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Sylvia Plath Is My Friend
Lauren Quinn at This Recording has posted a bunch of vignettes of what it’d be like to be friends with famous (dead) poets. She talks about bad poetry readings with Jim Carroll, cooking with Lucille Clifton, hating on Octavio Paz with Roberto Bolano, and then this little gem with Sylvia Plath:
I’m fifteen when I send Sylvia an adorably demented fan letter, the kind angsty/suicidally-depressed teenage girls are apt to send. I enclose with it some of my own poems, which are basically blatant rip-offs of hers. But Sylvia’s gentile upbringing causes her to respond graciously, saying my work displays “promise.”
So I show up at a reading she’s giving with Anne Sexton one night in Berkeley. I stay after to get my Ariel signed. Sylvia’s sitting tired-eyed at the table and when I get up to the front, I remind her who I am and ask if she wants to hang out. In an equally gracious manner, she agrees.
It’s Saturday, so I take her and Anne to Rocky Horror. We spend most of the time in The Alley. It’s raining. I squat beside the wall, pull that fake fur coat over my head and flick my lighter, spin a hollowed-out light bulb over the feeble flame, pinch a straw in my teeth and suck the smoke that rises. My hair stands up and I feel alive.
I introduce Sylvia to Sophie, who’s shithoused in a black slip and combat boots, purple mascara running down her face. Sophie grins at Sylvia, leans her head back against the brick wall and begins to scream the entire poem “Daddy” at the top of her lungs.
By the time she gets to the end Sophie has hot angry tears running down her cheeks, annihilating the rest of her mascara. She slams her eyes shut and together we shout, “Daddy, Daddy, you bastard I’m through.” The words echo off the sides of the buildings, ricochet and rise, and all the other strung-out fifteen-year-olds in their underpants howl.
Sylvia looks utterly horrified at the whole display. Anne, on the other hand, takes a long slow drag of her cigarette, throws her head back and laughs.
Make the jump to read the others—they’re all great!