Explore the best titles by Sylvia Plath to kick-start a new literature journey with one of America’s most celebrated poets of the 20th century.
Best titles by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Path is among the most influential American poets of the 20th century. Her writing (along with Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell) is considered the best in confessional poetry, as it focuses on the individual, her psyche, and experiences.
The author wrote some of her most famous works months before her death. Some were published posthumously in a poetry collection named Ariel (Harper Perennial).
This article reviews Sylvia’s biography and her most notable works in more detail.
Biography of the author
Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts on October 27, 1932. She died in London, England, on February 11, 1963. Sylvia was also known by her pseudonym Victoria Lucas.
Plath’s work, notably her most popular poems, express her sense of alienation and tendency for self-destruction. The feelings were tightly linked to her real-life experiences and the situation of women following World War II in America.
Plath was eight years old when she published her first poem. Ever since high school, she has won numerous literary contests. She sold her poem to The Christian Science Monitor and one short story to Seventeen magazine while still in high school.
The author studied at Smith College. Soon after her enrollment, she won the young woman magazine (Mademoiselle) fiction competition in 1952. She achieved numerous academic, artistic, and social successes before the publication of The Colossus and Other Poems, the only collection of her poems published before her death.
However, Plath also suffered from severe depression and tried taking her own life numerous times. She even spent time in a psychiatric hospital.
After graduating from Smith College in 1955, where she obtained the highest honors, she enrolled at Newnham College in Cambridge on a Fulbright fellowship.
She married Ted Hughes in 1956, with whom she had two children, Frieda Hughes and Nicolas Hughes. The couple honeymooned in Paris but separated after Hughes had an affair in 1962.
Sylvia’s collection of poems Ariel was reviewed in The New York Times, Poetry magazine, and other publications. The Collected Poems, published in 1981, received a Pulitzer Prize for poetry the following year. Plath was the first author to receive this prize posthumously.
Plath even received her own biographical film with Gwyneth Paltrow playing the lead role.
In 2009, her radio play Three Women had a professional staging for the first time.
Many academics, poets, and literary critics have dedicated their time to studying Sylvia’s work and life. The New Yorker Janet Malcolm published a study of Plath’s books called The Silent Woman in 1995. Sylvia’s biographer, Anne Stevenson, published A Life of Sylvia Plath in 1998.
Notable works by Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar—The novel
The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel about talented, beautiful, and successful Esther Greenwood and her mental breakdown. Sylvia explores Eshter’s problems with a strong intensity making her insanity incredibly realistic.
The ability to penetrate so deeply into the harrowing and dark parts of the psyche made The Bel Jar an American classic.
Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams
This short story collection was published posthumously and consists of 15 stories. Some of the most renowned include:
“Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams”
“The Day Mr. Prescott Died”
“The Wishing Box”
Plath’s mother, Aurelia Schober, published a selective collection of Plath’s correspondence named Letters Home in 1975. All letters in the correspondence are addressed to the mother and date from the time Sylvia spent at Smith College.
The Letters of Sylvia Plath
Edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, The Letters of Sylvia Plath was published after Plath’s death. The two-volume correspondence series document the genesis of many of the author’s poems, journalism, and short stories.
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath is the original transcription of Plath’s diaries she kept for twelve years. The diary reveals the intensity of Sylvia’s daily struggles and offers a fresh insight into her desperation.
“Lady Lazarus” is one of Sylvia’s finest poems. She links Lazarus, a man raised from the dead by Jesus Christ in the New Testament, to her multiple suicide attempts. A notable quote from this poem includes, “dying is an art.”
The poem “Daddy” has numerous Holocaust references, but it’s also highly confessional and autobiographical, chronicling the author’s relationship with her father.
“The Moon and the Yew Tree”
This haunting poem depicts Plath’s mother as the moon and father as the yew tree. The melancholic poem was written at a time when Plath struggled to find the motivation to write daily.
On the surface, this poem describes beautiful botanical trees. In essence, it’s a poem about the suffering and pain Plath experienced in her life.
“You’re” is among the most hopeful poems Plath ever composed. She wrote this piece while pregnant with her daughter, Frieda.
In the “Morning Song”, a mother takes care of her newborn baby. It’s an autobiographical poem that depicts Plath’s feelings when she wakes up in the middle of the night to care for her crying child.
The poems in the Ariel collection differ from the author’s earlier work. They enter a more personal poetry arena and are clearly influenced by Robert Lowell.
Crossing the Water
Crossing the Water is one of many of Plath’s poetry works published posthumously. The water crossing refers to the border between Canada and the U.S. But it also conveys dark and black images that may suggest a boundary between life and death.
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How old was Sylvia Plath when she died?
Sylvia Plath was 30 years old when she died.
What is Sylvia Plath’s saddest poem?
“Poppies in October” may be the saddest poem Sylvia Plath wrote, considering the themes and how this was the last poem she composed before her death.
Who was Sylvia Plath in love with?
Sylvia Plath was in love with the poet Ted Hughes. They were married and had two children together. As a student, Sylvia adored the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. One of her boyfriends at the time said Sylvia loved Dylan more than anything in the world.
What was Sylvia Plath’s father’s occupation?
Otto Plath was a writer, biologist, and academic. He taught biology and German at Boston University. He was also an entomologist specializing in bumblebees.
What does Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel” mean?
In “Ariel,” a deeply metaphorical poem, Plath depicts her experience during a horrendous horseback ride. After Sylvia’s death, her husband mentioned that her horse’s name was Ariel.