The Scamp and the Journals of Sylvia Plath

One of the best parts of working in a library is stumbling across very interesting books. I often find myself getting distracted thumbing through books on art, poetry, space, and even world history. A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a collection of Sylvia Plath’s journals. They start when she was a student at Smith College, and end just before her death in 1963.

I’ve read a lot of Plath’s work, but her journals are by far the best thing she has written. She is known for her “confessional poetry”, but her journals go so much deeper than her poetry. They are honest, innocent, and show a complete decent into the horrors of depression. The early journals are full of childish insecurities about boys and school, while the later ones deal with the struggles of her marriage and the birth of her children. The last entry in the book speaks best to not only her state of mind throughout her life, but the state of her writing.

“A bad day. A bad time. State of mind most important for work. A blithe, itchy eager state where the poem itself, the story is supreme.”

I wonder what it is says about me that I am so drawn to writers and poets that are so far off the beaten path? Not many people understand the poetry of Gertrude Stein, and I feel that many people would read these journals and see nothing but sadness and melancholy.

Every now and then, though, she shows a glimmer of happiness for the world around her.

“I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love is not impersonal, yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with object curiosity all the time.”

For now though, it is a nice break from the books on organizational leadership articles about content analysis and curriculum development. I don’t mind being curled up in bed reading about seemingly unimportant days in the life of a truly fascinating woman.

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