Sylvia Plath’s Drawings Are Even More Devastatingly Beautiful Than You’d Expect

by Brenda Pitt


Sylvia Plath is known mostly for her poetry and prose, but arguably the same degree of violent, exuberant feeling may be found in her sketch work, now published in a volume entitled Sylvia Plath: Drawings. Edited by the poet’s own daughter Frieda Hughes, the text cradles her pen-and-ink drawings with diary entries and letters. 



Plath created the illustrations at Cambridge, and used studied art as a way of coping with and cataloguing her experience. In a letter, she writes her mother “I’ve discovered my deepest source of inspiration, which is art […I ] am overflowing with ideas and inspirations, as I’ve been bottling up a geyser for a year.” 



In the images, we see what critic Charles Newman sees in her poetry. He writes, the “tension between the perceiver and the thing-in-itself by literally becoming the thing-in-itself;” indeed, in her art is is enmeshed and closely bound with her subject. Of her cow drawings she writes to her husband Ted Hughes, “I got a kind of peace from the cows; what a curious broody looks they gave me; what marvelous colossal shits and pissings.” Hughes himself once described her emotionality and closeness with nature: “Her reactions to the smallest desecrations, even in plants, were ‘extremely violent.’”



Take a look at her drawings. You might just find yourself coasting alone the contours of the thistles as she once did: “I can close myself completely in the line, lose myself in it. . . .”



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