Friday, October 27, 2006

Happy Birthday Dear Sylvia


Sylvia Plath was born today, 27 October, in 1932. She would be 74 years old today, had she not ended her life in 1963, at the age of thirty. Thirty.

How many writers, who live to ripe old ages, do or have done what she did by the time most of us are, if we're lucky, getting a chapbook published? ...The classic Bell Jar, one of the all-time great, "gold-standard," collections of poetry, Ariel, as well as her other books and exceptional influence.

She would be 74 years old today. That's younger than John Ashbery, A. R. Ammons, Kenneth Koch, Denise Levertov, Adrienne Rich, Gerald Stern, David Wagoner, Derek Walcott, to name a few active and honored poets of today. 'Only about eight years older than others like the youthful Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky.

So today is bittersweet. How sad it is to ponder, not only all the life she missed, but also, how much more -- more elevated, more informed, more embracing -- more we all might be if she were to be blowing out candles today. But in thirty short years, although she experienced much despair, she left us with so much to cherish. She should have been given more to celebrate in her own life; she should have had many more years in which to celebrate; we are left to do it for her, and she left us with much to celebrate.

In the words of Lucille Clifton:

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
...what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

2 comments:

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

No way to measure fully that loss. Especially like the words from Clifton. Thanks for the post.

S. Thomas Summers said...

We lost a great light that sad day in '63.

Thanks for the post.