Poems

A Letter to Sylvia Plath


“I talk to God but the sky is empty”

Dear SP,

Why do you think, the written word has the power to make us feel so close to someone we never even knew? We can understand what they were thinking and feeling, who they were- at least partly. There was a magnetic pull to your poems- the agony they betray, the sheer volume of hurt they portray. There was something about you that beckoned me, like other dead people sometimes have, through the hazy frame of history.

I started reading about you, your journals and your poems, hoping to find a bit of myself in there. Don’t you think I know that girl? The one who hates the monotony of existence, longs to have all the time in the world to study and create? She is never happy with herself, she can’t crawl out of bed everyday. Sometimes the mornings feel bright and sunny, full of hopeful possibilities and she knows she can reach the sky. Sometimes it is all so bleak and grey, she want to make a hidey-hole in the blankets and stay there, perhaps forever. She wants men and then she pushes them away because they are not exhilarating. Then she wants to hate men because they can walk around, go anywhere, do anything- they have all the freedom in the world while she is bound to her chastity, her rebellion too is a sour grape. They will find it, rip it out, crush it and destroy it forever. If they knew it bloomed in her heart, she would be compelled to destroy herself because the field is too colossal for her to seek all the weeds it possesses. She struggles to be found, sees the talent buried within her but is unable to release it. While everyone else wears sparkly dresses, gets tipsy and has a fun time, she tries her hardest to make something meaningful out of a world she had known was senseless from the moment she had first laid her eyes on it. She lies intimidated and hating, seeing how deep hatred could be and how destructive. Deep down, she wonders how much of a misanthrope she really is, how much of her bitterness and jealousy is directed at herself and how much of it reserved for other people. She loves one person with her whole heart and gives herself up to him, puts him on a pedestal and watches him falling slowly. But she keeps up her illusion. She thinks cynically about everyone else and when she realizes what she is doing she turns it all onto herself with full, brutal force.

I, too, know what it feels like to want to write, to be possessed by the longing to create something on paper that is so magical, so revolutionary that it will sweep everyone away- most of all, myself. I, too, know what the desire for perfection is like and how it translates into frustration if unreleased, deep inside my blood stream. I, too, feel the heat in the pit of my stomach- asking me to spend time trying to learn and not peacefully accepting anything else at all and the intense self-loathing that comes afterwards.

Oh but SP, of course you knew that the red hot dagger in your hand could be your undoing at any minute. You were carrying it, after all. You were the one who wielded it. You mother and husband and the lines of former men, they had been mere excuses. Your head was the place these cancerous cells started calling home. That poison spread out of you.

With my objectivity, I love you, I pity you, I feel you. I understand you. Every bit of you, including the bits I do not see in me and the bits I can’t stand. You’re not perfect, not perfect at all. You are damaged and bitter and full of hatred. I watch you morph out of your book. You would not have wanted these diaries out in the open. I know it. You would have shirked away from it in horror. All your vulnerabilities lie exposed; all your errors, every spelling mistake and missing punctuation. Even the half phrases are unaltered! This was not what you wanted the world to see. Perhaps Bell Jar, but I know you wouldn’t have been happy with even that. You would have wanted a stupendous work to pour out into the world from your typewriter. Or perhaps you would have been happy at the venomous spewing of shocking hate and disgust that was directed at your husband. He destroyed you, even though you did have the seeds of destruction lying latent in your stomach. And you fed them with fumes of gas.

I do not know, nor can I predict where you would have found your satisfaction when you destroyed yourself, SP. For me, you are a beautiful tragedy and I see it as an innate part of you. To understand you, I go back to what you put out into the world. Why must I understand you SP? There is no real reason except the fact that so many of your revelations grip me tightly. I feel myself turn into a small ball at the centre of this universe. The difference is, you saw everything through hate and I constantly try to see everything through love. But essentially, we see many of the same things.

If you hadn’t ended up dead at thirty, there would have been years of contemplative and confessional writing coming out of you. You were walking on a thin line and you toppled off. That was the only difference between you and other people, SP. It can happen to anyone, though of course, you were more prone to it from the start. You were meant to go down the way you did. You predicted it. You knew the violence that was inside you. And you gave in to it so that it wouldn’t come out on someone else instead.

But your last poems are exquisite. The ones you wrote months before you succumbed to the demons. They are the legacy you passed on to the world and the reason you are remembered. You wanted to live on through prose but ironically, poems were what you did best and you knew it. And they were worth it. And that is all I would want you to know.

Love,

S.

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4 thoughts on “A Letter to Sylvia Plath

    1. Thank you. Yes, she is worthy of praise. But she was very prone to depression and unfortunately, that led her down. But that is perhaps what helped her create such beautiful poems as well 🙂

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