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Sylvia Plath
An unseen photograph of Sylvia PlathCourtesy of The Lilly Library

Two unseen Sylvia Plath poems have been discovered

For decades, the poems were sitting in the back of an old notebook owned by the late author

Sylvia Plath, beloved author of melancholic totem The Bell Jar, also published a wealth of poetry. 54 years after her death, we thought we had seen her entire output as a writer. We were wrong. Scholars Gail Crowther and Peter K Steinberg, while working on a new book, uncovered two never-before-seen poems by the late author.

The poems were found in the back of an old notebook owned by Plath, on a carbon paper hidden inside. The pair used Photoshop to ascertain the poem’s authenticity and content. The paper revealed two unknown poems with a signature Plath watermark, titled “To a Refractory Santa Claus” and “Megrims”. Each was written around the beginning of her relationship with fellow poet Ted Hughes in autumn 1956.

The first poem, “To a Refractory Santa Claus”, is about Spain and its weather. It contains two 11-line verses in which Plath dreams of the sun-drenched climes of Spain. “Megrims”, while harder to decipher, details one person’s paranoia in a direct address to a doctor, speaking of incidents that include the “discovery of a spider in a coffee cup to an owl about to strike”. Steinberg also believes that the discovery of a third poem is “likely”, and he hopes to use modern technology to help unearth it.

Though an unseen letter discovered earlier this year pointed out the domestic abuse Plath suffered at the hands of her husband, Hughes, there hasn’t been any new work by the author discovered in some time. “I thought, ‘I might be the first person in 40 years to work with this document’,” Steinberg told the Guardian.

The possibility of more work being discovered “requires hope and faith, possibly delusion,” continued Steinberg. “But I do feel there are caches of papers still to find the light of day.” Along with these poems, a couple of unseen photos of the author were also found by the academics in the archive at Indiana University’s Lilly Library. All of the unseen work is the subject of Crowther and Steinberg’s new book, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath, which can be purchased here.