The Poetry of Sylvia Plath

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11516

Isn't it puzzling how many famous, creative people can be so miserable, even suicidal? Sylvia Plath was troubled, self-revealing, and influential. Create a crossword puzzle about her life and poetry!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


If you were a poet, do you think you would be most inspired to write poems as a young adult, at middle age, or in your senior years? Why?

 Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath

Image comes from the Brains Pickings blog shared by the Poetry Trust, via summonedbyfells on flickr, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Sylvia Plath was one of the most influential woman poets of the mid-twentieth century despite the fact that she wrote most of her poetry in only a ten-year span in her twenties.

She was a bright young woman who studied at some of the top colleges in both the United States and England. She also married another poet, Ted Hughes, with whom she had two children. However, her life was also marred by extreme bouts of depression and suicide attempts. She died at only 30 years old by committing suicide. Despite her untimely death, she left a vast collection of poems, journals, and essays that attest to her creative inspiration.

To learn more about Sylvia Plath's life, read the biography, "Sylvia Plath," from the Academy of American Poets. As you read, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper:

  • How old was Plath when her father died?
  • What influence did Plath's father's treatment of her have on her later poetry?
  • Where did Plath meet Ted Hughes?
  • When was "Colossus" published?
  • How many children did Plath and Hughes have?
  • Why did Hughes leave Plath?
  • What was the name of Plath's semi-autobiographical novel?
  • What literary techniques does Plath use in her poetry?
  • What literary award did Plath posthumously win?

After you have answered all the questions, review your findings with your parent or teacher.

Plath was a prolific poet who was associated with the confessional movement of the mid-twentieth century. To learn more about this genre, watch the Confessional Poetry Movement by Angelica Roxas video below. As you watch the video, take notes on the following topics:

  • Themes of confessional poetry
  • The time period when confessional poetry was popular
  • The movement that replaced confessional poetry
  • Literary characteristics of confessional poetry
  • Other writers and artists who were part of the confessional poetry movement


After you have watched the video and taken notes, discuss your findings with your parent or teacher. Save your notes to use for the next activity in the Got It? section.

you think you would have wanted to be a writer during the confessional poetry movement? Why or why not? Discuss your answer with your parent or teacher. When you have finished your discussion, move on to the Got It? section to read several famous Plath poems.

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