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Sylvia Plath On Freedom, Complexity Of A Creative Mind And Self Love

Us humans are such schizophrenic beings wanting all our lives, a love that heals and a despair that wounds. Our dreams lead us to skies, blue and black and our roots call us back to the smell of the ground. We are all full of wholehearted lightening and a never ending sadness, simultaneously.

My own self, a contrive of extremities and unknown cravings of being nothing, to be found and fixed but someday vanish to never return made me question a lot about life.
Can we exist as dual beings without a centre to hold, roaming from one home to the other? Or do we have to stick to the ground like a crop that someday is disowned, to be sold for a mere price? Years back when these questions started conquering my head, I read Letters Home by Sylvia Plath. Her life felt like a path to me, as if I’m an extension of her emotions and desires.

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1932. Plath met and married British poet Ted Hughes, although the two later split. The depressive Plath committed suicide in 1963, garnering accolades after her death, for her novel The Bell Jar and poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel. In 1982, Plath became the first person to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

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In 1975, Aurelia Plath, the poet’s mother, edited a selection of Sylvia’s letters to her family which were published as Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963. These letters have grave emotions sewed in each line that describe the free spirit of Plath. Here are a few excerpts from her letter and her journal that her mother had put together:

“At the present moment I am very happy, sitting at
my desk, looking out at the bare trees around the house across the street…
Always I want to be an observer. I want to be affected by life deeply, but
never so blinded that I cannot see my share of existence in a wry, humorous
light and mock myself as I mock others.
[…]
I am afraid of getting older. I am
afraid of getting married. Spare me from cooking three meals a day — spare me
from the relentless cage of routine and rote.”

“Somehow I have to keep and hold the rapture of being seventeen. Every day is so precious I feel infinitely sad at the thought of all this time melting farther and farther away from me as I grow older.
Now, now is the perfect time of my life.
In reflecting back upon these last sixteen years, I can see tragedies and happiness, all relative — all unimportant now — fit only to smile upon a bit mistily.
I still do not know myself. Perhaps I never will. But I feel free — unbound by
responsibility.”

After Plath got married and she had kids, she felt alienated from her own body and mind and could not draw a line that could separate her love for her own self, her creativity and Ted. Many people blame Ted Hughes and their marriage for her depressed self but that eliminates the idea of understanding the complexities of a dreamer, a creative mind, and an inevitable quest for self-love.

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Plath was fighting to attain a sense of freedom that flees her soul away from the cage of her own body and mind. She writes:

“I want to be free — free to know people and their backgrounds — free to move to different parts of the world so I may learn that there are other morals and standards besides my own. I want, I think, to be omniscient… I think I would like to call myself “The girl who wanted to be God.”
Yet if I were not in this body, where would I be — perhaps I am destined to be classified and qualified. But, oh, I cry out against it. I am I — I am powerful — but to what extent? I am I.
Sometimes I try to put myself in another’s place, and I am frightened when I find I am almost succeeding. How awful to be anyone but I. I have a terrible egotism.
I love my flesh, my face, and my limbs with overwhelming devotion. I know that I am “too tall” and have a fat nose, and yet I pose and prink before the mirror, seeing more and more how lovely I am… I have erected in my mind an image of myself — idealistic and beautiful. Is not that image, free from
blemish, the true self — the true perfection?
Am I wrong when this image insinuates itself between me and the merciless mirror?
(Oh, even now I glance back on what I have just written — how foolish it
sounds, how over dramatic.)”

Her inner conflict led her to write beautifully about the crossroads of her life well reflected in her early poems.

“There will come a time when I must face myself at last. Even now I dread the big choices which loom up in my life —what college? What career? I am afraid. I feel uncertain. What is best for me?
What do I want? I do not know. I love freedom. I deplore constrictions and limitations… I am not as wise as I have thought. I can now see, as from a valley, the roads lying open for me, but I cannot see the end — the consequences…
Oh, I love now, with all my fears and forebodings, for now I still am not completely molded. My
life is still just beginning. I am strong. I long for a cause to devote my energies to…”

At 23, Plath wrote to her mother about her another calling after she came back from a trip to Paris with Ted:

Dearest Mother,… Both of us are just slowly coming out of our great fatigue from the whirlwind plans and events of last month; and after meandering about Paris, sitting, writing and reading in the Tuileries, have produced a good poem apiece, which is a necessity to our personal self-esteem — not so much a good poem or story, but at least several hours work of solid writing a day. Something in both of us needs to write for a large period daily, or we get cold on paper, cross, or down… We are really happiest keeping to ourselves, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought I should grow so fast so far in my life; the whole secret for both of us, I think, is being utterly in love with each other, which frees our writing from being a merely egoistic mirror, but rather a powerful canvas on which other people live and move…

Her mother included a poem in the introduction of the book, Letters home which dwells into the luminous spirit that Sylvia was:

You ask me
why I spend my life writing?
Do I find entertainment?
Is it worthwhile?
Above all, does it pay?
If not, then, is there a reason? …
I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still.

Love of the ordinary

There’s so much love
in the patience of
ordinary things;
Paintings on the wall,
street light on a forgotten road,
old yellow papers in a file,
wires stretched over small houses all alike,
soaps dry and water drains everyday,
our hands, our feet go wherever
we take.
Curtains pulled off, hanged up like labels for decoration
decided merely for colors.
Books in a book shelf laid for life
decided merely for how our hearts feel.
Newspapers made, read, unread, wrapped around yellow stained things, thrown
and again
made, read, unread, wrapped
and thrown
for years unknown.
Smells, shapes, sizes
shoes, clothes in our closets.
And our skins
when do they change,
except for rot with our age?
How sky repeats through
every inch of this universe,
blue and vast.
And what’s more lovingly patient
than the birds that sing
the same song every dawn
on the same branch
of the same tree?
~P

Empty a little much more

Have you ever sat with books all around?
Words of her,
The airborne bird
Or the enveloped whirl,
All that she would whisper
And all that she spoke out so loud.
Things that she said to the world
And things that this world had told her
All her life
All her years.
In words that touch lives today
Product of many other lives,
Speaks to them straight on the face
The sunshine
And the moonlight
She questions it all.
Fires back at those who had once fired her.
Sent myriads of picturesque love
To those who made her the hurricane.
She didn’t apologize for any thing
Only for, she never felt it,
After all, hurricanes never are sorry.
There is no way she could find
Plain and sane.
In the realms of that which constrained her
She was drowned,
Because the way to carefree falls
Was in those conceited walls.
The story of her escaping
Is not for the meager souls
Its for the risers and saviors,
Who on the brim
Still search for the line so thin
That divides love from sin.
I belong to this story because
In her struggles and walks
Agonies and wraths
Talks and mocks
Thundering and throbs
I smile and cry,
And I sew the narrator
In my eyes, with my own heart.
I feel engraved in the words
Like a huge ocean
Blue waves all around
And I float and float and float
And float some more,
For a while or longer
Because I want to drink too much
And I feel empty a little much more.

Have you ever sat around books?
He says he loved and broke.
Before the breeze of love
Had tangled him in her arms
He says he was like a diamond.
Rigid and glistening.
But then, oh then,
Who in the turf of love
Has remained how they had begun?
And he from diamond
Was found bruised to scraps.
And now he plays and plays
Like a toy with his self.
Oh yes, they still shine.
The little pieces,
But in each of that bit
Is a foul smell,
In each of it he finds
A dark and white rainbow.
The pieces still shine
And he still plays.
But he says to his readers
He says to me,
With voice choked with coal
Like a big lump,
Making him heavy.
Like he is not standing
But tumbling down to the ground
More and more.
Like the ground is now
Swallowing him.
Before he reaches the grave
Before he weeps and he says,
I have died not of life
But love.
Tender arms of my beloved
Easily could slay
The life of a man
Who thought every day
To make her happier
Than every yesterday.
He ends it at his grave.
And my thoughts have begin from there
To smile at how he could love
Or to mourn the death of love.
In his tears is their any salvation?
Did he succeed to still say in the end,
Oh you my reader!
Love more and more
Love better each day.
Or did he say to me
Love no more,
For the pieces will shine
But no one will ever again
Look at you the same.
No one will feel your charm
And say,
Oh wow! You are diamond!
In the glitter of the diamond
I lose myself tonight.
Because I want to drink too much
And I feel empty a little much more.

Have you ever sat with books all around?
An old lady courted everything possible,
Her face wears all the lines
She wrote in her diary.
Her hands has a smell
Smell of the food she made.
Her legs still look like
They will begin again
Any journey she would ever want.
Her husband sitting beside her
On a small stool
Holding her hand.
After a century of the living
They made
They stand on the gate
Of their one life.
They didn’t call it two separate lives ever
Wept and swept all together
He whispers something in her ears
“Remember, the first kiss?”
“Remind me once more,
Make it also the last one.”
She said.
In each others arms
They slept together.
Together they went.
Together they were taken.
In the flight of love as this
Can I not just dance.
My footsteps won’t move,
They will sway
Because in will dance on the music
That only they could play
Oh in the light and in the dark
I after reading them
Still find a ray
I walk along this light
Because I want to drink too much
And I feel empty a little much more.

Because I want to drink too much
And I feel empty a little much more,
Have you ever gone through this?
This feeling of being taken away
Away in worlds too many
All together
So much
Feeling so breezy
Have you ever talked to dead people?
Oh, I have!
They tell me tales.
They tell me things
Essential.
They tell me things like
Reader, I married him.
When she said to me this.
I had felt she declared to me
The decision of her life.
The only treasure
The only blessing.
She shared with me her tears and heartbeats
That moment
She gave to me.
Has anyone from a world unknown told you
That you are beautiful?
And I?
I believed only when they had said.
They said to me
To live like no ordinary
They told me to fight
And never get reduced
To stay and yet flow
They had said.
You are strong
And that is enough.
Don’t go for pretty.
She won’t die in hearts.
She would die like everyone
In a grave of cement.

Have you ever felt those humans
They talk only if you feel.
Only if every time you lift them up
You give them birth
And you breathe with them.
This magic will then belong to you.
You will fly away
From all that you hate
Any second, like in those fairy tales.
Make it yours
And try it once,
Once.
And you will die never.
Because lives like these
Even after death are saviors.
With them I swirl, curl, whirl
Like a river
These oceans I seek
In the end I belong to these.
Because I want to drink too much
And I feel empty a little much more.