February 6, 2012


Last week, Rookie started featuring shrines for their month-long theme of Obsession. (If you’re not familiar with Rookie, go poke around. It’s fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson’s brain child, and fairy godmothered by Jane Pratt, the genius behind the sadly gone Sassy. Very cool.) There are shrines to everything from Florence Welch to The Virgin Suicides to Barbie, all carefully and lovingly constructed by readers.

I’ve never made a shrine. Not a tangible, touchable one anyway. But looking at the photos readers submitted, I realized I’ve had a few shrines in my head for a long time.

Sylvia Plath is in there, and if I’d made a shrine to her, it would be lined with scrawled, handwritten drafts of poems, pointed sketches of faces, pieces of honeycomb, and a red balloon just to start. She may have become a clichéd icon of teenage girl angst, but she’s a lot more, and for me, worth every thought I ever spared her. I reread the collection Letters Home so many times, I could probably still quote from it.  

Even though the letters she wrote home were apparently ruthlessly edited by her mother, to shine up some of Sylvia’s rougher moments, she was still a girl a lot like me – one who read and felt and thought and wanted, more than anything, to write. And she fought for it, to hone her own voice and point of view, to say all the things she wanted or needed to say, and during a time when men were still considered the masters of poetry and academia. In the end, her own mental health conquered her instead of the other way around, but her suicide doesn’t diminish the work she did while she lived, and that’s something I still hold onto really tightly.

So no, there’s no actual shrine, but whenever I see a beekeeper like her father, or read about a couple buying a country house in England, or a girl getting into Smith, or a young poet winning a prize, I think of her. And for a second, I remember that she lived, and that she’s important to a lot of women, writers or not, even now.  

Do you have a shrine, real or mental? 

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