Yesterday would have been Sylvia Plath’s 89th birthday, so today we’re remembering her by going back to the start of her work: Plath’s first known poem, published when she was only eight (and a half) years old.
Eight-year-old Plath submitted her work to the Boston Herald with a letter that read, “Dear Editor: I have written a short poem about what I see and hear on hot summer nights,” and it ran in the Sunday paper on August 10th, 1941.
Here is the brief and charming poem, titled, simply, “Poem”:
Hear the crickets chirping
In the dewy grass.
Bright little fireflies
Twinkle as they pass.
Plath’s letter ended, “Thank you for my Good Sport pin,” as she was a member of the Herald’s Good Sport Club for Children.
The editing impulse was present in Plath’s life even then: those four lines appeared in a longer unpublished poem she wrote that same year, titled “My House.” In that poem, the first two lines read, “At night I hear the crickets chirp / in green and dewy grass.”
If you’re interested in more juvenile writings from Plath, this video from Gothamist takes a tour through her childhood manuscripts at the New York Public Library. The materials include comics she drew for her brother, and the caption under a drawing of herself is particularly bittersweet: “This is Sylvia. She smiles and is polite.”