Lit – A Poem For Sylvia Plath Forever In Heptonstall Above Hebden Bridge

Written by Nikki Wordsmith

On the 27th of October every year, for her birthday, the Internet rises up in honour of the American poet novelist and short-story writer Sylvia Plath.

Her diaries, The Journals of Sylvia Plath, are also some of the finest testaments to the times she lived through from the 27th October 1932 to 11th February 1963.

Her brilliance of the writing craft and love for the English language is at first glance largely attributed to her book of poems Ariel published shortly after she tragically took her own life.

According to Sylvia Plath’s Wikipedia entry, the collection of forty poems takes a deeply unique emotional look at themes such as:

  • Being a woman.
  • Mental health.
  • Creativity.
  • Love.
  • Vengeance.
  • Despair.
  • Horse riding.

Sylvia Plath & The Pennines Landscape

Sylvia Plath reads her poem set in Heptonstall, Hardcastle Crags

It is however, her poems about the landscape such as Wuthering Heights or Hardcastle Crags on the other side of the Pennine Hills from where I live in England that fascinates me.

Less than a hour away, in the beautiful English village of Heptonstall above Hebden Bridge, Sylvia Plath is buried in the ground. It is astounding to me that her bones lie there.

There in a humble grave, in an overgrown graveyard that marks a story so well-known in English literature that it overshadows her genius as a writer.

Leading Sylvia Plath scholar Karen Kukil had a singular thought when she stood at Plath’s grave.

‘Resilience was all I could think—women who endure through their writing,’ Kukil wrote in her article, In The Footsteps of Sylvia Plath (2016).

‘And like the village gardener who planted flowers on the grave, we have all played a part in Plath’s resurrection.’

Sense Of Place In Poetry

For me, one of the many Plath paradoxes, is that in Sylvia Plath’s death she has accidently brought me so much life.

With her burial being so nearby, it means I absorbed much of her work and vision of the local upland area. this upland area.

And still 91 years later, her views infuse an intense layer into my own sense of place, giving me a history and depth that plants my feet even firmer into the ground.

The North Pennines website describes the geology of the local land:

Screenshot of featured google snippet of the 'solid' geography of the Northern Pennines and different layers of rocks including metamorphic rock.

Fitting for Sylvia Plath, who changed the landscape of life in the 20th century, with her one short yet deeply mined life.

All there is left to say from me, is happy 91st birthday Sylvia, you are the only poet who can get me out of bed at 3am in the morning to write.

Rest In Pennines.

A bright pink GIF of the word "Lit" as a cover over a picture of Sylvia Plath holding a rose smiling a wonderful smile.
Sylvia Plath – So Lit
Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. I'm writing in a rush. It’s 4am. The bile. The bitchy-sleeve. The frayed frugal pleasure-pain. It's late. It’s early. Fogging brain. Eyes squint painfully at the screen. Questless as the bulls in Spain. It never stops transmitting, clanging foghorn endlessly banging on about climate change. Just stop. Make it go away. Sweet soft plate. Open up. Touch me once again. That’s the spot. Yes right there. Right behind my amygdala. 

Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. That might seem strange to most. For I admire the way you fire up, wires in the frightened brain. Happy bullets, language gun. A language nurse in blood and pace. From Jamaica Plain, to Smith College town, immune to race and riot, a stubborn literary goat, jumps suddenly ahead. 

Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. Must beat Virginia back to tears. Those lit bitches and boring profs and boy geniuses I pursue, know not where my true heart lies – forever Roget's slut.* Drink wine before it turns to vinegar, keep the wolves at bay.

Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. The names go down hand-in-hand, North of Dublin town, on Bloom’s Day jauntily. Two names now, two fingers up, to two black eyes on the last century. The restless hawk is now the prey. The bite, the kiss, the punt, the lift. Nineteen flicking fifty six. So amazing, noses grazing. Like literally totes two souls so lit.

Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. A gallows belly guffaw. Cold draft, crawls up, taking sides from beneath the kitchen floor. Determined breaths, flap flap flap. It's dark down here in marital strife. It's light up there as your wife. Come down before you fall. Feathers smirk. Lifting, laughing hard and clear. The stark white lightbulb signifies there's not much wrong with you. 
Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. I’m at your grave, overgrown with dawn's stamping feet, I in my Adidas trackie, high on ecstasy. We dance together you and I, two ghosts in Heptonstall, ballroom and body-popping ameliorating American misery. What would you say about those two towers, those two front teeth, knocked-out so brutally? Wire them back, put falsies in, brace them back together again with inconsistent imagery? Only you can make sense of this I cry, I lean forward to listen in, then these words catch my eye (fiercest flames: say them silently) and I fall back clumsily.

Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. Trapped six feet under Yorkshire grit. Rolling in the mud no doubt, those dark eyes enduring fame.  Perhaps, like Cathy, from heaven, angels will fling you out, to carry Heathcliff on the farm. It is now years later, the word yield grows in constant trauma raining down. Horrors of the mind abound; black flowers dance along.

Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. Rise up out of the swamp tonight. I need you once again. You never knew, what we now know. We never knew you then. Never will the twain meet up. Neither will, I suspect, we know your likes again. 

Sylvia Plath you make me laugh. Infinite to the end. 

* For anyone who has ever been truly touched by a single word of Sylvia Plath’s creative genius, such as me when I discovered she called herself "Roget's strumpet".

For more of my Sylvia Plath blogs read Mummy and Mad Girl's Love Song

You still want more Sylvia Plath? Try Lithub's article on Sylvia Plath...Nature Writer?

#SylviaPlath #TedHughes #JamesJoyce #FScottFitzgerald #VirginiaWoolf #Heptonstall #HebdenBridge #CreativeGenius

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