Sylvia Plath: Poetry of the mind

Maria Rovito
Opinion Editor

Writing has always been sort of a catharsis for me. When I construct poems, short stories, essays, and any other method of creative expression, I can release my thoughts and emotions into an artistic form. For introverts like myself, I am able to explore the deeper corners of my mind more easily when composing literature. I can honestly say that writing is beneficial to my mental health when I can release my ideas on paper.

For this reason, I chose to major in English here at Millersville. I have loved every English professor I have had, and I enjoy learning about his or her different views on our language and literature.

Last Sunday, I was thoroughly enjoying one of my anthologies of American poetry. I turned to a poet whose name I recognized, yet I have never actually studied: Sylvia Plath. Her poem, “Daddy,” quickly engaged me; her short, rapid bursts of expression and vivid imagery were, at first, shocking and intense.

She writes, “Daddy, I have had to kill you. / You died before I had time,” a line so disturbing in itself that many readers might interpret her thoughts in various ways. Delving into her poem and life further, I can now understand why this poem was so dark and profound.

sylviaplath1Plath was born in Boston on Oct. 27, 1932. Her father, Otto Plath, was from Germany; her mother, Aurelia Schober Plath, was Austrian-American. Growing up, her father held a strict control over her life, and raised her in an authoritarian manner.

She had her first poem published in the Boston Herald when she was 8 years old. A week-and-a-half after her eighth birthday, Nov. 5, 1940, her father passed away due to untreated diabetes. Although her father was only able to raise her for a short period of her life, he would primarily define her future relationships and poems.

As an adult, she suffered immensely from depression, and attempted several times throughout her life to commit suicide. She stated that the first nine years of her life “sealed themselves off like a ship in a bottle—beautiful inaccessible, obsolete, a fine, white flying myth”; her loss of her father altered the ways in which she viewed the world and her religion. It was during her darkest moments, however, that she wrote her most remarkable pieces.

She wrote “Daddy” only a few months before her death. In the poem, she writes “I have always been scared of you, / With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo. / And your neat mustache / And your Aryan eye, bright blue. / Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You.” Through poetry, she is able to find relief from her memories of her father; clearly, she suffered mentally from recollections of her childhood.

sylvia-plath-wikiShe committed suicide on Feb. 11, 1963, only a few days after starting antidepressants. She was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in her kitchen, with her head inside a gas oven. Her suicide was an unanswered cry for help.

After her death, three collections of her poetry were published. She was the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously.

Sylvia Plath constructed her works to alleviate her torment and suffering from depression. Through poetry, she was able to inspect her emotions more freely; as an artist, her works take the reader into the darkest places in her mind.

It is important to study the writings of authors like these. For those, like myself, who use writing as a relief instrument, we can explore our feelings and emotions with more freedom. Writers, such as Plath and myself, need poetry for our own mental heath.

Comments are closed.