Poet Sylvia Plath’s Drawings Published: Review

The drawings of troubled poet Sylvia Plath have been edited and published for the first time by Faber and Faber.

Faber and Faber kindly gave Fawn Review an advanced preview of the book before it hits UK shelves later this month.

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“Drawing calmed you. Your poker infernal pen

Was like a branding iron. Objects

Suffered into their new presence, tortured

Into final position. As you drew

I felt released, calm. Time opened

When you drew the market at Benidorm.

I sat near you, scribbling something.

Hours burned away. ”

—from “Drawing” by Ted Hughes

Regardless of your opinion of Sylvia Plath, there is no denying she made a considerable mark in her short life. Since she first arrived in Cambridge as a Fulbright scholar from Boston, she accrued almost mythical status and a cult like following as a poet, novelist, wife, bright mind and victim of her own genius. This new publication by Faber and Faber is set to introduce fans and scholars alike to a further facet of Plath’s life as their first ever collection of her drawings is published this month; exploring her credentials as an artist.

The sketches in their publication, Sylvia Plath: Drawings, were drawn in the period immediately following Plath’s 1956 marriage until her suicide in 1963. Following her death, the drawings lay in Hughes’ care and were passed down to their two children, Frieda and Nicholas, when they came of age. Following Nicholas’ suicide in 2009, Frieda became the sole owner of the drawings and is the editor of this edition.

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The book is a beautiful and well compiled introduction to this little known side of Plath.

As well as an introduction by her daughter Frieda, it contains a wide selection of works from different periods of her life, separated into the places and countries in which they were drawn. Interspersed throughout are letters and a diary entry from Plath discussing her art work.

The drawings record the details of her short life- a cow, a shop front, an umbrella stand, a portrait of her husband Ted Hughes, a bottle of wine, the Parisian skyline- all relayed with a flurry of pen scratches. 

The works are odd, cold studies; an impassioned vision relayed with a strong hand whose tension is apparent in its strikes upon the paper. Objects and scenes appear not just depicted but bound to the paper by the ties of Plath’s tensely wrought lines.

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This book is an essential read for anyone interested in both the poet herself and the relationship between literature and art more generally.

These drawings will not bring one closer to an understanding of Plath’s poetry. Nor are they of sufficient talent to establish a reputation for her as an artist. However, if you are simply fascinated with Plath with a person, myth and cultural icon (of which there are many on both sides of the Atlantic), the drawings will be of interest in considering a different facet of Plath’s life as an individual.

Those seeking artistic brilliance or poetic revelations will not find it here, but for those already initiated into the cult of the poet’s life, this new book will provide an endless source of fascination for the fresh glimpses of her life that it contains.

Sylvia Plath: Drawings, ed Frieda Hughes is available in the UK from 5th September, you can click here to visit Faber & Faber’s website and order your copy now.

What do you think of Sylvia Plath’s drawings? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below or click here to join the conversation on the Fawn Review facebook page!

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