There’s not a generation of book-loving young women that does not swear by the poetry of Sylvia Plath. Winner of a posthumous Pulitzer, fiery and passionate in poetry as in life and love, beautiful and tormented in death, her lines the stuff of personal credo, Plath lives on more than 50 years after her suicide with her appeal growing rather than fading.

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1931. Exuding genius and ambition from her early years, she kept a journal from the age of 11 and published her poems in regional newspapers and magazines. This was followed by an artistically successful yet depression ridden life that ended with a tragic gas oven suicide in 1963.

Along with being a prolific poet and penning works such as Ariel, Colossus and The Collected Poems, for which she won her Pulitzer Prize, she also published a semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, under the pseudonym of Victoria Plath's work is of a distinct confessional style that, with a rare combination of precision and eloquence, expresses emotions with the sort of sharpness that erodes.

A sculptor of her own mind, she surgically lays out her turbulent life with frenzied brilliance. At her articulate and brutal best, Plath’s strong voice when mingled with her innate curiosity and empathy radiates an acute awareness that distinctly stands out, even today and likely will tomorrow too. And there are very good reasons for young people to keep reading Sylvia Plath.

The crisis and crossroads of adulthood

The meandering, choice-ridden path of an adult life has spooked us all at some point or the other. What should I chose, what after this? Plath echoes this eerily:

There will come a time when I must face myself at last. Even now I dread the big choices which loom up in my life – what college? What career? I am afraid. I feel uncertain. What is best for me? What do I want? I do not know. I love freedom. I deplore constrictions and limitations… I am not as wise as I have thought. I can now see, as from a valley, the roads lying open for me, but I cannot see the end – the consequences…

We notice Plath grappling with the same notion of “achievement”, the concept of doing anything and everything, the godlike notion of being everywhere at once and having the world at our feet with no knowledge of how to handle all of it, which often perplexes us these days.

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Remaining true to yourself

The mechanical quality to today’s life that creeps into you desensitises human nature too. Plath reminds us what it is like to connect to the natural world, to remain sharply aware of the linkages of the human body with his surroundings. And this is important because…?

Simple: only through communion with the natural world, without the intervention of manufactured experiences (think mobiles, computer screens, malls) can you get back in touch with yourself.

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy.”

A fresh encounter with your emotions

A constant checklist of to-dos, the persistent “what do I have to do next?”, the compulsion to track multiple newsfeeds, respond instantly, and overshare one’s sensory existence means that there is really no time to absorb the world on an emotional plane. It’s a luxury long gone.

But Plath reminds us to check to check into our present mindfully, to pause and feel, to let the here and now wash over us in full detail.

Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.

Returning to the complexities

Multi-tasking our way through life, we’ve all acquired permanent ADHD syndromes, trading in depth of experiences for touch-and-run breadth. Every encounter has been reduced and over-simplified.

But Plath’s words make us go back to the intricacies of passionate niches, going in deeper and deeper into narrower and narrower spaces. And, in the process, come face to face with the complexity not just of the world, but also within ourselves – a complexity that is imperfect and therefore beautifully human.

Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.

Creative courage

This may sound redundant in a world where everyone seems to be writing a book, but the truth is that it takes enormous courage to write your life. Scrupulously abstaining from glorifying the creative process, Plath bluntly states what it takes to legitimately create something.

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

And last, with self-explanatory and eloquent brilliance…

Kiss me and you will see how important I am.

Who wouldn’t read Plath all the time, all over again?