The Cult Of Sylvia

Dec 11 2012 @ 7:46pm

While attending a symposium on Sylvia Plath at Indiana University, which houses many of the poet's artifacts, Emma Komlos-Hrobsky succumbed to an impulse common to "Plath people":

Plath, like no other poet, has been idolized and appropriated and taken ownership of, cast and recast by acolytes as a "suicide doll," as her daughter, Frieda Hughes, once said. For the many years I’ve spent studying Plath, I’ve worried that I might be behaving this way, too, that even my disdain for what I see as the wrong kind of Plath groupies is proprietary in a way I have no right to be. Now, here I was about to perpetrate some suspiciously cultish behavior and check out a relic of this saint, an act that looked a lot like worshipping the myth and forgetting the person and the poet.

The box the hair came in was baby blue and tied with a piece of white cloth ribbon. I hesitated before opening it. The lock was not the weird, scant clipping I was expecting, but a long, sand-colored ponytail, also bound with white ribbon. It had slid towards a corner of the box, strangely imperfect and human. I’d expected my moment with the hair to be one of camp, or self-hate, or of not feeling much of anything. Instead, when I put my hair next to hers to compare, it was hard not to cry.