A Statement To The Sunday Times
The below letter was sent, as both a letter and a complaint, to The Sunday Times, London, on 6th February 2023. Due to the editorial policy of The Times we could not share our sentiments more widely earlier, but regrettably we have received no response from either The Times or The Sunday Times. As such, we would like to remind both publications of their duty of responsible journalism, and our membership that we are here to support them. We would encourage our membership not to contact The Times or The Sunday Times individually on this matter, but express that we share their disappointment that Plath was not taken seriously on this occasion.
Dear Ms Tucker and the team at The Sunday Times,
Our membership have brought Hadley Freeman's Sunday Times article of 5th February 2023 (read here) to our attention and requested that we inform you of the diversity of our makeup: whilst we are lucky that, in contrast to many academic and artistic disciplines, work on Plath does tend to be dominated by women and has a place for young people, our organisation is made up of people of all ages, genders, races and nationalities. Plath's work has a reach and a relevance beyond simply young women based in North London, and we as a community are open-minded, friendly and eager. We are scholars, artists, translators and fans from all walks of life and, even beyond our organisation, have found community in loving Plath and her work.
The anniversary of Plath's death is a bittersweet time for our community, and we annually come together across borders in hope and love, focussing on the impact Plath's life and work has had on us, rather than - as the article says - on our 'preferred' "depressed poet". Whilst we appreciate and agree with the sentiment of Ms Freeman's article and are pleased that her relationship with our favourite writer has deepened and developed with age, we feel that with some small tweaks this article would find greater appreciation among our membership and among readers more widely, and would like to invite her (as well as your readers) to raise a glass with us, over Zoom, at our annual event, where she will hear directly from some of our members in an open forum what Plath means to them.
In addition, a major part of our remit as The Sylvia Plath Society is to counteract harmful narratives about Plath, predominantly about her death by suicide. We ask that you do not centre her death in articles: especially as a paywalled publication, mention of Plath's death within the first sentences of an article leaves a reader with a sense that this is the most important aspect of the 'Plath mythos', before her work and her personhood, which appears to be the antithesis to the substance of the article. In this way, we fear that Ms Freeman is perpetuating those stereotypes she seems to reject through her article. Our recommendation is that you follow the reportingonsuicide.org recommendations when discussing this issue, even beyond Plath.
With kindest regards,
The Sylvia Plath Society