Tell your friends that you’re attending a talk on Sylvia Plath – In London. As winter approaches. – and they’re apt to shoot you a funny look and start silently monitoring your behaviour for signs of mental distress. Such is Plath’s difficult legacy. Although her status as a major American poet seems at this point assured, it is the tragic circumstances of her death and the tabloid-worthy details of her failed marriage to former poet laureate Ted Hughes which continue to enthral the public’s attention.
That they continue to fascinate is much in evidence lately, with the recent publication of an exploration of Plath’s painting, Eye Rhymes, and of Hughes’s letters. Proving that the biographies of these two poets remain linked now as ever, the Southbank Centre hosts back-to-back lectures on these new publications this week; the ICA also sponsors a lecture on Plath’s artwork on Monday. Whether your only previous exposure to Plath was as a moody teenager reading The Bell Jar or you’re looking for yet another perspective on these poets’ prolific – if in Plath’s case, short – careers, these events sound worth the while.
Just don’t be offended if your mates want to take your temperature and talk about your feelings. Give them a copy of Eye Rhymes for Christmas and maybe they’ll understand.
Sylvia Plath’s Art of the Visual is tomorrow in the Purcell Room at 7:45pm, tickets £10. Francesca Annis, Simon Armitage, Christopher Eccleston and Tom Paul read from Ted Hughes’s letters and poetry on Thursday, also in the Purcell Room, 7:45pm, tickets £10. The ICA hosts Sylvia Plath Revisited on Mon 3 December at 7pm in the Nash Room. Tickets £8-£10.
By Julie Palmer-Hoffman
Plath poetry-inspired image courtesy of Mayr’s Flickrstream.