From Sylvia Plath to Maya Angelou: Women Who Held the Beacon

Devi Pradeep
4 min readJun 13, 2021


“Does not my heat astound you!And my light!

All by myself I am a huge camellia

Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.”

  • Fever 103,Sylvia Plath

“I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.”

  • Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou.

Sylvia Plath and Maya Angelou — two famous poets, who lived in entirely different times. Both of them has a totally opposite style of writing and are from different times, culture and life experiences. Yet, what both of them have in common is the power of their words.

Sylvia Plath (1932–1963)


Sylvia Plath is one of the brightest and talented persons English literature has ever seen. She is an American poet, novelist and short story writer born to a German father and American-Austrian mother. All through out her work, we could see that she had a very complex life growing up. Plath was academically a brilliant student, she went to Smith College on scholarship and has innumerable accomplishments in her student years.

Most of Plath’s work talked about her own troubles and internal battles she was fighting. For many people, her style of writing sounded negative and daunting; it is natural that many of us can not comprehend the profundity of the life she was leading. Plath’s work was critical in what it later evolved as a genre called Confessional poetry. Her poem, Daddy, which captures her troublesome relationship with her father, whom she lost at the age of 10. It’s been clear that she disliked her dad for his authoritarian nature and at the same time she is sad that he wasn’t around her for so long that she doesn’t have enough memories of spending time with him.

“I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.

And your neat moustache

And your Aryan eye, bright blue.”

Her Autobiographical novel, “The Bell Jar” captures the hardships and the ordeals in her life that she had to deal with. The story is about Esther Greenwood, who is an ambitious, brilliant girl, who in-spite of getting what she wants, feels terrible in her life. She tries to commit suicide, gets to know that she has been suffering from depression. The way Sylvia Plath narrates her struggles on depression is the very captivating and touching. In a society, even in today’s time, it is difficult to make people understand the gravity of mental illness, it takes utmost courage coupled with sheer brilliance to create this beautiful piece of work.

“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence”

It is deeply saddening that we lost this extraordinarily talented writer at a very young age of 30. Even in today’s times, her works stands relevant, as an epitome of genuine and soulful creation.

Maya Angelou (1928–2014)

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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

An acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou had a broad career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, and Hollywood’s first female black director, but became most famous as a writer, editor, essayist, playwright, and poet. She was also an educator and served as the Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. She served on two presidential committees, for Gerald Ford in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977. In 2000, Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. Angelou was awarded over 50 honorary degrees before her death.

A phenomenal woman by herself who has performed exceptionally in all walks of life, Angelou leads as an example. Her writing style is insanely empowering and motivating. She is a warrior who has fought all the odds in her life. Her life wasn’t easy with her traumatic childhood, when she was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Despite all these hardships in her life, she evolved as a powerful human being inspiring us with her motivational work.

It is not necessary that we all have a life that is exactly what we planned for. Sometimes things go completely out of our hands, that will pull us off the balance. Both Sylvia Plath and Maya Angelou had their own shares of ups and downs. Both these humans are beautiful and brilliant in their own way. While one opened up a new perspective for looking into complexities in human lives, the other led her way shining from the embers of her own past.

We are forever grateful for the beautiful humans they were and the wonderful body of work they did, which is sure to empower people across generations.


Poetry Foundation



Devi Pradeep

Lover of words, arts and everything creative. Marketer by heart. A bibliophile and an all-time learner.