On Sylvia Plath & My 11th Grade Self

1. My 11th grade English teacher wore kimonos; a hip, young white woman who wore kimonos and assigned poems by some dead woman named Sylvia Plath. I remember reading “Mushrooms”. “We shall by morning / inherit the earth.” I went to the library that day and checked out a copy of The Bell Jar.

2. I don’t remember who I was that year. I couldn’t tell you if I was happy all the time or depressed; what music I was listening to; what R-rated movies I begged my mom to let me see. I remember sitting at my desk and mouthing the lines of “Mirror” as I read them in our textbook. “I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. / Whatever I see I swallow immediately.”

3. Before Sylvia, I didn’t know that the open mouths of ovens were fatal. I couldn’t understand why she killed herself. I read The Bell Jar for answers and found none. The woman in the book was Sylvia and wasn’t Sylvia at the same time.

4. My favorite part of The Bell Jar was when the young woman goes home and takes a bath. She sinks into the hot water and stays there until she feels better.  I had taken baths like that before. I loved how my heartbeat sounded under water; how the rush of blood filled my ears; how water felt as it pressed against my closed eyelids. I’m not coming up for air until the air changes.

5. Sylvia Plath was my imaginary friend that year. After taking a bath, I would stand in front of the mirror and think about what Sylvia would say. “Whatever I see I swallow immediately.”

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2 responses to “On Sylvia Plath & My 11th Grade Self

  1. I love how we can all look back and see the early symptoms of our poetry addiction. From the looks of this post, you were already gone by 11th grade. I’m gonna have to check out The Bell Jar again. Love what you quoted!

  2. I like the blog post list style you chose. What a way to discover Plath.

    I still haven’t read The Bell Jar (don’t judge me), but I have read Ariel. It’s a beautiful collection of her poetry. That has her famed poem Tulips in it.

    I think she killed herself because it was too much. Of course she as a manic depressive and in that day the only cure (so they thought) was a sanitorium. Today we have solutions.

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