Union Jack

     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

SYLVIA PLATH    1932 - 1963

I accepted that which I wrote about, 
and in accepting it, I became it. 
 That took me then into clinical depression. 
 I felt so trapped I no longer wished to continue.
click here to listen to this page

An American poet, novelist, children's author, and short story author.

She also wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The book's protagonist, Esther Greenwood, is a bright, ambitious student at Smith College who begins to experience a mental breakdown while interning for a fashion magazine in New York. The plot parallels Plath's experience interning at Mademoiselle magazine and subsequent mental breakdown and suicide attempt.

Along with Anne Sexton, Plath is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry initiated by Robert Lowell and W. D. Snodgrass.

Sylvia Plath reads her poem,
PETER: Your father was a professor of German and a specialist on bees.  Did you get your passion for writing and for art from him or from your mother, Aurelia, who was a high school teacher, or elsewhere?
PLATH: I got my love of being able to record what was important to me from both of them.  Neither one of them spent that much time with me, nor with each other.  It was almost as if we had a compartmentalized house, with each person staying in their own drawer or cupboard.
PETER: Did you choose before incarnating to experience clinical depression?
PLATH: I wanted to know what it was to have a sense of foreboding overriding my entire existence and have a cloud over me that I had to find my way in.

Toni: She's showing me a fog so thick you have to feel with your hands to find out where you're going and who else is in the fog with you.

PETER: What would the benefit of such a choice be for you?
PLATH: To enjoy the sunshine.  Unless you experience the opposite of something, you can't truly appreciate what the ultimate experience can be.
PETER: Shock treatment was a part of your human experience.
PLATH: It is something that I would rather not have done.  It is like taking a 20 lb. sledgehammer to kill a fly.  It impacts your very essence.  It is as if you give yourself a stroke and then have to go through rehabilitation.
PETER: You won a Fulbright scholarship to Cambridge.  Angry at double standards, you demanded sexual freedom as a woman and believed in matching intellectual with erotic pursuits.  You met the poet Ted Hughes there, and married him.  People said you always demanded his attention when in groups of friends.
PLATH: I was extremely jealous.  I was so overly protective that it drove him away.
PETER: How do you now view your poetry, essays, and children's stories?
PLATH: My poetry was like a field of wildflowers of every imaginable species; so that if there were only one poem that resonated with a person, that someone could get a heightened experience of life or change direction.  That was my ultimate goal, though I did not see it that way then.
PETER: You had attempted suicide before, and you ended your life at the age of 30 by gassing yourself in an oven.  Did Ted murder you?
PLATH: Did he physically turn on the gas?  No.  Did my emotional turmoil over his not meeting my expectations play a part?  A very big part.
PETER: Did you, at the time, expect to have life after your death?
PLATH: No.  I simply thought, because I was not spiritual at all in that incarnation, that I would be out of my suffering.
PETER: What actually happened to you when you died?
PLATH: (LAUGHS) We partied as soon as I went to the Other Side.  I had accomplished a lot, lesson-wise, during my short physical encounter, but also left a legacy of energy that would help many.  I realized that I did not complete the lessons that I had signed up for - primarily that I would learn to triumph over the depression, and over the control of others - so I will have to come down and experience those lessons again.  But there were no recriminations, just sort of a "Whoops! Pulled the plug a little bit too soon."
PETER: Are you coming down to suffer depression again, Sylvia?
PLATH: I'm going to come down to conquer depression in the human form.
PETER: And will the Earth be available for you to come to?
PLATH: There will be a planet.  There will be a plane, a third-dimensional stage to experience on.

Toni comments: There was much depth in Sylvia's soul.  When we talked about problems I felt her perception of the depth of her despair, the depth of the experience that she had gone through.  Then she became the spiritual evaluator weighing the experience and the wisdom that the physical problems provided.  It was almost like a seesaw - going back and forth: physical, spiritual, physical, spiritual, physical, spiritual.  I sensed she may have been in the process of deciding how to complete the lessons next time.

If you would like to purchase the complete 28 minute interview for only $3.99 (about 2.50 or €3.00) click here.
The reader is Jane Slavin and the interviewer Shaun MacLoughlin.

Talking with Twentieth Century Women
The foregoing are excerpts from Talking with Twentieth Century Women.
If you wish to purchase this book please go to the Celestial Voices website.
If you wish to learn more please go to these websites Messages from the Masters and The Masters' Blog.

Return to Talking with Twentieth Century Women

Home Page

For information on books by and about Sylvia Plath, please click below - as well as on Celestial Voices above.