I’ve visited Sylvia Plath’s grave many times and sometimes it’s festooned with objects (coins, pens, ink bottles, crystals, brochures, etc.) and sometimes it's bare. Over the weekend you can sit on one of the benches in the cemetery and watch visitors turn up to visit the grave. They’re mostly women and some are searching for the headstone for the first time and others are revisiting. Over the years I’ve seen the name of her former husband “Hughes” on the headstone ground/crossed/chiselled out. Americans usually moan she wasn't buried back at home.
This Massachusetts-born author and poet was 30 when she gassed herself in oven of the flat she was renting in London. She’d started writing early in her short life and was only eight years old when she had her first poem published. Aged 21 she worked as a guest editor for "Mademoiselle" magazine but she suffered a nervous breakdown and tried to kill herself. Her most famous book The Bell Jar was based on these early events. Revitalised she returned to college to finish her degree and moved to Britain with a scholarship to study at Cambridge university. Here she met the poet Ted Hughes and was 24 when they married. Shortly after they moved to Devon with their two children Sylvia discovered Ted was having an affair . The six-year marriage was over and Sylvia moved down to a flat in London, taking the children with her. Early in the morning of 11th February 1963 she put her children in the bedroom, stuffed rags in the gap under the door and put her head in the oven.
Early suicide probably fuelled Sylvia's fame more than any future writing would. Devotees blame Ted Hughes’s infidelity for pushing her a deeper depression but if you read biographies of her she’d been trying to kill herself for years. Her dad died when she was eight years old and she'd tried to do herself in from being ten years old. Two other suicides orbit the Ted/Sylvia bubble - their 47-year-old depressed son hanged himself in 2009 and a mistress of Ted also put her head in a gas oven to end it.
American’s generally don't agree with her being buried in Yorkshire. I've put photos of Sylvia's grave on a forum in the past and a few Americans said she should have been flown home. Legally though Ted could decide what happened with his estranged wife and mother of his children. He still considered the Calder Valley in Yorkshire to be home (he was born nearby and there's blue plaque is bolted to the house.)
Sometimes I shown people where Sylvia's buried but you have to watch what you say about her. Some people blame Ted Hughes for the suicide and won't review the history of suicide attempts (I read she tried to slit her throat at 10 years old and she'd tried to kill herself in a car crash prior to gassing herself.)
Weirdly another American poet lies a few feet away from Sylvia but I've yet to spot anyone looking at the headstone. Asa Benveniste who was also born on the east coast American (see link below to see his headstone.)