From 2011 to 2013, I had the pleasure of attending SUNY Old Westbury where, under the tutelage of a brilliant group of professors, I studied writers and women from all over the world, of all different backgrounds. I was especially interested in, under the umbrella of literature, queer studies, and feminist studies. It was at this school that I had my proper introduction to Sylvia Plath. In class, we made it only through The Bell Jar and a few poems before moving on to other authors. But Plath stuck with me enough that I decided to make her work my thesis topic. I called it “God topples from the Sky” and I wrote that whenever Sylvia wrote about the ocean, bees, or Nazis, she was writing about her father. I combed through her journals, her poetry, her novel and short stories – everything she’d given to us, plus many of her biographies and literary criticism. It is clear she has touched so many of us.
Earlier this year, after turning to The Bell Jar for a bit of pandemic reading, I went through her journals again and wrote down dozens of quotes about writing. I reviewed her worries and doubts, her confidences, her optimism… I had great intentions and then other projects got in the way, and now I can’t find the scribbled quotes to save my life . But Sylvia’s commitment to writing, to being known and seen and loved than feared, has certainly come to materialize , and not only in my own brain.
Brilliant scholars such as Peter K Steinberg of SylviaPlathinfo.blogspot.com, Gail Crowther, Heather Clark, and more continue to feature her in their work , to celebrate her, and to offer opportunity to gather in her name. I think the reason I related to Sylvia Plath so much at 22, and continue to relate at 30 years old, is because she was imperfect. She was rude, she was jealous, she was at times unkind. She worried about her writing, her home, her children. She wanted to please her mother. She wanted to be rich and famous and she deserved it. If only she were around to see her legacy now. I think she’d laugh.
We can’t stop writing about her, musing about her, interacting with her. This past weekend a zoom birthday party was held by the Sylvia Plath society . One of the founding members of this society is Dorka Tamas, a Hungarian scholar who writes about Plath and witchcraft on her blog theplathewitchcraft.wordpress.com and has a piece forthcoming in the Plath profiles Journal. Tamas writes about topics such as Plath and cottage core , Plath and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and Plath and contemporary artists such as Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift. Lana Del Rey, as you may know, featured a song on her latest release, Norman F****** Rockwell called hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have but I have it, which waxes poetic comparing herself and her neurosis to that of Plath. In the Spring of 2021, Lana Del Rey will release her second book of poems called Behind the Iron Gates which will feature a poem called patent leather do over. Its a beautiful poem, but like most of Lana Del Rey’s work, sure to ruffle some feathers. In a way, she has that in common with Plath, who ignites discourse wherever she appears. And she appears everywhere. And that is her immortality and her legacy.
Sylvia Plath was here. October 27th 1932 to February 11th 1963.