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)

Private Lives of Authors: Hans Christian Andersen

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Hans Christian Andersen lead a life almost as full of intrigue and romance as his fairy tales. In perhaps unsurprising comparisons to Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Doctor Alfred Charles Kinsey of the Institute for Sex Research noted:

“Andersen could not tell the world of his own homosexual love for the people of the world, but the original manuscripts showed his feelings clearly.”

 

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Watch the trailer for the new Mary Shelley movie here!

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Mary Shelley’s life was so full of passion and drama that it is perfect for the movies, and a new film directed by Haifaa Al Mansour hopes to do the great writer’s life justice.

Love, lust, and loss colour the story of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and Percy Shelley which resulted in the classic horror tale Frankenstein. Elle Fanning (Maleficent, Box Trolls) and Douglas Booth (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) star as Mary and Percy, and take us with them on their heart-rending journey.

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10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About James Herbert

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James Herbert (8th April 1943 – 20th March 2013) was an English horror writer with book sales totalling more than 54 million books, translated into 34 languages.

Born in London, Herbert released his first novel, The Rats in 1974. This and many of his other works would go on to become major adaptations in their own right. He wrote and released work right up to w2012, just a year before his death and is said to be an inspiration to many other horror authors, including Stephen King, who described his writing as “like Mike Tyson in the ring, all brute force”. Read More

New Twitter game hilariously shames bad male authors

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A new Twitter game has taken the internet by storm!

Many women have noticed how female characters can be so badly written, especially by men. It is almost as if those male writers don’t see women as people, with complex personalities and 3-dimensional lives. The strange and often nonsensical over-description of women’s bodies  can be most irritating, and when a male writer has a female character narrating, it often becomes embarrassing for everyone involved.

Writer Gwen C. Katz noticed this happening again and again until one day, when faced with yet another ridiculous passage in a book she had begun reading, she tweeted a snippet from the book.

The discussion that followed prompted her fellow women readers and writers on Twitter to join in a game… Describe yourself as a male writer would. 

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Stephen King gives $50,000 to Portland elementary schools

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Stephen King set up The Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation in 1986 to provide support for communities in Maine. As a family foundation, their key focus is community, with much of the donations going towards education and community projects.

The STKF has recently awarded a $50,000 grant that will be used to help with providing books and a literacy program in Portland elementary schools.

Spokeswoman Kate Snyder noted that Portland public schools’ Books and Literacy Resources program will certainly benefit from the award with the $50,000 used to build book collections to also celebrate culture and language differences.

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Emile Zola: A Death Stranger than Fiction

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Emile Zola was born on 2nd April 1840 and died on 29th September 1902. His life was interesting and full, and by today’s standards his death, by carbon monoxide poisoning, was pretty mundane but back then in 1902 was considered to be mysterious and caused great controversy.

Zola accrued many enemies during his life and thanks to a series of death threats always slept with his bedroom door firmly closed and locked. On 1st September 1902, Zola and his wife, Alexandrine returned from a trip to the country on a wet, cold night. They returned to their house on the rue de Bruxelles in Paris. After lighting a coal fire, the pair retired to bed, the window shut and door locked due to the death threats Emile Zola had received. Read More

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