Gentle and Fierce is a new book of illustrated memoir essays by Vanessa Berry. 

The Word of a Snail/ Offerings to Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath is buried in Heptonstall, a hilltop village in Yorkshire amid the moors. I learned this from the many Plath biographies I read in my late teens and early 20s.  I had sought these biographies out with an obsession for understanding how her writing was wrought from her life. I'd scrutinise photographs of her, trying to work out how it was that her face looked slightly different in every one.

She was the first writer for whom I felt a desire to connect life and work, and the first who made me think about writing as a craft. Reading her poems chronologically in the Faber Collected Poems I followed how she had honed her voice. The Ariel poems gleamed, any extraneous word shed. The collection also included a 'Juvenilia' section at the end, with the poems she had written in college. As a category, 'Juvenilia' intrigued me, that there might be in these slighter, busier poems a nascent sense of what was to come.

I am one of many Plath readers who have come to Heptonstall to visit her grave, and felt the threads of literary history and our own come together in this place. At Plath's grave, on pieces of notepaper, folded and crumpled and snail-eaten, were the notes her other visitors had left, describing their own version of this story.

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