Almanac Poetry: Sylvia Plath in a Bikini






Sylvia Plath in a Bikini


‘Sylvia Plath in a Bikini’
– I’ve had this title in my mind
for a long time now.
I got it from a picture
of (no surprises here!) Sylvia Plath in a bikini,
a picture I saw
whilst flicking through
a book about her life.
What captured my mind at the time, I guess,
was seeing a famous female literary figure
revealed in such a new and surprising way.
One can’t imagine a picture
of Charlotte Bronte in a bikini
or George Eliot in a bikini
or, God forbid, Gertrude Stein in one.
What I have to say is this
– there should be more of it.




(Acknowledgements: first published in Redoubt magazine, 1994; then in my first book-length collection, Vigorous Vernacular, Picaro Press, 2008 – reprinted by Ginninderra Press, 2018.)




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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, was published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Outstanding picture! I can see why it caused you to raise a pen Kevin.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks, Dips – Plath is one of my all-time favourite poets. And, yes, a very fine picture of her, too!

  3. roger lowrey says

    Pity Ted Hughes was not as fond of her KD, or as kind to her poetic memory. RIP.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your comments, RDL – Hughes and Plath, two major twentieth century poets and husband and wife. I’ve always preferred Plath’s work, though this is a personal thing.

    I’ll leave their problematic matters to one side, even though I’ve read a great deal about Plath and her relationship with Hughes, as well as his influence upon her legacy.

  5. Nice one KD. I never quite ‘got’ Sylvia, but I like this.

    I’d love to see the follow up: ‘Larkin in Budgie Smugglers’.

  6. Kevin Densley says

    Many thanks for your comments, DB. Plath might be one of those poets where there’s no ‘in-between’, you either love her work, or something opposite, or maybe just don’t feel that it resonates with you.

    Re Larkin: he’s fabulous, too, in my opinion, though you missed one thing – the cigarette that seemed eternally at his lips: ‘Larkin Smoking, in Budgie Smugglers’. I remember some film in which Larkin was interviewed by John Betjeman (who was not smoking) in a smallish room, and both of them seemed in danger of disappearing in haze of Larkin’s cigarette smoke!

  7. I should return to Plath. I was probably too stupid and too lazy to grasp it.

    I think I’ve seen that clip with Larkin. And what about that deep, melodious English voice? Like a bishop from a bygone century. Scared me a bit.

  8. Kevin Densley says

    I’d have another go at Plath, DB; believe it or not, she does show her humorous side in a number of poems, too – in this context, check out ‘The Babysitters’. The humour is certainly present in this poem, if of a dark variety, while last line is an absolute stunner:

    And Larkin, for a long time, the Chief Librarian of Hull University, the ‘Hermit from Hull’, effectively gave Ted Hughes the British Poet Laureateship, as I understand it. When indications were that Larkin was first in line for the position, basically he declined, saying something along the lines that he didn’t want it because “he’d have to walk around being Philip Larkin all the time”!

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