In October of 1962, mere months before her death, Plath recorded herself reading “A Birthday Present,” written the previous month and later included in her beloved poetry collection Ariel. The recording was one of several broadcasts Plath participated in for BBC’s celebrated series “The Poet’s Voice” and survives on The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. With lines like “I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year. / After all I am alive only by accident. / I would have killed myself gladly that time any possible way,” the poem stops you dead in your tracks as you absorb the quiet catastrophe of Plath’s fate and simultaneously behold the all-too-human, universal terror that birthdays stir in all of us, that subtle but inevitable reminder of our own mortality. And yet — “sweetly, sweetly” — perhaps you’re moved to reach for, to choose, a different truth, the one 18-year-old Sylvia knew when she wrote, “I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have.”
via Sylvia Plath Reads “A Birthday Present”: A Rare 1962 Recording | Brain Pickings.
2 thoughts on “Sylvia Plath Reads “A Birthday Present”: A Rare 1962 Recording | Brain Pickings”
I’m a huge fan of Plath’s, thank you for sharing this!
You’re very welcome! There’s nothing like hearing a poet read her own poem.