'A Birthday Present' For Sylvia Plath
“I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year.
After all I am alive only by accident.”
These lines, from Sylvia Plath’s poem "A Birthday Present," made it clear that she rarely celebrated another year of life.
Today would have been Plath’s 80th birthday had she not killed herself almost fifty years ago.
Plath’s haunting words continue to resonate today. Her poems “A Birthday Present,” “Daddy,” and “Ariel” are some of her most famous pieces. Plath’s novel “The Bell Jar” is required reading in some high school and college classes.
Listen to Sylvia Plath read her poem “Daddy”:
Born on October 27, 1932 in Boston, Plath attended Smith College in Massachusetts where she excelled as a student and the editor for The Smith Review. Even though Plath received the honor of serving as guest editor for the popular women’s magazine Mademoiselle, she could not enjoy her experience because she was severely clinically depressed.
In 1953, after Plath attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills and hiding underneath her mother’s house, she was committed to psychiatric care for six months. While under medical care, Plath underwent electroconvulsive therapy and insulin shock treatment. Much of Plath’s experiences in the psychiatric ward were documented in her semi-autographical novel “The Bell Jar.”
Plath and fellow poet Ted Hughes began dating in 1956, and after a few months courtship they married later that summer.
Hughes and Plath had two children and enjoyed successful careers as poets, writers, and teachers. But in 1962, Plath left her husband after discovering that he was having an affair.
Plath died on February 11, 1963 from carbon monoxide poisoning after sticking her head in the oven at her flat in London, England. She was 30 years old.
Gwyneth Paltrow played Plath in the 2003 film “Sylvia.” Watch the trailer for the film here.