Sylvia Plath, 1957 – Source: Wikimedia Commons

In ‘Sylvia’, the second of the two poems she read at our Creative Writing Showcase, Maria Sledmere looks back on her discovery of another woman writer, another “tragic muse” figure in the traditional literary canon: poet and novelist Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963).

You made pain feel celestial. I reached out to you

across the North Atlantic and back

to South Ayrshire, fifty years later…


I first came to you in a tizz on my sixteenth birthday;

borrowed from the school library, your cut-glass smile

too bright for the grease of a well-worn book.

I’m in love, I thought, with hate for my body;

but you made everything sensuous, electric.

To grab a poet at a party and bite their cheek

like an apple! You knew what you wanted;

too much of it, gorging like a fat capitalist

who only ever got skinny, slim with the silver

slink of your dress, your cigarette, your college-girl body.


You gave me an avocado

cut in half, with crabmeat stuffed in the middle.

I’d never heard of avocados, especially these ones: pale green, soft

and rooted with poison. Standing over toilet bowls

stuffing toothbrushes down my throat, I thought of your poetry;

of Doreen’s halo of gold, of Esther

with her white china, purged and holy.


You made pain feel celestial. I reached out to you

across the North Atlantic and back

to South Ayrshire, fifty years later. I felt

the cold cobalt of the sea, its enticement

strong and slick as morphine. That egg of a rock

calling forth your brain, the disarray

of virginity a kind of drowning. I claimed


my own place in the beaten ocean. The pages

flaked out away from me, crushed

between desperate fingers. I was so wholly absorbed

I forgot your words. Instead there were images: tulips,

candles, mushrooms and flutes; the incision

in paper, the falling, calling, folding of text.



I shared your curtailment of all excess.

Each slice of line would drowse my veins

like novocaine, and in the morning I’d wake indulgently,

still thin in my skin for your sylvan grin, a distant tryst;

my book loaned out for another crisis.


Maria Sledmere is a postgraduate student, studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow. In her free time, she writes poetry, reviews music for RaveChild Glasgow, is assistant editor of SPAMzine and works as a waitress. Her chief passions include making mix tapes, painting and Tom McCarthy. She’s currently working on a collaborative zine called ‘Gilded Dirt’, and blogs about everything from Derrida to Lana Del Rey at


2 thoughts on “International Women’s March Fortnight: 10th March, ‘Sylvia’ by Maria Sledmere

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