If you didn’t already know, today is World Poetry Day, so it seemed fitting to talk about a huge influence in my literary life. I’ve mentioned before that I’m writing about Plath’s work for my dissertation, but there’s something a lot more personal about her work that gets to me. I read The Bell Jar (one of my favourite novels ever) between the summer of first and second year and I just felt understood. The character of Esther just spoke to me and now, as a third year trying to work out what the hell I want to do with my life, it resonates even more. She also explains mental illness in a way that is just so true to me, to my experience. At the time she was writing that was incredibly brave and I’m incredibly sad that she never saw the extent of her popularity, she killed herself at the age of 30 after many attempts.
In second year I bought the full collection of her poetry, I knew she was the one I wanted to study a year before I had to choose. Everyone has an opinion on her, but not everyone understands what depression can do to creativity. I’ve had it before where I’ll say up and write and write and write because things need to come out of my head. Some of my best songs and angriest poems (that I haven’t shared) have come from an incredibly dark place. People say that Ariel was her greatest collection, and maybe it was but reading the collection was something else entirely. You can see the transition in her writing and she’s not afraid to say have she really feels, even if it’s not popular opinion.
She struggles between wanting to conform and her own thoughts and feelings. I can’t help but see the parallels in my own life, wanting to be a wife and mother but wanting a big career and feeling like that have to choose. Using poetry to get out my emotions and my darkest thoughts. Even in the really bad times I found poetry to help me through, just to get it on it paper. I like the dramatic nature of her readings, how she uses culture and the past. Ultimately though, through her novel and poems I feel like I’m not alone, I’m not the only girl who’s won awards, got scholarships and academic talent but has no clue what she’s doing after.
I have always, and will always, be grateful to Sylvia Plath for making me feel like I’m not alone in how I feel.