Throwback Thursday: Happy Birthday, Sylvia Plath!

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bell jar sylvia plath

The Bell Jar photo by Kristina on Flickr/Creative Commons

On October 28, 1932, Sylvia Plath was born in Boston. The influential poet spent her formative years in and around Boston before leaving for Smith College in Northampton, and later, to England with husband and poet Ted Hughes. Plath was buried in West Yorkshire, England, in 1963.

Eighty-four years after the birth of renowned writer of poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel, novel The Bell Jar, and other famous works, we’re taking a look at Plath’s life in Boston. Here, find five things you may not know about Plath’s Massachusetts background.

1. She was born in JP.
Plath was born at 24 Prince Street in Jamaica Plain to Otto and Aurelia Plath. According to the Jamaica Plain Gazette, the family lived at the bottom left unit of the two-family home. It’s where she spent her earliest years—and some speculate her happiest years, as this is where she lived before her father died. Today, Plath’s first home looks as average as any other house on the street with no plaques or signs marking it.

2. After JP, the Plaths moved to Winthrop.
The family moved closer to Aurelia Plath’s parents when Sylvia was four years old. Plath spent a great deal of time with her grandparents at their home on Point Shirley while her father was ill. He died when she was eight years old.

While living in Winthrop, Plath’s first published poem debuted in the Boston Herald‘s children’s column. Later in life, she wrote a poem about Point Shirley after visiting her father’s grave for the first time.

Steadily the sea
Eats at Point Shirley. She died blessed,
And I come by
Bones, only bones, pawed and tossed,
A dog-faced sea.
The sun sinks under Boston, bloody red.

3. At age 10, Plath moved to Wellesley with her mother and brother, Warren.
Plath would live at the house on Elmwood Road in Wellesley Hills until she left for college. As a student at Wellesley High, she was known “not only for straight As and a string of awards, but for her perfect bob, playing tennis (not well) at the Hunnewell courts, and acting in ‘The Admirable Crichton,'” according to the Wellesley Townsman. In 2013, 50 years after her death, a bronze plaque in honor of Plath was installed at the Wilbury Crockett Library. It was an especially fitting place for the memorial, as Crockett was one of Plath’s most influential mentors.

sylvia-plath

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

4. She lived in Beacon Hill for a time.
After two years of married life, Plath and Hughes moved to Beacon Hill. The lived in a sixth floor apartment at 9 Willow Street (just across from scenic Acorn Street). The couple resolved to dedicate their time to writing professionally during their yearlong stay. Plath began sitting in on some of Robert Lowell’s writing courses at Boston University, where she met writers Anne Sexton and George Starbuck.

5. Two short stories were based off her year in Boston.
During her stint in Beacon Hill, Plath took a part-time job in the psychiatric ward of Massachusetts General Hospital. Her experience transcribing patients’ medical records and histories provided a great deal of inspiration. She wrote two of her most famous short stories, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and The Daughters of Blossom Street, based on her time at MGH.

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2016/10/27/sylvia-plath-boston/