With pen and paper in hand looking up at a wintery night sky, today’s Google Doodle celebrates poet Sylvia Plath on her 87th birthday.
The Doodle pays tribute to the confessional poet, whose work dealt with mental illness and depression. Plath’s work was often autobiographical, delving into her own pain and anguish in ways that made others feel seen. None more so than her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, about her descent into depression, which was originally published in 1963 following her death by suicide, but continues to ring true to readers today.
Instead of paying tribute to one specific poem, the artist behind this Doodle, Sophie Diao, “ended up pivoting to an illustration that would capture the mood of her work instead.” The illustration is a metaphorical take on Plath’s writing, which was often set in the dead of winter and dealt with death. In The New York Times Book Review in 2000, Joyce Carol Oates described Plath’s work as having been “chiseled, with a fine surgical instrument, out of arctic ice.”
Like many young women, Diao said that she felt a kinship with Plath, whose writing she found “empowering.” Diao first read Plath’s poems the summer after her freshman year of college. “I really admire how hardworking she was,” Diao said in an interview with Google. “Writing almost every day, while being a homemaker and mother, and organising her and her husband’s finances, and applying for grants and fellowships… she was clearly a strong-willed enthusiast.”
Plath’s poetry collection, The Collected Poems, earned her a Pulitzer Prize in 1982, nearly 20 years after her death. She was the first person to win the prize posthumously.