In this brief guide, we will discuss “ Sylvia Plath poems about Depression”, clinical features of depression, a short biography of Sylvia Plath, her major writings, poems on depression and some of the commonly asked questions regarding the topic.
Depression is believed to be the key cause of disability around the world. It is a mood disorder characterised by the feeling of persistent and prolonged low mood, sadness, loss of interest in pleasurable activities: anhedonia, feeling down and low throughout the day, weeks and months.
Although the feeling of sadness and loss of pleasure is familiar and a normal feeling to every one of us, depression is something that persists and causes severe impairment in an individual’s life. It can affect people from any age group ranging from children, adolescent, adult and geriatric population.
The duration of depressive episodes differs and varies from each individual wherein, for some cases, it lasts for about 2 weeks while in others it might persist for months and years.
Symptoms of Depression
Despite Depression being a mood disorder and causing severe impairment in the individual, there are other associated effects of depression in the everyday functioning of the individual.
It can take a toll on one’s psychological health, physical health, job performance, social relation and overall well-being.
The three noting symptoms of Depression are:
- Fatigability, tiredness and feeling of exhaustion
- Anhedonia, loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Depressed mood or prolonged sadness
Some of the other signs and symptoms of Depression are:
- Sustained and prolonged depressed mood
- Loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities or those that one enjoys doing
- Loss of sexual drives
- Fluctuations in body weight
- Disruption in sleep cycle resulting in insomnia and hypersomnia
- Muscle agitation, restlessness and twitches
- Disruption and disturbance in speech
- Fatigue and low energy in performing daily task
- A feeling of worthlessness and excessive guilt
- Recurrent thoughts on death, suicide and attempts for suicide.
- Impairment in concentration and attention
These are some of the major signs and symptoms of Depression. The severity and the interference of these symptoms differ and varied individually owing to other underlying reasons.
Sylvia Plath was a well known and admired American Poet and Novelist who explored themes of self, death, events closely tied to her personal life and with nature. She was born in Boston.
Her mother was a student at Boston University during which she met her husband was her professor, Otto Plath. They got married in 1932.
Plath was eight when her father died of diabetes. He had been a very strict father and adopted an authoritarian parenting style and attitude to her. Her work, an infamous poem called “ Daddy” is a work on her relationship with dad.
Since the age of eleven, she kept her journal writing and often published poems and her writing in magazines and newspapers. The first-ever national publication of her work was in 1950, Christian Science Monitor when she just graduated from her high school.
During her undergraduate years, she had the first episode of severe depression. However in 1953, she attempted suicide by swallowing sleeping pills, but it failed and she survived after hospitalizing and receiving some treatment.
In her book, The Bell Jar, she documented her journey and experience of mental breakdown and the recovery.
Sylvia Plath after her graduation moved to English on a Fulbright scholarship where she met an English Poet, Ted Hudges. A few years later, they got married in 1956.
It was in England when she published her first collection of poems, Colossus.
Ted Hudges left her in 1962, and the following winter she wrote the majority of the poems comprising it all in her book, Ariel.
In 1963, she published her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar and passed away in the same year.
Sylvian Plath and her writings
She was a driven woman and despite the success and recognition she had earned, Plath had struggled and been diagnosed with depression and in 1963, took away her own life.
Plath’s early works are Daddy, Lazy Lazarus and The Bell Jar, which are all known for her remarkable talent and her drive towards literary contests.
Her social success and artistic achievement throughout life were battled by her anxiety, doubt and confusion that troubled her over the period of time.
Plath coped with her inner demons of anxiety and confusion with her marriage and birth of two children, however, it all resulted in a relapse of depression when her marriage ended and had to live a solitude life with her two children.
She was the first writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1982.
Some of her widely known poetry are:
- The Colossus, 1962
- Ariel, 1966
- Crossing the Water, 1971
- The Collected Poems, 1981
Proses from Sylvia Plath are:
- The Bell Jar, 1962
- Letters Home, 1975
- Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, 1979
- Journals of Sylvia Plath, 2000
Some of her writings for young readers and children:
- The Bed Book, 1976
- The It Doesn’t Matter-Suit, 1996
Mirror, Sylvia Plath
The poem Mirror beautifully expresses the struggle and a lived experience of a woman with an identity clash between her ageing and the loss of youthful days. The poem uses personification by personifying mirrors.
“ I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful,
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.”
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Lady Lazarus, Sylvia Plath
It is from the collection of a poem composed by Sylvia Plath in the autumn of the year 1962. The poem is understood on suicide and the disastrous events of life where her marriage ended and was left alone with her two children. The collection of the poem in Ariel, from which Lady Lazarus was one documents her journey, mood swings from despair to elation, extreme rage, her confidence and belief in beginning a new life and records other events from her life.
“I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——
A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. lampshade,
My right foot
My face a featureless, fine
Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me
And I am a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big striptease.
These are my hands
I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.
It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
That knocks me out.
There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——
A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”
Plath’s famous quotes
Some of the famous yet painful and brilliant quotes of Plath of all time are:
“ I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited”
“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed”
“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing”
FAQs: Sylvia Plath poems about Depression
What was Sylvia Plath’s last poem?
The last poem Sylvia Plath wrote was Balloons and the Edge, that paints an image of women and children in death.
What kind of poetry did Sylvia Plath write?
Her poem genre is Poetry fiction short story.
What is the meaning of Sylvia Plath’s poem Daddy?
Daddy is a poem written from the perspective of a woman addressing her father, the memory of oppressive power and the struggle gains the influence.
How did Plath kill herself?
She killed herself at the age of 30 by sticking her head in the oven at her London home.
In this brief guide, we have discussed “ Sylvia Plath poems about Depression”, clinical features of depression, a short biography of Sylvia Plath, her major writings, poems on depression and some of the commonly asked questions regarding the topic.
What we recommend for depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.
Sites for detail and more information
Bellot, G. (2018). On Sylvia Plath and the Many Shades of Depression. Lithub. https://lithub.com/on-sylvia-plath-and-the-many-shades-of-depression/
Poetry Foundation. (2020). Sylvia Plath. poetry foundation. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/sylvia-plath