Source the wonderful Open Culture HERE
Their article on Sylvia Plath begins;
Sylvia Plath would have turned 80 years old today. It’s a strange thing to imagine. Plath’s reputation as a poet is so sadly bound up with her death by suicide at the age of 30, and so many of the lines in her later poetry sound like suicide notes, that it seems impossible to picture her making it to old age. In “Lady Lazarus,” Plath writes: “Dying/Is an art, like everything else./I do it exceptionally well.”
Plath is remembered primarily for the poems she wrote in the last half year of her life, when she had separated from her husband, the poet Ted Hughes. It was then that Plath found her “real voice,” as Hughes put it, in a marathon burst of creativity that resulted in the composition of some 70 poems, over half of which were collected in her posthumous book, Ariel.
But the circumstances surrounding Plath’s final days–her anger and sense of betrayal over her husband’s infidelity, her decision to kill herself by turning on the gas and placing her head in an unlighted oven while her two young children slept in another room–have complicated her literary legacy. A morbid cult has built up around Plath, with many of her most fervent admirers glossing over the poet’s long struggle with mental illness to find in her a martyred feminist saint, a modern Ophelia.
“It has frequently been asked,” writes Janet Malcolm in The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, “whether the poetry of Plath would have so aroused the attention of the world if Plath had not killed herself……………………
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