It seems each year that October 27, Sylvia Plath’s birthday, brings more darkness around her memory.  To be sure,  the muse’s shadow side trails after her name, but when we asked Carol Muske-Dukes, California’s Poet Laureate, to briefly frame for us what reading Plath can be, she pointed out a warmth in her work, the muscularity of her efforts, her relationship to the natural world, and the woman she was yet to be.

Sylvia Plath remains for me utterly approachable.

Her bee poems, her flower poems, animal poems – and those lovely bittersweet poems to her children – keep reminding us how devoted to the earth she was.  We see her gardening and bee-keeping in Devon and tending her children in a freezing winter in London.  At the same time, her lyrical sensibility flourished,  paralleling the rhythms of  The Golden Bough and Yeats and Roethke.  She had a flawless ear and the true poet’s dedication to endlessly honed craft.  It is no wonder she achieved a style like no one else’s.

If she had lived she would have aged and altered in her work.  But the astonishing mature poems we retain of hers are not autobiographical only or merely Confessional.  They are flights of mastery.  They are testimony to the power of imagination – not the limitations of our fixation on faux-authenticity.

Here’s to the miracle of Sylvia Plath – and what she still has to teach us.

A few recommendations for poems, a few with links to their texts at The Poetry Foundation:

Morning Song


The Bee Meeting

On The Arrival of The Bee Box


The Swarm

The Wintering

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