July 22, 2015

Wednesday Writing Wisdom (17) Sylvia Plath

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Sylvia Plath
 (1932 - 1963)
Curious facts about:

She published her first poem, “Poem,” in the Boston Herald in 1941. She was nine years old! At twelve, her IQ was recorded at around 160 (certified genius, literally).

The way in which Plath structured the events evolving her suicide were extremely time sensitive and IF they had taken place the way she had planned them to she would have been found in time. Previously to that morning (February 11, 1963), Plath had spoken to her downstairs neighbor and found out his plans that day. Knowing when he was planning to leave his home, she left a note for him to call her doctor and placed her head into her gas oven. Her plan fell apart because the gas seeped downstairs and knocked the neighbor out as well.

Plath wrote a book of nonsense poems for children. Called The Bed Book, the volume comprised a series a poems about different kinds of beds. This was only published posthumously, in 1976. As with most classic children’s books, The Bed Book was written for the amusement of the author’s own children. The original British edition was illustrated by Quentin Blake, best known for providing the distinctive illustrations to many of Roald Dahl’s books for children.

When Plath received a $2,080 novel-writing fellowship associated with publishers Harper & Row, she must have thought that publication was a sure thing. But Harper & Row rejected The Bell Jar, calling it "disappointing, juvenile and overwrought." While British publisher William Heinemann accepted the book, Plath still had trouble finding an American publisher. “We didn’t feel that you had managed to use your materials successfully in a novelistic way,” one editor wrote.


  1. Thank you for this post on Sylvia Plath. Such brilliance, and to end it all so young. I didn't realize she had set up a fail safe that failed.

  2. A smart woman with a sad fate! Thank you for visiting the post, Flossie!

  3. Another revealing glimpse at an extraordinary writer. I honestly didn't realize she had committed suicide. Even more tragic to learn it was really a cry for help.

    1. The American publishers sounded a bit snobbish and looked down on her, while the British one recognized value when they saw it. Unfortunately, the same happened with many famous artists, painter, musicians, sculptors, inventors, writers in Romania along the time. They were acknowledged only after foreigners recognized their value.


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