'Ocean 1212-W' by Sylvia Plath


The BBC Home Service commissioned Sylvia Plath to write a short piece for the programme Writers on Themselves, in which novelists and poets talked about their early experiences and influences. She completed ‘Ocean 1212-W’ around December 1962, a few months before her death. Her essay was later collected in the anthology Writers on Themselves (1964), which also included texts by Ted Hughes and Rebecca West.

In ‘Ocean 1212-W’ Plath, an American expatriate in Britain, reminisces about her childhood in the United States. The title of the piece refers to her grandmother’s phone number at her home in the coast of Massachusetts, where Plath spent time when she was a young girl. The birth of her brother when she was aged two and a half is described as a particularly crucial moment in her childhood. The arrival of the new baby, ‘this awful birthday of otherness’, leaves her feeling rejected and, for the first time, aware of her own individuality: ‘As from a star I saw, coldly and soberly, the separateness of everything. I felt the wall of my skin. I am I. That stone is a stone. My beautiful fusion with the things of this world was over’.

Full title:
Writers on themselves
1964, London
British Broadcasting Corporation
Sylvia Plath
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© Estate of Sylvia Plath. No copying, republication or modification is allowed for material © The Plath Estate. For further use of this material please seek formal permission from the copyright holder.

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