“They were ‘dawn poems in blood,’ those lines stormed onto paper while the children slept; several of them were written through fevers, and the heat seared onto the pages, those old memorandum sheets marked Smith College, or the back of a manuscript marked The Calm. That had been a radio play, drafted by Ted Hughes in their flat in London early the previous year; now Sylvia Plath was in the Devon farmhouse they’d bought soon afterward, and Hughes was back in London, banished, their marriage over. It was late 1962, and in the space of eight weeks, it brought Plath forty of what would become her Ariel poems. They were, she wrote to the poet Ruth Fainlight, ‘free stuff I had locked in me for years,’ and now they were out. And they were astonishing. Only pain could have released them, only fury and outrage and jealousy and panic of the sort into which Plath’s daily universe had plunged. ‘I kept telling myself I was the sort that could only write when peaceful at heart,’ she told Fainright, ‘but that is not so, the muse has come to live here, now Ted is gone.’”

Read more of Belinda McKeon on Sylvia Plath and her last letters before her suicide fifty years ago.