was his name? Wrote the Henry poems...) said that for a poem or two, "Nepenthe" say, Darley was as good as Keats, but conversely you can say that Keats shows you that Darley is unnecessary, because you can find in Keats all you can find in X, and not only that but sublime vigor and a transforming power. And Burns, in writing his ballads....

    But to answer your question; a rule of thumb might be, a phrase is quotation, a line is homage, anything more is the act of a cad and a bounder and you are hereby ejected, sir, I say ejected, from this club.

    --Like all rules, this is far from perfect. Let's look to pop music for an analogy. John Lennon said, "All music is rehash. There are only eight notes." Paul MacCartney said, "I wrote 'Yesterday,' and it came too easily, so for two weeks I was playing it to people around London, saying, 'Is this like anything? I *think* I've written it.' And they said, 'No, it's not like anything, but it's good.'" Probably those last two words are the acid test.

    I hope this clears everything up for you. Good luck on the paper.

    Kenneth Jones
    San Francisco, USA
    Tuesday, November 24, 1998

    I am writing a report on the writings and criticisms of Sylvia Plath. I have to make an oral presentation on Dec. 14th. I am wondering if anyone has any information on the writer and could send it to me. If anyone has a video of her life or a biography from A&E, that would be wonderful. I am trying to get many different perspectives on this woman.

    Pittburgh, USA
    Monday, November 23, 1998

    I really need a fellow poet's help with this. I'm writing a research paper and would appreciate it if someone would email me what they think the ethical issues in poetry are, if any. Do you think it's right to plagiarize? In what cases is it acceptable? Is it right to change or take out words in a poem, for censorship reasons?

    Kimmy Jacobs
    Westwood Village, USA
    Thursday, November 19, 1998

    I should like to thank all of you who helped to give me leads on getting a recording of Sylvia Plath reading "The Applicant." I am happy to report that due to the unstinting generosity of Peter Steinberg, I now have a copy of the recording she made for the BBC in 1962. I have the means to transform this for the internet, but am not yet sure whether copyright will allow. But I wish everyone could hear her voice. It's wonderful.

    Margaret Freeman
    Los Angeles, USA
    Thursday, November 19, 1998

    Networks eye dead poet project
    By Andrew Hindes and Benedict Carver

    HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - A TV movie about ill-fated poet Sylvia Plath is in the works, and its producers are close to signing a deal with one of the ``big three'' networks.

    The picture will be based on the 1991 biography ``Rough Magic'' (Viking), which author Paul Alexander wrote with the cooperation of Plath's mother.

    Plath, whose dark poetry and 1963 suicide make her one of the best-known modern poets, has been much in the news recently. In February, her husband, U.K. poet laureate Ted Hughes, broke a 25-year silence on their relationship, publishing ``Birthday Letters,'' a volume of poems about their tempestuous marriage. Hughes, who died last month, would be a major character in any Plath project.

    The film is being developed by Bob DeBrino's Canterbury Films, and he is in talks for financing with New Line Television-backed producer Francine LeFrak. The network deal is subject to the hiring of a writer, according to insiders.


    Hollywood, USA
    Thursday, November 19, 1998

    In addition to a rather large mass mail I am sending out, if anyone could help me I would greatly appreciate ANY and ALL the information I could get. I am a student at Ithaca College in New York and I am writing a term paper specifically concerning Richard Wilbur's "Cottage Street, 1953" -- in which he charges that Plath's poetry is "free, helpless, and unjust". The paper is due this friday; it is almost complete, but I need to include more about Wilbur's particular style. I feel the argument against his evaluation of Plath will not be strong enough unless I write more about his position (however much I disagree with it...) Again I would immensely appreciate any thoughts or information (preferably the sooner the better?) thanks...

    Liz Birch
    Ithaca, NY, USA
    Thursday, November 19, 1998

    Several people have speculated about whether Sylvia's missing work will appear now that Hughes has died. I have a very strong suspicion that Hughes didn't destroy her journal or her second novel and that they might well be published in the next few years.

    Elaine Connell
    Hebden Bridge, UK
    Wednesday, November 18, 1998

    I've enjoyed reading everything in this forum. Congrats with the greatness of your sucess!

    Decatur, IN, USA
    Monday, November 16, 1998

    From the BookWorld....In my computer at work it is showing a new edition of Ariel to be published in February 1999. Recently published also, a new Cloth of The Collected Poems. I haven't seen this, but it's running about 45 USD. I believe these were scheduled before Hughes death, and I am not sure if any delays will occur.

    Peter Steinberg
    Alexandria, Virginia, USA
    Saturday, November 14, 1998

    God morning!

    I found this website right now - I am not used to computors either. So my concerns might look somewhat out of date, for which I hope you do not mind. I have devoted two years of time to read about and then to write a dissertation on Sylvia Plath. It was not accepted, and in frustration and sorrow I burnt it. This was in 1981 or 1982. Still I love this young woman, or so I think as I love her poems. What I burnt was on splitting and integration, and who was ever more integrated and torn apart than Sylvia Plath?

    Hope to be able to discuss anything to do with her poetry!

    Best wishes,

    Tommy Jonsson
    Rnnberg, Sweden
    Friday, November 13, 1998

    Hi I'm Nichola and I'd really like to hear your views on the importance that Plath gives to the sounds of words. I think this is sometimes overlooked by poeple looking and concentrating too hard on finding the "inner meaning", I believe you just have to listen to them poem. The way in which Plath conveys her meanings through the sounds of words really interests me, for example, her favourite "oo" sound conveys her childishness in "Daddy". Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? I would also really appreciate it if someone could tell me where I could find more information on this technique of Sylvia's.

    Lots of love to all Sylvia lovers, may she and Ted rest in peace.

    Nichola Higgins
    Comber, N.Ireland
    Thursday, November 12, 1998

    I was shocked to hear about Ted Hughes' death. Does anyone know if this will open up some of Sylvia's "lost" works? Perhaps Ted was "bluffing" about destroying her last journals. Maybe I just don't want to believe they're gone. I'm quite excited to return online after a long absence and find this fantastic page where at long last intelligent conversation about Sylvia Plath may ensue. Please, anyone with anything they'd like to share - email me!

    Rachel Barnes
    London, UK
    Wednesday, November 11, 1998

    A Comparison. Sylvia Plath's "Witch Burning" & Anne Sexton's "Her Kind." ( I am sure Adrienne Rich wrote a witch poem, but I cannot find it.)

    Sylvia Plath wrote a poem called "Witch Burning" - You'll need to scroll down to the poem.) She included this as number 6 in her "Poem for a Birthday." The poem takes the reader from the marketplace and the gathering of sticks to being under a potlid and in a bird cage. It ends with the speaker being lost in 'all this light."

    Anne Sexton wrote "Her Kind." It is her own kind of Witch story. Sexton's been a witch & a wife. Been there done that. She's been "misunderstood" and she's not afraid to die for something she believes in.

    Adrienne Rich??????
    Any other's????

    Now, my question! What do we think is the reason for these poet's, flying out of the 1950's on bedknob's or broomstick's, writing about Witch's and burning's and evil's? Why choose this story, these images?

    Peter Steinberg
    Alexandria, Virginia, USA
    Tuesday, November 10, 1998

    I was shocked to hear about Ted Hughes' death. Does anyone know if this will open up some of Sylvia's "lost" works? Perhaps Ted was "bluffing" about destroying her last journals. Maybe I just don't want to believe they're gone. I'm quite excited to return online after a long absence and find this fantastic page where at long last intelligent conversation about Sylvia Plath may ensue. Please, anyone with anything they'd like to share - email me!

    Atlanta, USA
    Tuesday, November 10, 1998

    For those interested in a synoptic view of the late Laureate, there is an article in the current Bloomsbury Review, "What Happens in the Heart; A Conversation with Ted Hughes," wherein Carolyne Wright reports on his reminiscences with her about Sylvia and the poetic life at a symposium in Dhaka, India, in 1989.

    Kenneth Jones
    San Francisco, USA
    Saturday, November 7, 1998

    The funeral of Ted Hughes was held yesterday at St. Peters, North Tawton, Devon. The media were asked to stay away and the service was heard by 200 private mourners. Seamus Heaney spoke of his shock and sorrow and read Dylan Thomas's poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night". Frieda and Nicholas carried the coffin, helped by four other pall-bearers. The Guardian this morning reports that Hughes's body was cremated.

    Elaine Connell
    Hebden Bridge, UK
    Wednesday, November 4, 1998

    Does anyone know who was recently buried next to Sylvia Plath in the Heptonstall cemetery? I had always thought that it was left for hughes, but when I traveled to Heptonstall in 1995, I found a recent burial there (see pic. at my homepage, ).

    I intend to add pics. from Boston and Wellesley as well in the near future. Any comments are welcome.

    Steve Gorrell
    Urbana, Illinois, USA
    Wednesday, November 4, 1998

    Via, I ordered an excellent collection of critical pieces on Plath, edited by Harold Bloom for the Chelsea House series Modern Critical Views. A very insightful assortment of pros and cons about Plath's achievement. Even among her detractors, there was acknowledgement given to her ability to create the arresting image, to achieve a high verbal energy, to instill in the reader an intense psychic state. For the most part, I understood and sympathized with everyone's points of view, but enjoyed reading her detractors more than her supporters. The illustrious Professor Bloom, who has elsewhere stated that Plath "never wrote a poem in her life," of course dismisses her entirely in his brief introduction, lumping her together with his dreaded Adrienne Rich, high priestess of his "School of Resentment," but he does offer a fair assortment of feminist criticism for the reader to take in the opposite point of view, the most impressive of which was an insightful essay by Sandra M. Gilbert, author of "The Madwoman in the Attic." However, even Gilbert finds herself making excuses for what she calls Plath's "imperfections," citing Plath's line "Perfection is terrible./ It cannot have children" as her justification. One anti-Plath critic praises poor old "The Colossus" and bewails the fact that Plath abandoned her traditional formalism - he wonders what heights she might have achieved had she stayed "on course," so to speak. The poet J. D. McClatchy, in a well-considered, mostly positive essay, labels her "a period poet" who broke new ground - it seems that even he, while endorsing Plath, cannot quite venture to put her on Parnassus. Seems the jury is still out on our Sivvy. She is so very controvoishal!

    Stewart Clarke
    Tuesday, November 3, 1998

    For Margaret Freeman: Although there are surely others on this site who can better answer your question, I recently came across a recording of Plath reading "Daddy" and "Ariel" from something called "A Century of Recorded Verse" put out by Rhino Records. Its a four cassette project that ranges from Walt Whitman to Carolyn Forche! (The price tag is rather steep and the selections sometimes bizarre, so approach it with some caution).

    The Plath recordings are,however, extraordinary for the clarity and controlled aggression of her reading voice. There are also several chilling moments in "Daddy" when one senses her nerve so slightly begins to fail her. Wonderfully uneasy listening.

    George Ritchie
    Annapolis, MD, USA
    Tuesday, November 3, 1998

    Margaret, hi. You can go to It's like an site and you can look up Sylvia Plath Reads. It's a recording of several poems. I'm not sure which ones, I just ordered it myself.

    Eerie, Ted Hughes dying the day after Sylvia's birthday. At first, I thought maybe he planned a suicide for that day. May he rest in peace now.

    Dena Tooma
    Toronto, Canada
    Tuesday, November 3, 1998

    What I imagine. I sort of Romanticise Hughes' death. Whilst I am still surprised, I find myself in deep sorrow too. I was in Boston over the weekend, and I passed 9 Willow Street, where he and Plath lived. The apartment looked sad, the trees, bare, accepting their fate, the cold Boston winter. And of a sudden, I pictured something out of Wuthering Heights, something foggy and surreal. I pictured Hughes and Plath now, roaming the moors, eternally happy, like Heathcliff and Catherine. After this year it's been good and reaffirming to know that Hughes cared, that Hughes felt pain and that Hughes was human. It's good to have that sort of thing, that revelation. It's helps us all.

    Peter Steinberg
    Alexandria, Virginia, USA
    Tuesday, November 3, 1998

    I am writing a research paper on Syliva Plath for my Honors English class. I kept hearing about Ted Hugh's death. I had no idea. It's terrible. He was the last connection to her and now he is gone as well. Don't let her memory fade.

    Buchanan, USA
    Monday, November 2, 1998

    I, too, was saddened to hear of Ted Hughes's death. It helped to read the posts others wrote to this site. Could anyone help me with the following enquiry? Where might I find a recording of Sylvia Plath reading her own poetry? I know there was a BBC recording in which I think she read "The Applicant" among other poems. That's the poem I'd very much like to hear her read. (And if anyone knows of any critical analyses written on that poem besides Elena Semino's, which I already have, I'd be most grateful.)

    Margaret Freeman
    Los Angeles, USA
    Sunday, November 1, 1998

    Other Message Pages

    October 1998
    August-September 1998
    July 1998
    June 1998
    May-June 1998
    April 1998
    March-April 1998
    Late March 1998
    Early March 1998
    February 1998
    January-February 1998


    Send us your thoughts/ideas/comments

    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.