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September 8, 2018 0 Comment

Can you help me write my paper?

This is from a contribution by Carole Petrone which the forum endorses:

“Just a comment to those of you who are working on papers or projects about Plath and Hughes for your high school classes:

I think that the current enthusiasm of young students about Sylvia Plath is refreshing and exciting. I hope you can all see beyond her status as a “cult” figure, however. Yes, she was gifted. Yes, she was a woman pioneer poet in an age when women poets were not very respected. Yes, she married an Englishman and moved to that country to live and write with him. And, yes, she did end her own life, sadly and much too early. These facts make Sylvia an object of fascination to so many young people. And that’s fine. But please do take the time to actually READ and digest for yourself some of her wonderful work.

I speak for myself here, and perhaps for some other Plathophiles and Plath scholars who frequent this page, and therefore I will use the colloquial “we.” We would be happy to help any of you with your papers and projects. But before we provide you with our studied interpretations, and the results of many years of reading other critics, please let us know what YOU think about the poem you are working on. What do YOU think Plath is talking about? What images is she conveying? What is the tone of the work? What do you think the theme or message is? Most importantly, what do you FEEL about the work? And when you have told us what you think, we would love to respond and either agree or disagree with you.

In other words, please don’t write to the Forum and ask for help without doing some work for yourself. Plath’s poetry is mysterious and beautiful, and very, very complex. Your opinions, as young students, are so very valuable to all of us. Please let us know what they are.”

What has happened to Sylvia Plath’s children?

Frieda Hughes went to art school and is now a highly regarded artist. She lived for some years in Australia but has returned to England this year with Laszlo Lukacs, her Hungarian artist husband. She began to write herself in 1986 when she published her children’s book “Getting Rid Of Edna”. She has just had her first collection of poems “First Pressings” published by Faber which has received favourable reviews and contains distinct echoes of Plath. Another book “Wooroloo” is due out in February published by Harper/Flamingo in the US and Bloodaxe in the UK. She has also replaced Olwyn Hughes as the literary executor of her mother’s estate.

Nick has followed a scientific career and is working in Alaska as a marine biologist.

Where is Sylvia buried and how do I find the grave?

Sylvia is buried in the new cemetery adjoining the Church of St. Thomas a Becket in Heptonstall which is a small village above the town of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Enter the cemetery from the entrance nearest the church and walk left along the second row of graves. Sylvia’s is about three quarters of the way down.

Where does the grave inscription come from?
“Even amidst fierce flames the Golden Lotus can be planted”

According to Ted Hughes, the quotation comes from the Bhagavid-Gita (the Hindu scriptures). But a couple of years ago I met a man at the grave who said he had gone right through the Bhagavid-Gita and hadn’t been able to find it. I have since skimmed through it as well, and I too was unable to find it. It might depend upon translation, etc. If anyone does know more about it, I’d be very interested to know.

Since writing this reply the Forum has been sent the following information from Paul Prescott of Todmorden (UK). This quote comes from the book ‘Monkey’ written by Wu Ch’Eng-En in the middle of the sixteenth century. It is on page 23 of the penguin classics edition. It is spoken by a Patriarch who is teaching Monkey the way of long life. The full quotation is :-

“To spare and tend the vital powers, this and nothing else is sum and total of all magic, secret and profane. All is comprised in these three, spirit, breath and soul; guard them closely, screen them well; let there be no leak. Store them within the frame; that is all that can be learnt, and all that can be taught. I would have you mark the tortoise and snake, locked in tight embrace. Locked in tight embrace, the vital powers are strong; even in the midst of fierce flames the Golden Lotus may be planted, the five elements compounded and transposed, and put to new use. When that is done, be which you please, Buddha or Immortal”

I think that this seems the most likely source of the quotation particularly in the light of both my own and other people’s failure to find it in the Bhagavad Gita.

Thanks very much, Paul.

What religion was Sylvia Plath?

Sylvia was brought up as a Unitarian. She became interested in what we might loosely term paganism during her relationship with Hughes but also attended the local Anglican (Episcopalian for American visitors) Church and was in regular correspondence with a Jesuit priest before her death.

How do I find out more about Sylvia Plath?

A good start would be to read through some of the fascinating contributions made to this forum – 150,000+ words. We also maintain a list of links and books. My book was written with the intention of introducing people to Sylvia Plath’s poetry.