Crossing Paths with the Spirit of Sylvia Plath – Helen Humphreys


“… At the ages of 20 and 21, I only had the company of one elderly and fairly misanthropic person. I saw my cousins sometimes, but mostly I was without the company of anyone my age, and I was still too shy to seek out strangers. But perhaps that was what was required for me to be a writer. Perhaps other writers can work with family around, with people coming and going, with constant interruption. But I have never been that kind of writer. In order to open myself to the thoughts and feelings that are necessary to the work, I have had to turn away from people. Over the years, I have grown used to this and don’t mind it as I used to, but in my formative years as a writer, it was very hard to reconcile myself to it. I was excruciatingly lonely during those years in England, craving the company of people my age, and I can still feel the sting of it when I think back. Because I hadn’t gone to university, I depended on reading for my education, and I read widely and voraciously. Before I went to Britain, I had devoured Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Ariel. I especially loved the poetry, with its sharpness and candor, and so, when Plath’s Collected Poems were first published, I skipped writing for the day and made the one-hour train journey to London to buy a copy. I read the poems slowly and often out loud, saying the words over and over again, like a spell, to ward off the four p.m. darkness, the winter, the acute loneliness. I came to know the poems intimately. The words drilled their way into my brain, and even now, I can quote large sections of them from memory. I finished Plath’s book and my own. My grandmother turned 80 and did not kill herself. I returned to Canada, proud of myself for having finished my novel and resolute in my decision to be a writer. It didn’t matter that the novel was bad and I knew it. The quality of the work had never been the point of my time in England. I had proven to myself that I had what it took to write every day, and I was determined to keep that newly made space open. I worked one lousy job after another, but I wrote hard and published—first poetry, then eventually novels. In my thirties, I applied and was accepted into the arts colony Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York. …”
LitHub
On Sylvia Plath’s Creative Breakthrough at the Yaddo Artists’ Colony by Heather Clark

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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