I visited Sylvia Plath’s resting place at Heptonstall in May last year. Coming from the other side of the world, I had somehow ended up in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire without any forward planning to be able to honour the poet whose work had impacted me so much over the years.
We had dinner at the Stubbing Wharf Hotel – a place where Sylvia had also had dinner I later discovered. Then we ventured up the steep hill at twilight to Heptonstall.
It was quiet and still, the sun was setting, daffodils bright against the grey light and headstones. There was just my partner and me there in the cool air. It was so peaceful and I was able to silently honour Sylvia’s memory with thanks for all that her writing has meant to me.
On this anniversary of her death, I remember that quiet evening in Heptonstall and reflect on Sylvia Plath’s poetry and its value to me. These words of Sylvia’s run through my head:
Surely the great use of poetry is its pleasure– not its influence as religious or political propaganda. Certain poems and lines of poetry seem as solid and miraculous to me as church altars or the coronation of queens must seem to people who revere quite different images. I am not worried that poems reach relatively few people. As it is, they go surprisingly far–among strangers, around the world, even. Farther than the words of a classroom teacher or the prescriptions of a doctor; if they are very lucky, farther than a lifetime.”
Sylvia Plath, from her essay “Context”, The London Magazine, February 1962