bitter fame

‘When she was not yet fifteen, the young Sylvia Plath astonished her high school English teacher, Wilbury Crockett, with a group of poems, some of which he read aloud to his tenth-grade class in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Sylvia recorded the incident in her diary: “Today I brought a group of original poems to Mr. Crockett . . . In class he read aloud four of them, commenting mainly favorably. He liked ‘I Thought That I Could Not Be Hurt’ above the rest and encouraged me greatly by remarking that I had a lyric gift beyond the ordinary.” Mr. Crockett  showed this favorite poem to a colleague, who remarked that it was “incredible that one so young could have experienced anything so devastating.” But the poem was occasioned by a very minor mishap: the poet's grandmother had accidentally smudged a pastel drawing of which Sylvia was particularly proud.

I thought that I could not be hurt;
I thought that I must surely be
impervious to suffering —
immune to mental pain
or agony.

My world was warm with April sun
my thoughts were spangled green and gold;
my soul filled up with joy, yet felt
the sharp, sweet pain that only joy
can hold . . .

Then, suddenly my world turned gray,
and darkness wiped aside my joy.
A dull and aching void was left
where careless hands had reached out to

my silver web of happiness . . .

Even then, writing was a need, living a complicated necessity that writing had to manage.’ (p. 1-2)

Uit Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath van Anne Stevenson.

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