What is this, behind this veil?

The line comes from Sylvia Plath’s poem, The Birthday Present, which is apt today because it is Sylvia Plath’s birthday. Please see Sheila’s epic Sylvia Plath round up of Plath posts; I think you’ll be as delighted as I am.

I have posted a frame grab of the first question I ever asked her about Plath, which was the spark that lit the flame that will burn forever. [Updated to add frame grab]:

It began one of the truly great love affairs of my life. And I’m just so happy to have someone to share my Plath love with.

Thank you, Sheila. And thank you, Sylvia. Love you both.

One of the most affecting, and popular, of Plath’s poems, Daddy, read by Sylvia herself for BBC:

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  1. Wait, did I miss the frame grab?

    Your love of Sylvia is now so totally incorporated into my understanding of you that I find it hard to believe that once upon a time there was a day when you would have asked, “Who are these people?”

    I love talking about Plath with you. And that international-thriller you wrote is still one of my favorite things you’ve ever written. Some day, Cara, we will have
    1. Finances
    2. Leisure time
    … and we will go to the Lilly Library, dammit!!!

  2. Cara Ellison says:

    I just updated it with my comment on your blog asking who is this Plath person and why should I care. Now I know. THANKS TO YOU!

    Yes to the Lilly Library!! I am determined to do it! And we’ll totally geek out. The blog posts from that venture will become legendary as we pore – together – over every item, every word.

    I am so happy to have someone to share my obsession with.

    BTW, when I wrote that this morning, I was thinking it’s too big a subject for me to talk about like you do. You can write a big long post and it’s beautiful. I can’t do that. I have to take one tiny segment and write about that. So my Sylvia birthday and death day posts are usually just referrals to go to your site to get the good stuff because for some reason, I get inarticulate about it. It’s just so vast for me, like trying to walk every foot of the Saharan desert. You do it gracefully.

    So today on this day that means so much to both of us, Happy Sylvia’s Birthday, and thank you for introducing me to the great literary love of my life.

  3. Wow, that was back when you were RTG! It’s amazing: you clearly saw something in it for yourself from that first comment, like – an inspiration – I can feel it in those words of yours.

    The best part of the whole thing is that you came to Plath totally fresh. So many people come to her with such baggage – either they’ve never read her work but have heard about her and have an opinion about her (based on an unexamined assumption) – OR they’ve read her too much, and read too much about her biography/her critics/her life – and can’t even read the damn poems without all that other stuff in the way.

    What I loved so much about your response was that yes, you got into her life -but it was her WORDS that hooked you in. Her language.

    It is a great tribute to Ms. Plath that even with all that baggage out there floating around – she could touch a new reader in that way.

    I love when you write about the tiny segments of Plath, whatever it is that has got you going at any particular time.

    I’m older than Plath was when she died – older by a long shot. That’s so odd to me. I got hooked on her when I was about 16 – and she seemed so OLD to me, so mature. Now I think … wow. She was just getting started!

  4. Cara Ellison says:

    Her language drives me bonkers – I love it so much. All that hyperbole, those vivid details. I recognize the words she uses – they are English – but wow, the way she puts them together is completely fresh.

    I knew nothing of her. I had a slight impression that she was kind of goth. I don’t know why I avoided her for so long, but at that moment I wanted to know who Assia was – the names Assia and Shura sort of piqued my curiosity.

    Then, that day I bought Ariel.
    It was not just one light that went on in my head, it was a whole new world. I went back to the bookstore that day and bought everything I could find either about her or from her. Then I came home and ordered everything else from Amazon. It was an immediate obsession, almost terrifying in its intensity. I just felt like she was the missing piece. She was my One.

    I fell in love so fast. And I’ve stayed in love. I can literally spend an entire Sunday trying to imagine the poems she’d write if she’d lived. It’s impossible, of course, but I like to imagine a happy ending for her. Remember this post about Sylvia’s life today, if she had lived? I try to fit her with various destinies – but this is the one that feels the most real. And I actually mourn the novels we never read, and the poems we never saw, because she took them with her when she died.

    I marvel at what she accomplished in her 30 years. There was so much left for her to do! If only we could turn back the hands of time.

  5. Hey, you – look what’s happening this Thursday! I’m going!! Wish you could join!


  6. Cheers! Just go here as I was looking for pics of tattoos… (isn’t google amazing.) Liked your post. Like you, I’m also happy to find someone who also likes this writer, because she isn’t widely known where I live (Spain) so I often get a blank stare whenever I start talking about her.

    Sylvia Plath tried to get confessional sometimes, but his autobiographical pieces are the worst of her work I think. Words heard by accident over the phone, Daddy, Lady lazarus, Medusa… and those are her most famous pieces! I guess people just like to gossip. They morbidly like to read about someone else’s private life. She’s at her best when she gets mystical, like in I am vertical, The bee meeting, and of course Ariel, with the death, rebirth and communion thing. When she takes all that mysterious, esoteric stuff and uses it to create a path to go beyond this small, material world (“the box is only temporary”) into some ultimate, superior reality (“the cauldron of morning”; “they taste the spring”), Gosh when she does that she’s insuperable.

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