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

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    Re: Meg Ryan/Sylvia Plath

    Meg was not the first person I would have tought could play Plath. I see Plath as quirky; sometimes elegant, sometimes clumsy; sometimes sussed, somtimes excitable; somtimes goodlooking, sometimes tired looking; in fact a whole load of things that I originally thought Meg Ryan just wouldn't be able to do. But the more I think about it, the more I contradict myself. Meg is a good actress - really she is. OK she is streamlined and commercial - and Plath isn't. But Meg's success has made her streamlined, and her success has been due to excellent acting and dedication - as Ned says Meg can be convincing, and make a character great. She is successful because her acting comes from her heart. Plath is successful because her poetry comes form her heart.

    I am looking forward to what ever comes of this movie.

    Is anyone sick of me always sitting on the fence? Next time I'll say somthing outrageous!!!

    Happy New Year to you all

    London, England
    Thursday, December 31, 1998

    The Video and Audio for Voices and Visions are both produced by Mystic Fire, Inc. They are in New York, phone number is 212-941-0999. The audio production is the same as the video, though, obviously without the moving pictures. I know Borders does keep the Plath audio in stock. If not, you can have them special order it.

    The Audio production's ISBN is 1561769223 and the video is 156176311X. If this helps in anyway, I am glad of that.

    Peter Steinberg
    Alexandria, Virginia, USA
    Thursday, December 31, 1998

    Ever since I "discovered" Sylvia three years ago, I have been driven to avidly read her works and do extensive research on her. Her works reach me as nobody else's have. I have wanted to communicate with other people who love her and apppreciate her works, but that has been diffucult because most people around me are ignorent about Sylvia.

    I am a 20 year old student, and even my peers and professors do not share my fascination with her. I have just found this web sight and would love to hear from other big Sylvia fans.

    Dedham, MA, USA
    Thursday, December 31, 1998


    I believe the procession of girls dressed in white is supposed to go along with Plath's 'illusion of a Greek necessity / flows in the scrolls of her toga." Toga's tend to be white & ceremonial, and these girls in procession must be under some sort of naive illusion, the same illusion many 1950's girls must have had when they left college. I think it could very well be, however, footage of a Smith graduation.

    From what I can tell, and the research I've done, I do not think there is much, if any, video footage of Plath. Moving pictures (from a camcorder) always seem to be sloppy from her living period anyway. Best thing to do would be to contact Smith College Library or the Lilley Library at Indiana University when school's begin again mid-January.

    Several years ago I found my copy at a Best Buy. I recently went to a Best Buy to look at the Documentary section, but did not find any of the Voices and Visions series. The local town library should stock or, and I believe they might have a webpage. If I had to ability to record from tape to tape, I certainly would, until then, though, good luck.

    Peter Steinberg
    Alexandria, Virginia, USA
    Wednesday, December 30, 1998

    The Meg Ryan debate rears its perky blonde head again! Doesn*t every woman of a certain age and body type who frequents this Forum think she is the only person alive who could do justice to the role of Sylvia Plath? (In fact, there may be a talent scout scouring the streets of Falls Church, Virginia, looking for a tall blonde with Germanic features and a Boston accent in her late 20s, with no prior acting experience.) Meg Ryan undoubtably counts herself among the faithful, so why are we so quick to condemn?

    Thanks to fellow Northern Virgnian Peter Steinberg*s great generosity, I recently saw the *Voices/Visions* videotape for the first time. I agree with everyone*s assessment of it but was surprised and thrilled by the recitation of *The Moon and the Yew Tree,* complete with tolling churchbells. It really brought out the eerie, disturbed tone in that poem.

    Falls Church, Virginia, USA
    Wednesday, 30 Dec 1998

    In response to Ned Ryerson's message: The makers of the S.P. movie are NOT putting Meg Ryan in front of the camera. She is doing so herself, since she bought the rights to a movie on the life of Plath a long time ago. So the producers actually don't even have a choice in this case. The only one preventing Ryan from making the movie at an earlier point must have been Ted Hughes, I guess.

    I didn't find Ryan very convincing or interesting as an alcoholic (I grew up with an alcoholic parent) and I find her H-wood resume pretty tasteless & bland. Unfortunately, having a long celebrated career in the movies doesn't mean you're a great or even good actor. Just as publishing a lot of trashy novels doesn't make you a good author.

    NY, USA
    Wednesday, December 30, 1998

    The key ingredient of being an actor is to assume the identity of the person you are 'to be.' If Meg Ryan wants to be Sylvia Plath, we should look at her long celebrated Hollywood career, and we should look at the way she played an alcoholic in "When a Man Loves a Woman," & we should look at the way she was Jim Morrison's wife in "The Doors," and we should discover that she has the ability to research roles and become very convincing! How many of you have cried because she cried? There have been many people who didn't like her in some of her roles, so you cannot please everybody But if she has the slightest passion and interest to play our beloved Sivvy, give her a go. Do you really think the makers of this movie want to put someone in front of the camera that they do not believe in?

    Ned Ryerson
    Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
    Tuesday, December 29, 1998

    Karen of Crescent Springs and Maria of USA--

    The "Voices and Visions" video on Plath I have seen advertised in the New York Times Review of Books, some time since. It's an hour long, color, half interviews, half mockumentary re-creations; but worth it for the interviews, particularly where Aurelia recites a poem the ten-year-old Sylvia spoke to her, comparing the moon's rising to witches' hair. --Try Interlibrary Loan, or contact your local colleges--they were intended for use as teaching aids.

    The Lameyer memoir, "Who Was Sylvia?" was never published in full--he quoted her long letters verbatim--but was excerpted once in a scholarly quarterly, the name of which escapes me at the moment; you might check the notes to Rose's "Haunting of Sylvia Plath"--I think it's listed there; if not there, in one of the biographies. Be forewarned that if you check the Reader's Guide, the excerpt was titled "Letters from Sylvia." It's interesting to compare the prose style of the actual Plath with the fictitious Esther; different characters...

    Hope this helps...

    Kenneth Jones
    San Francisco, USA
    Tuesday, December 29, 1998

    Regarding the Voices and Visions video documentary, I was able to view it at my university library. They had the whole series. I thought it was pretty interesting. One of the most memorable parts of it, I think, was the delightfully catty Dido Merwin, extolling the virtues of Ted the Excellent Husband. Something I thought was lacking wasactual video, or film, of Sylvia instead of just the photos I've seen millions of time before. Does anyone know of any such video exists? I want to see her moving, talking, not just flat and motionless in a photo. I also thought the interview with Aurelia Plath was interesting, but sort of sad, but very telling and a good addition to the documentary. I think the documentary ended somewhat abruptly, which I guess might be appropriate, considering the "abruptness" of Sylvia's death. They showed some very strange footage at the end of a bunch of girls in white dresses in some sort of procession. They showed it while someone r! ead "Edge." I couldn't figure out the significance of the footage and why it was being shown in conjunction with that poem. At first I thought it might be a Smith College graduation ceremony, but I'm not sure. Anyone know?

    Crescent Springs, KY, USA
    Monday, December 28, 1998

    I was wondering if anyone has seen the Voices and Visions video and what the opinion is on the "documentary". Also, does anyone know of where I can obtain a copy? Ps. I read a commentary in Bazaar magazine, written by a feminist critic regarding Meg Ryan's portrayal of Esther in The Bell Jar. The critic, and I have forgotten her name, said Meg Ryan would be a terrible choice to play Esther Greenwood simply because the novel is autobiographical and a women who advanced the roles of females in society (Plath) should not be portrayed by one who has pushed a woman's position back twenty years.

    Sunday, December 27, 1998

    I think it's brilliant that Sylvia Plath FINALLY will have a plaque whichever house it will be attached to. Meg Ryan as Sylvia Plath...??? Surely there must be someone better suited to play Sylvia (although I guess one should be thankful Madonna is not invovled).

    I just read Janet Malcolm's "The Silent Woman. Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes", on a recent trip to Boston and besides being extraordinarily interesting, I felt almost personally insulted by the fact that A. Alvarez rejected Plath or, rather, HOW he rejected her. ("Sylvia just wasn't my style - she wasn't my physical type. She was a big girl with a long face.") I'm also a tall girl, 5'10, with a long face. I happen to think Plath was quite an attractive woman. Cheers to all tall, long-faced intelligent women out there with a passion for poetry! And thanks for this site, keep up the good work!

    NY, USA
    Sunday, December 27, 1998

    I heard Meg Ryan's going to play Sylvia which, if true, would be totally shameful

    Los Angeles, USA
    Sunday, December 27, 1998

    Do they already have someone to play the part of Plath in that movie? Im a theater major in college and a huge fan and would love the opportunity to play the part of someone that I can identify so well with. I saw the pics of where she was buried. Made me cry. Well, anyone feel free to msg me. Most of the ppl I meet in real life dont know who Plath is so its nice to talk with someone who is informed.

    Pittsburgh,Pa, USA
    Friday, December 25, 1998

    I think it's brilliant that Plath will soon have a Blue Plaque in London and my thanks to Mr Hopkins for enquiring!

    I've spent several days now reading the Bhavagad-Gita, which is supposed to contain the "Even amidst fierce flamese the golden lotus can be planted," the inscription on Plath's grave at Heptonstall. I found two references to a 'lotus' and neither of them resembled in any way the quote. I noticed it seemed to be an unanswered FAQ.

    Both Bitter Fame and Rough Magic agree that Hughes selected this quote from the B-G. Is there anyway that Hughes had a older translation that just isn't printed in the late 90's? Is there any way he could have translated it himself? Are there any researchers out there willing to assist me? I plan to read it again and also try to find different translations.

    F.Y.I. Rough Magic will be re-released sometime around March 1999 in the US. And, if anyone out there has a copy of the London Independent's Ted Hughes obituary I'd be grateful for a copy!

    Peter Steinberg
    Alexandria, Virginia, USA
    Friday, December 25, 1998

    As with other contributors to this Forum I was disappointed that there was no commemorative plaque to Sylvia on the London houses where she lived. Consequently I, and I'm sure many others, wrote to English Heritage, who are now responsible for the erection of Blue Plaques, suggesting that with the recent death of Ted Hughes it would be appropriate to honour Sylvia in this way.

    I received a letter from English Heritage today, 23rd December, dated 17th December from which I quote:

    They refer to a plaque and not plaques, so I'm not sure which house will have the plaque, I had mentioned both 3 Chalcot Square and 23 Fitzroy Road. So hopefully, subject to the consents something will at last be done. As soon as I hear from English Heritage I will let this Forum know.

    The Dylan Thomas Centre in nearby Swansea hold literary events throughout the year, and I also wrote to their Literary Officer suggesting an event about Sylvia. I had a reply to this letter today as well:

    The Department of Continuing Education at Cardiff University are holding a Day School in February, "Two of Me Now - Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf" which will focus on the influence, both literary and personal, which Virginia Woolf can be see to have had on Sylvia Plath.Sylvia's "Journals" (not available in the UK, nor in any of the local Libraries) and Woolf's "The Waves" are the recommended texts. There was also a course, which I was unable to attend, "Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes" which was to introduce students to the poetry of Sylvia and Ted and analyse their literary relationship.

    John Hopkins
    Bridgend, S.Wales, UK
    Wednesday, December 23, 1998

    Amazingly enough, I never knew Sylvia Plath was so famous. Actually, when my English teacher suggested that I do my biggest paper of the year (a multi-genre paper, AHHHHH!), I said, "Sylvia who?" She handed me The Bell Jar, and I couldn't put it down. I am so inspired and enthusiastic about this phenominal woman. I can't believe so many people are as awe-struck by her as I have become. This is probably one of the most amazing sites that I have found on the web.

    Cincinnati, USA
    Tuesday, December 22, 1998

    The wrapped object in Esther's bottom drawer in The Bell Jar is the diaphragm her doctor has prescribed for birth control.

    The Plath collection at the Lilly Library at Indiana University is definitely worth seeing. I don't know if you will need special permission or not (you didn't when I was a graduate student there in the late 70's), however it's likely that the library will be closed over the holiday. Call before you make the trip!

    Minneapolis, USA
    Monday, December 21, 1998

    I believe the "brown, unwrapped package" refers to the diaphragm Esther had just bought at the end of Chapter Eighteen.

    Mississippi, USA
    Saturday, December 19, 1998

    I've been enjoying reading and teaching Sylvia Plath over 20 years in Japan. When I first read the Bell Jar, I had this question, and I haven't solved it yet. In the 1st page of Chapter 19 (p. 183 of Bantam Book Edition) Esther turned her mind to "the brown, unwrapped package in [her] bottom drawer." What on earth is this package!? Does she mention this anywhere? Or is it unimportant? If somebody knows this mystery, please let me know. Thank you.

    P.S. I showed that terrible old movie (the Bell Jar) so that students could get the feeling and atmosphere of living in the 50s in US, but they hated it.

    Atsuko Miyake
    Koriyama, Japan
    Friday, December 18, 1998

    Many of the people who were saddened by Ted Hughes' death were so because they consider the death of a great poet who might have continued to write for another ten or twenty years a loss to the world. Sylvia Plath fans have another reason to be sad, in that Hughes seemed something of a living link to Plath's life and now he is gone. Some of Plath's fans were saddened by Hughes' death for both of these reasons.

    I have been a fan of Plath's ever since I discovered The Bell Jar at age thirteen--sixteen years ago now. I can honestly say that I have never blamed Ted Hughes for Plath's death. I imagine that Hughes may have sometimes been difficult to live with and I do not defend his leaving his wife and two small children, but that does not mean he caused Sylvia's death. Sylvia had a long history of mental illness (at least since her teens and possibly lifelong), and she had tried to kill herself at least once before she ever met Hughes. Hughes did not force her to put her head in that oven, and we can not blame him because she chose to do so. Marriages are complicated things, even when the partners aren't both brilliant poets, and it is a fool's game to try and assign blame to the tangled mess that is left when one ends. Trying to assign blame in a suicide is even worse. Sylvia's death is just plain sad. One of those horrible things that happen in the world. I wish she had gone! on living and writing, but that still doesn't put Hughes at fault. Remember the end of The Bell Jar, when the wise Dr. Nolan says of Joan's suicide, "Nobody did it. She did it."

    Hughes' death did sadden me. For much the same reason Plath's death is sad: he was, like Plath, a great poet, and I believe the world needs artists. We can only speculate on what their personal lives were like. As far as I can tell, Hughes was no devil and Plath was no angel. They were two human beings whose marriage fell apart; we only know about it because they happened to be well-known writers. I am fascinated by Plath's life for a variety of reasons (i.e., I'm not sure exactly why, but I can make some guesses) and Hughes is interesting in relation to that, but Hughes had a life outside his role as Plath's husband. And in a hundred years' time, their work will matter more than their personal life together.

    Mississippi, USA
    Friday, December 18, 1998

    I've been surprised to read that so many who consider themselves to be lovers of Sylvia Plath have dared to write that they are "saddened by the death of Ted Hughes..." What ever happened to the realisation that Ted was probably the very foreshadow of her death? And I fail to believe that Ted had published those poems only because he knew of his death... rather, I think he felt as though a new book (esp. one on Miss Sylvia) would help him out with hospital expenses.

    As for this movie that's coming out, I don't understand why these networks can't perhaps make a movie based on "The Bell Jar" rather than glorify her misunderstood life. I remember a movie of "the Bell Jar" that was done way too inadequately back in the late 70's or early 80's... that should be updated instead

    Long live Sylvia, the queen of alteration...

    Philadelphia, Pa, USA
    Wednesday, December 16, 1998

    The UK has a national health service which entitles everyone to healthcare, paid for through taxes and not by patients - EC

    This is just a quickie for now, until after Christmas when I might have something interesting for you.

    Thanks to those who sent me help and ideas for my dissertation - its coming along (slowly !!!!)

    I agree that we shouldn't have to take sides in the Sylvia/Ted debate, however it is obvious that they had an overpowering influence on each other. We would not have the poetry, styles, images and talent we appreciate, in both Ted and Sylvia's work, if they had not influenced each other. And I for one am glad that we have the chance to talk about their influence.

    My opinion is that Ted's influence on Sylvia's work is positive - does this suggest I am taking sides? Who with?

    Anyhow - have a good Christmas and happy New Year.

    Looking forward to more of your ideas in 1999

    London, England
    Tuesday, December 15, 1998

    I feel Sylvia and I thought alike or think know what I mean. When I read anything she has wrote and find bits and pieces of my thoughts in there with hers. I have read almost everything she has written and have never been disappointed. I am in a Sylvia Plath inspired band called The Moonbrains. We all know where that comes from. Anyway, on my band's site there are reflective poems about Sylvia's suicide and other poems by her and myself. If you are curious as to what a Sylvia inspired singer song writer is up to check it out at

    Thanks and keep her alive by reading her works.

    Sincerely, Louise, lead singer and song writer for the moonbrains

    Louise Jett
    Virginia Beach, USA

    Hi, I'm doing a theses on Sylvia Plath for my English Degree and I have been asked to study the idea of Sylvia Plath's notion of seeing herself as a nobody in her poetry. If anyone can offer any suggestions or any ideas or anything please get back to me. Thanks!

    Cork, Ireland
    Saturday, December 12, 1998

    A friend of mine heard that there is scheduled to be a TV movie on Sylvia Plath. Somebody please tell me it's not true! This is horrible news, enough people misunderstand this brilliant woman already, we dont need to bring her to the same forum as Baywatch and Jerry Springer.

    Apple Valley, Ca, USA
    Friday, December 11, 1998

    I found a book at the library called "Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work" by Edward Butscher. It is full of critical essays about her work, as well as personal memoirs about Plath as a person. Anyhow, I was interested to see an essay by Gordon Lameyer in this book, and in his essay he mentions his longer memoir that he had published separately called "Who Was Sylvia?" Has anyone ever heard of it or read it, or know where I might find it? Thanks.

    Crescent Springs, KY, USA
    Friday, December 11, 1998

    I have just got hold of a copy of `The journey toward Ariel`, by Nancy Hargrove. It has a completely different chronology for the dates of composition of various poems (from 1956-1959). It points out that many previous analyses of Plaths work used the incorrect dates, and so made the mistake of, for example, thinking she was pregnant during the writing of certain poems, and assuming that the poem was about that. For example `Moonrise` was written in july 1958, during her spell of `artistic sterility`, not when she was pregnant (as she was in the suggested composition date of 1959).

    It also described the way the earlier poems are treated by people who think they are just dress-rehearsals for the `Ariel` poems which followed, and how her death made them re-assess these earlier poems (they could see her suicide crying out in just about every poem, all of a sudden).

    An interesting book, if you can get hold of it!

    London, England
    Tuesday, December 8, 1998

    Can anyone give me some help with an analysis of 'Suicide off Egg Rock'? I have just been introduced to the works of Sylvia Plath as part of my 'A'level studies, and to be frank I am struggling. Any input will be much appreciated.

    Basingstoke, England
    Monday, December 7, 1998

    What a wonderful pre-holiday gift to discover this web page!! My M.A. thesis proposal has just been approved -- the essay is due May, '99 and it will discuss gender-based metapoetics in Plath's later poetry. Any suggestions would be welcome and appreciated!

    Also, a question for you Plath scholars: Does anyone know if special permission is required to view her private collection at Lilly Library at Indiana University? Has anyone actually been there to see it? I would like to get there Christmas week, but before I make the long drive to Bloomington, I'd like to hear others' experiences there. Thanks!

    Southfield, MI, USA
    Monday, December 7, 1998

    We know what we know, and we are what we are, genetically, and by the experiences of our life. It is by the mirror of ourselves that we see the reflection of others. How can it be otherwise? What right to be have to assume, presume, and surely none to judge. Are we so certain of our own truths that we can pronounce the truths of others. We all live by the consequences of our actions.

    And do we really know ourselves? I am not the person I was thirty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago, unfortunately not even five years ago, I'm certainly not the person I was five years ago, for then I was happily married, now I'm a widower, and my perspective changed accordingly.

    All I am trying to say is that there are no absolutes. There's a lot of anger out there, and anger is a self destructive element. Try looking at things with a wider perspective, which isn't easy when one is young. I am not a religious, or spiritual person, I consider myself a Humanist, but I have always tried to live by the precept, "Let he who is without sin amongst you cast the first stone" and "Judge not, lest ye be judged likewise".

    We really don't have to take sides. As a latecomer to the story perhaps that's easy for me to say, but many of you are already saying it, one doesn't have to denigrate Ted to appreciate Sylvia, or vice versa. Would either have been what they were without the other. Life goes on, and we can't change anything.

    What are our motives for reading the Letters and Journals of this truly fascinating woman, what right have we to intrude on her privacy in this way. If Ted Hughes can be criticised it's for allowing these to be published in the first place, however much we devour and relish Sylvia's every word. I must admit to feeling a little ashamed at doing so, and wanting to do so. But can Sylvia the person and Sylvia the poet be seperated? This has been posed on the Forum previously. Consider as well that Ted Hughes needn't have published the rest of Sylvia's poetry. We wouldn't have known about the Ariel poems if he hadn't published them, and he could well have suppressed them.

    As I think, or hope, I said, we read into things very much what we want to, to suit our own particular theories and points of view, and I make no apology for my own subjective reading of the Birthday Letters, and that is of a man very much in love with the woman he wrote of, and tormented by the guilt (which is not to say I apportion guilt or blame - that would be foolish in the light of what I've written) of her death to his own dying day.

    However, it's the diversity of our subjectivity that makes the Forum so
    interesting and vital, I've seen others, but this is the best.

    John Hopkins
    Bridgend, S Wales, U.K.
    Sunday, December 6, 1998

    Who would have believed that one woman writer - albeit one of the best that I have ever encountered, could be so popular. I think this site has proved that if nothing else. I'm Looking for information on how Plath viewed her role as a writer in contrast to that of her motherhood (particularly if it can relate to The Bell Jar in any way), so if anyone can help me out at all please let me know.

    Hitchin, England
    Wednesday, December 2, 1998

    I was wondering if anyone knew where I could obtain a copy of "Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices" by Sylvia Plath. If you know where I can find one online, please let me know.

    Thursday, December 3, 1998

    I am doing a report on the Bell Jar and was wondering if any one had any ideas about what significance all the mention to eggs and bird like people meant. I have a few ideas of my own, but would like some input from other people. Please either leave a post or e-mail me

    Stroudsburg, USA
    Wednesday, December 2, 1998

    Howdy from Aggieland! I had to read the bell jar for my womens studies class and just fell in live with plath and her writing style. I feel that I can really relate to her internal struggles. I am doing a term paper on mental health in the 1950's and Plath's The Bell Jar is my central book. Does anyone know where I can get more info on mental health inthe 1950's or more specifically Sylvias mental health? Gig 'em and God Bless

    College Station, Tx, USA
    Wednesday, December 2, 1998

    This is just to say thank you to you all. I found this forum when I was doing some work on Birthday Letters for a post-grad course, and reading through all your comments and has been a joy.

    Sari Polvinen
    Helsinki, Finland
    Tuesday, December 1, 1998

    I am in college in a freshmen English class. We read "Mirror" and some other poems by other authors. We were to select two poems from the same author and write a bibliography on the author and analyze the two poems. I chose Sylvia Plath's "Mirror" and "Daddy". I stumbled across this forum thing, excuse me for I am new with computers, and am surprised to see how many people are devoted to her and are so knowledgeable. I wish I knew more about her, she is so fascinating. I'm still so awed by Sylvia Plath being so popular. Not that she isn't great I just never guessed she was this big. It fascinates me to learn that so many people love her so much. I wish I had discovered this web page earlier and not procrastinated about my paper so much then I would have gotten a lot of helpful information from you people. But my paper is due in two days. Oh Well I will definetly be back to visit this wonderful web page later!!!

    Greensboro, NC, USA
    Tuesday, December 1, 1998

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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.