16 December 2008

Sylvia Plath: Did you know...

Did you know that Sylvia Plath wrote her famous poem "Daddy" on the 22nd anniversary of the day her father had his leg amputated?

In August 1940, Otto Plath stubbed a toe on his left foot. After some changes to his diet and medication with insulin, he developed pneumonia and spent about two weeks at the Winthrop Hospital. Eventually he developed gangrene and Otto Plath's left leg was amputated above the knee on 12 October 1940. Otto Plath died 24 days later on 5 November 1940.

On 12 October 1962, twenty-two years later to the day, Plath placed a stake in his fat black heart when she wrote "Daddy". 24 days later, on 5 November 1962, Plath was in London. It was on this day that she applied for the lease on the house at 23 Fitzroy Road.

Plath and Hughes visited San Francisco in the summer of 1959 while on a tour of the U.S. and Canada. It was here she likely saw the seals barking and basking in the sun off Pier 39. The image Plath uses in "Daddy" is "Ghastly statue with one gray toe / Big as a Frisco seal." For those curious (and I should add - with a strong stomach), compare the image of a seal like a "gray toe" with a image of gangrene. I wish I hadn't...

2 comments :

Emily said...

This is a terrific post -- great seal comparison!

Anonymous said...

She said once, before a reading for BBC radio of this poem, something like : "This is a poem about a girl whose father died when she thought he was God."

:)
Congrats for the blog, by the way!

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