The Private Lives of Authors: Sylvia Plath

By October 17, 2017Authors, Poetry

Many people know about Sylvia Plath’s writing, her relationship with Ted Hughes, and her battle with mental illness. A little known fact about Plath, however, was her passion for beekeeping.

Her love for bees began with her father, Otto Plath, who was a bumble bee expert.  Otto Plath’s book Bumblebees and Their Ways was published in 1934 and is still used today. Plath’s father grew up in Germany where he gained the nickname Beinen-Konig, meaning King of the Bees. Boston University recognised his knowledge and passion, giving him a place on their academic staff as the Professor of Entomology.


This particular poem was created earlier (1959) than her collection of five bee poems written in October 1962.

Sylvia was born in Boston on the 27th of October in 1932 and lived there with her family until her brother was born and they moved to Jamaica Plain in Massachusetts. Sadly, shortly after Sylvia’s 8th birthday, her beloved father died, and his death affected her greatly. Heartbroken, she reportedly told her mother “I’ll never speak to God again!”

Her early childhood was defined by her father’s death and Plath later wrote how the first nine years of her life, “sealed themselves off like a ship in a bottle—beautiful inaccessible, obsolete, a fine, white flying myth”.

Plath wrote a collection of poems about bees in October 1962 while her marriage to Hughes was falling apart. The poems are full of vivid and sensual imagery, drawing upon aspects of her life at the time, and her tenderness towards the natural world. Themes of fertility, sexuality entwine with Plath’s imaginative examination of the lives of bees, creating some highly evocative poetry.

The poems are not an easy study but they are a wonderful insight into how Plath was feeling at that point in her life. Extracts of letters from Path to her mother, Aurelia, give some clues as to her life at the time of writing the poetry.

June 15th, 1962

…Today, guess what, we became beekeepers! … Ted had only put a handkerchief over his head where the hat should go in the bee-mask, and the bees crawled into his hair, and he flew off with half-a-dozen stings. I didn’t get stung at all, and when I went back to the hive later, I was delighted to see bees entering with pollen sacs full and leaving with them empty  at least I think that’s what they were doing.  I feel very ignorant, but shall try to read up and learn all I can.  If we’re lucky, we’ll have our own honey, too!  Lots of people are really big keepers in town with a dozen to twenty hives, so we shall not be short of advice.  When we have our first honey, I think we shall get half a dozen hens…”

9th October, 1962

Everything is breaking: my dinner set is breaking in half, the health inspector says the cottage should be demolished  there is no hope for it,  Even my beloved bees set upon me today when I numbly knocked aside their sugar feeder, and I am all over stings…”

(Thanks to County Dublin Beekeepers’ Association)

Dead Men’s Trousers to be Final Trainspotting Story Says Welsh

By | Authors, New Releases | No Comments
As one of his biggest fans, you have no idea how thrilled I was today to hear that there’s another instalment in the Trainspotting story coming from Irvine Welsh. The book, due in March will continue the story of Mark Renton, Simon ‘Sick-Boy’ Williamson, Spud, and Begbie from their heroine fuelled days in Leith, Edinburgh to the middle age that must surely now be upon them. Read More

New York Bookstore Features Books from Sh*thole Countries

By | Authors, Literature, Polls and Discussion | No Comments
Turning negatives into positives is always a good thing, and right now we’re in love with Rough Draft Bar and Books in New York for their display featuring authors from ‘shithole countries’.

Since he has taken office, President Trump has done a pretty good job at offending the rest of the world. A while ago he banned travellers from many Muslim countries and we responded by featuring a list of books from the Muslim ban list. Read More

Where the Wild Things Are Creator, Maurice Sendak, Recalls the Best Fan Mail He Ever Received

By | Authors, Children's Literature | No Comments
Where the Wild Things Are is one of the most popular children’s books ever written and writer/illustrator Maurice Sendak is rightly regarded as one of the finest children’s authors of all time. Sendak received a great deal of fan mail after the success of his books and, in this quote, he recalls the best fan mail he ever received which, despite his recognition, he regards as one of the highest compliments he’s ever had. Read More

Quiz – Edgar Allan Poe

By | Authors, Quizzes | No Comments
Born on January 19th 1809, Edgar Allan Poe went on to write a remarkable number of poems and short stories – usually in the mystery and macabre genres – and is regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in American literature. This quick quiz takes 18 of his titles – some famous, others not so, all with one word missing. Simply match them up.


Read More

10 Quotes From The Unforgettable Nevil Shute

By | Authors, Quotations | No Comments
Nevil Shute Norway  was born on the 17th of January, 1899 and died on the 12th of January, 1960. He was an English-Australian novelist and aeronautical engineer who spent his later years in Australia. He used his full name in his engineering career and ‘Nevil Shute’ as his pen name for his novels including On the Beach and A Town Like Alice.

Three of his novels were featured in the ‘Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century’: A Town Like Alice at number 17, Trustee from the Toolroom at 27, and On the Beach at 56. Other notable dedications to Shute are two streets in Hampshire, UK that were named for him, as was one in Victoria, Australia.

Read More

Bill Clinton and James Patterson Co-Write ‘The President is Missing’

By | Authors, New Releases | No Comments

Yes, ‘that’ Bill Clinton

James Patterson has been collaborating on novels with other writers for a while now, in fact it’s fast becoming his trademark, so hearing he’s worked on another collaboration isn’t really a surprise.

The shocking news here is that this collaboration sees him work with ex-president of the United States, Bill Clinton in a novel about a fictional president going missing. Read More

Leave a Reply