A poignant, powerful autobiography in letters. Sylvia Plath's letters give us a privileged insight into her inner world, as a poet and as a person. This selection offers a fresh perspective on her as a writer as well as some stunning personal revelations in letters written to her psychiatrist Dr Beuscher .
This collection of the letters of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet cover the years 1956 and her marriage to the poet Ted Hughes to the final days leading to her suicide in 1963.
In the foreword to this devastating second and final volume of the collected letters of Sylvia Plath, her daughter, Frieda Hughes, writes that, until recently, she had no idea of the existence of 14 letters written by her mother to her psychiatrist Dr Ruth Beuscher in the final years of her life... Those 14 letters give us new insight into the state of Plath’s mind after the breakdown of her marriage to Ted Hughes... These letters make essential reading for all those who are fascinated by Plath’s writings and her tragically short life.
Faber’s second published volume of Sylvia Plath’s letters provides more evidence that much of the delight of writing letters for Plath was the opportunity to practise tones and registers, voices and attitudes, political and private personae... In this volume she rarely self-flagellates in the way she does to Beuscher, and the letters to her former therapist are not representative of the woman we see elsewhere, with her wit, her lively engagement with friends, her élan vital and her brilliant literary imagination.
over the course of so long a book, Plath’s voice, hectoring and frequently manipulative, is undoubtedly wearying. Reading a clutch of her most dazzling poems once I’d put it down was like flinging open a window. After the stale air, a breeze so sharp it fairly stung my eyes.
And what a tour de force it is. Plath’s epistolary style, as the editors suggest, is “as vivid, powerful, and complex as her poetry, prose and journal writing”. Her energy even when she is doing or observing the most ordinary things vaults off the page.
"That is always how Plath endeavoured to live; this final volume of her letters offers further proof of that. How vital she was, how hungry for love and life and art. And – it should hardly need saying – what an artist. Two-thirds of the way through comes “Tulips”, the poem she wrote after having her appendix out; sent in a 1961 letter to Theodore Roethke. Here is her mature poet’s voice, shocking at every encounter. “The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,/And comes from a country far away as health.”
The 14 Plath-Beuscher letters are illuminating, but it would be a shame to let them define this volume, as there is much else of interest here. There are the letters Sylvia wrote to her mother, Aurelia, many of which were censored when they were published in 1975. There are details about the inspiration for key works, and insight into Plath’s state of mind when she was writing poems at the end of her life, later published as Ariel.
"...to regard the letters merely as raw material for poems undervalues them. They are astonishing in themselves, terrible in their intensity and as raw as freshly sliced meat. As a real-life depiction of a mind in agony they are, so far as I know, unmatched in literature."
...we should rejoice that Plath’s letters are now published in full; they allow us to live with her in the moment, to recover the ecstasy of “six stormy but wonderful years, bringing both of us, from nothing, books, fame, money, lovely babies, wonderful loving”, before we have to witness the agony of the deserted wife “bloody, raw, nerves hanging out all over the place, because I see now that the man I loved as father and husband is just dead”.