01 March 2017

Sylvia Plath's Circus Three Rings

One of the most fascinating aspects of studying Sylvia Plath's poems, particularly the late poems, is considering them through the lens of their creation date. That is one way to read them, and in doing so you can sometimes see her using words and images in a consistent fashion, but also seeing how she progresses through her subjects. For example, if you read the October 1962 poems in chronological order you can see Plath reshaping her self, if you will, in her "Bee" poems written from 3 to 9 October. After reestablishing that self (a poetic selfie?), she turns to shed external, familial subjects (burdens) like her father and mother "Daddy" and "Medusa" respectively, written back-to-back as it were on 12 and 16 October. (Plath had spent the weekend after writing "Daddy" out of town in Cornwall.) But yet the poems read quite differently when done so in the published book format. Though written second, "Medusa" appears first in Ariel: The Restored Edition, separated from "Daddy" by six poems: "Purdah" (29 October 1962), "The Moon and the Yew Tree" (22 October 1961), "A Birthday Present" (30 September 1962), "Letter in November" (11 November 1962), "Amnesiac" (21 October 1962) and "The Rival" (July 1961).

The unbelievably awesome Lilly Library at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, holds, among other treasures in Plath mss II, Sylvia Plath's manuscript book collection that she titled Circus and Three Rings and assembled towards the end of her senior year at Smith College in May/June 1955. Most of the poems were written in the final semester, January-April 1955 when Plath was taking a special studies course in poetic composition with Alfred Young Fisher. But, like her later books, Plath mined her older writing too, selecting those poems she felt held up with her more recent work.

Below is a list of the table of contents of the poems in Plath's Circus in Three Rings. The title of the poem is followed by a common and then the date of creation, if known.

I "Green as a melon our sweet world was"
Song of Eve, March 9, 1955
Wayfaring at the Whitney: A Study in Sculptural Dimensions, February 28, 1955
Black Pine Tree in an Orange Light, March 8, 1955
"Go Get the Goodly Squab", April 5-6, 1952
Winter Words, February 1, 1955
Prologue to Spring, February 9, 1955
Apparel for April, February 2, 1955
April Aubade, February 14, 1955

II "My extravagant heart blows up again"
Circus in Three Rings, September 8, 1954; revised 23 April 1955
On Looking Into the Eyes of My Demon Lover, March 6, 1955
The Dream, February 7, 1955
Trio of Love Songs, April 16-17, 1953
Love is a Parallax, 1954-1955
Moonsong at Morning, March 6, 1955
Rondeau Redoublé, January 30, 1955
Second Winter, March 9, 1955
Apotheosis, March 9, 1955
Mad Girl's Love Song, February 21, 1953
Desert Song, April 19, 1955

III "Circling zodiac compels the year"
To Eva Descending the Stair, February 20, 1953
Metamorphoses of the Moon, November 14, 1954
The Princess and the Goblins, February 19, 1955
Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea, March 22, 1955
Temper of Time, February 1, 1955
Epitaph in Three Parts, February 11, 1955
Ice Age II (All, all is freezing over:... [First Line]), March 2, 1955
Elegy, February 6, 1955
Lament, February 5, 1955
Danse Macabre, January 30, 1955
Doomsday, February 21, 1953

Plath divided the book into three sections. Section I, "Green as a melon our sweet world was" takes its title from Plath's poem "Song of Eve". Section II, "My extravagant heart blows up again" takes its title from Plath's poem "Circus in Three Rings". Section III, "Circling zodiac compels the year" takes its title from Plath's poem "To Eva Descending the Stair".

In creation date order, though, the poems are:

"Go Get the Goodly Squab", April 5-6, 1952

To Eva Descending the Stair, February 20, 1953
Doomsday, February 21, 1953
Mad Girl's Love Song, February 21, 1953

Trio of Love Songs, April 16-17, 1953

Metamorphoses of the Moon, November 14, 1954

Love is a Parallax, 1954-1955

Danse Macabre, January 30, 1955
Rondeau Redoublé, January 30, 1955

Temper of Time, February 1, 1955
Winter Words, February 1, 1955
Apparel for April, February 2, 1955
Lament, February 5, 1955
Elegy, February 6, 1955
The Dream, February 7, 1955
Prologue to Spring, February 9, 1955
Epitaph in Three Parts, February 11, 1955
April Aubade, February 14, 1955
The Princess and the Goblins, February 19, 1955
Wayfaring at the Whitney: A Study in Sculptural Dimensions, February 28, 1955

Ice Age (II) (All, all is freezing over:... [first line]), March 2, 1955
Moonsong at Morning, March 6, 1955
On Looking Into the Eyes of My Demon Lover, March 6, 1955
Black Pine Tree in an Orange Light, March 8, 1955
Apotheosis, March 9, 1955
Second Winter, March 9, 1955
Song of Eve, March 9, 1955
Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea, March 22, 1955

Desert Song, April 19, 1955
Circus in Three Rings, September 8, 1954; revised 23 April 1955

So, maybe you want to read Sylvia Plath's Circus in Three Rings? There are two ways to do it. However, though it may a challenge because, of course, not all of the poems are published.

20 February 2017

Gail Crowther's The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath: An interview with the author

In August, after submitting the manuscript for her third book on Sylvia Plath, Gail Crowther took some time to answer some questions about her recently published book The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath (10 February 2017), her second on the poet.

1. Pretend, please, that this was Twitter... In 140 characters or less how would you describe your new book The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath?
#ICYMI stories about Plath and her readers #sylviaplath

2. Now, feel free to expand a little bit regarding its about-ness!
The book is a really an exploration of what Plath means to some of her readers and why she plays such an important role in their lives. It's divided into five chapters. Chapter 1 begins with stories about the first time readers encountered Plath and then the book moves through the concept of doubling, Plath pilgrimages, Plath photographs, and Plath's objects. The book is framed by Freudian notions of identification, narcissism, mourning and melancholia, while also making use of Otto Rank's idea of the double.

3. How did you go about modifying your PhD thesis for publication? What were some of the challenges and what might have been kind of a relief to shed?
The first major challenge was cutting the word count from 110,000 down to 70,000. Luckily it was fairly obvious what needed to go which was mostly the extended academic stuff (technical terminology) you have to do in order to get a PhD, such as massive lit reviews etc., so that was a bit of relief, to be truthful. I also changed the structure slightly, cutting out my own stories and incorporating them in a different way. Then I changed most respondents' names to protect their identities and removed any photographs that would have compromised their anonymity. I was at the time, and remain, concerned about my respondents and how they will be received. I feel protective of them and I feel deeply honoured that they trusted me to share their stories, so I really hope that they are read in this spirit.

4. In the original research, how did you find your respondents?
I began by reading the ten years of archived forum entries that the wonderful Elaine Connell had maintained and I made a note of the main contributors and their contact details. I also did some general online research about people who seemed to be involved with Plath studies generally. Then I sent out a batch of emails outlining my research and asking if people would be interested in taking part. I also met further respondents at the 2007 Sylvia Plath Symposium at Oxford University.

5. Following on this, as you sought out participants, were there people who declined to participate? And, were there any stories that you found didn't fit in to your research?
Yes. Some people just didn't answer my email or others replied saying they were too busy to participate. Others had certain conditions, which seemed fair enough to me. I was a complete stranger and they were about to tell me some really personal stuff. Amazingly, the stories had a really interlinked set of themes. I did not choose my chapters, the data from respondents chose them. The convergence and similarity was uncanny – especially since I had not set any questions at all. I just asked for open, free, creative bits of autobiography outlining their attachments to Plath. There was sadly too much data to include in both the thesis and the book, so the stories are edited stories. Perhaps one day the full versions can be made available without my fiddling about with them being an issue.

6. On your website your write "Developing and extending Rose's notion of haunting I am increasingly interested in place and spaces haunted by Plath and ways in which this impacts on readers who not only form close attachments to Plath, but equally carry out secular pilgrimages to places in which Plath lived and wrote." Do you see The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath as a compliment to Jacqueline Rose's The Haunting of Sylvia Plath or as building on it?
I love Rose's book. I read it when I was a teenager and it really captured, and continues to capture, my imagination. What I hope The Haunted Reader does is to continue Rose's story. Once a cultural figure haunts our imaginations – what happens? What do people do with this figure and how does it impact on their lives? Janet Badia's wonderful book Sylvia Plath and The Mythology of Women Readers was also really important – the brilliant way she explores the kind of narratives that exist about readers. What I then wanted to do was personalise it and collect actual in-depth reader life-stories. The book wouldn't have existed without my respondents so my main aim is that readers of the book enjoy reading these stories and perhaps while they do reflect upon what Plath means to them.

Thank you, Gail, for taking the time to answer these questions!

Gail Crowther, The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath (Fonthill, 2017). Available in paperback from Amazon.co.uk and other online retailers. Crowther is also the co-author of two books about Sylvia Plath. With Elizabeth Sigmund, Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning and, with Peter K. Steinberg, the forthcoming These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath.

All links accessed 8 August 2016 and 15 February 2017.

11 February 2017

Numbering Sylvia Plath's Poems

At the time of Sylvia Plath's death on 11 February 1963, a vast amount of her papers --the majority perhaps-- were in her mother's house at 26 Elmwood Road in Wellesley. These papers now form Plath mss II at the Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington. Aurelia Plath would later gave nearly 250 items to Smith College in December 1983.

Have you ever worked with Plath's early poems at the Lilly Library (or at Smith or Emory, where there can be found also some copies)? The poems are in Box 7 (poems A-M) and Box 8 (poems N-Z). Additionally, many of Plath's early poems have recently appeared at auction and if you have taken the time to view the images online, you may have noticed small penciled-in numbers in the top right corner. Here are two examples from recent auctions:

From Sotheby's December 2014 auction: Numbered 3b

From Bonhams' March 2016 auction: Numbered 21/2
Tucked away in the back of Plath mss II, Box 15, Publications Scrapbook, are four folders which hold 109 items that include, per the finding aid, "80 envelopes and folders with notes by Aurelia S. Plath". When I was at the Lilly Library in March of 2015, I luxuriated in working with these folders and was able to make lots of notes on these notes. These envelopes and folders indicate how the collection (poems, letters, etc.) was housed before the Lilly Library took ownership in 1977.

There are not just notes by Aurelia Plath, there are also some of Plath's own papers. Among these are typed authorial notes for two unnamed poems that were part of a "Setting Assignment" and an acknowledgement receipt of her manuscript Two Lovers and a Beachcomber from the Yale University Press (dated 21 February 1957). And a host of other really interesting documents that, unfortunately, I did not get the chance to work with in full. I suppose some stones initially have to be left un-turned, and it makes a return visit to the Lilly not only likely, but essential.

There are five pieces of paper in folder 67 that catalogs many of Plath's early poems. A four page document records 117 poems (with some duplicates) and an additional sheet lists another 27. For the most part, those little penciled-in numbers sync to these pages.

The first set of four pages is headed "Poems Pre 1954"; the other page is titled "Poems -- Sylvia Plath -- some copies". Both appear to have been compiled by a person identified only by her/his initials "M.H.F." and were dated 2 February 1975 and 3 February 1975, respectively. These dates correspond nicely with the period discussed by Judith Kroll in the 2007 Foreword to her incomparable Chapters in a Mythology: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath (see page xxiii, etc.).

Here are the poems and their numbers. The first document of 117 items is first. Many poems have check marks next to them (indicated in the list below with "[check]") and I believe this indicates the number of copies. So, no check most likely means one copy. One check means two copies, etc. This is reflected, probably, in the appearance of either a second number or a letter next to the numbers. So, for example, "Doomsday" below has four check marks. This should mean there are typescript copies numbered 11, 11/2, 11/3, and 11/4. In this case, the Lilly does actually hold four different typescripts of "Doomsday". Actually, there are six typescripts of "Doomsday" in box 7a: the aforementioned 11, 11/2, 11/2, and 11/4, as well as a copy numbered 51 and an unnumbered copy. At some point or other, many copies of other poems became separated -- these are the ones you may see now at auction.
Poems Pre 1954 2/2/75 M.H.F.
1 – Ice Age
2 – Circus in Three Rings
3 – Song
4 – Ennui
5 – "Suspend This Day"
6 – Dirge in Three Parts [check]
7 – Admonition [check] [check]
8 – Parallax [check]
9 – Verbal Calisthentics
10 – Paradox
11 – Doomsday [check] [check] [check] [check]
12 – Mad Girl's Love Song
         a Villanelle
13 – The Dispossessed [check] [check]
14 – Denouement [check]
15 – "Never Try to Know More Than you Should" [check] [check] [check]
16 – "Never Try to Trick Me With a Kiss" [check]
17 – Sonnet Doom of Exiles
18 – Van Winkle's Village
19 –A Peripatetic Sonnet
(by a peripatetic Smith girl)
20 – The Trial of Man
21 – Sonnet: Crossing the Equinox [check] [check]
22 – To a Dissembling Spring [check]
23 – Dialogue en Route (2 pages)
24 – Jilted [check] [check]
25 – Aquatic Nocturne
26 – Chef d'oeuvre
27 – Crime Doesn't Pay
28 – Desert Song
29 – Pan
30 – Sonnet to Satan
over/

2
31 – Dirge for a Maiden Aunt [check]
32 – Cinderella [check] [check]
33 –Sonnet for a Green-eyed Sailor [check]
34 – Moonsong at Morning
35 – Advise for an Artificer [check] [check] [check]
36 – Notes to a Neophyte
37 – Black Pine Tree in an Orange Light
38 – Song of Eve
39 – Second Winter [check]
40 – To a Jilted Lover
41 – On Looking into the Eyes of a Demon Lover [check]
42 – Song for a Thaw
43 – On the Futility of a Lexicon
44 – Danse Macabre
45 – Ice Age [check]
46 – Sonnet to a Shade [check]
47 – White Girl Between Yellow Curtains
48 – The Dream
49 – Prologue to Spring [check]
50 – Winter Words (2 pages)
51 – Dirge (2 pages)
52 – Love is a Parallax (2 pages)
53 РRondeau Redoublé [check] [check]
54 – Temper of Time
55 – A Sorcerer Bids Farewell to Seem [check]
56 – Metamorphoses of the Moon
57 – Rondeau [check]
58 – Morning in the Hospital Solarium
59 – Item: Stolen, One Suitcase [check] [check]
60 – Insolent Storm Strikes at the Skull
61 – Circus in Three Rings [check] [check] [check] [check]
62 – Notes on Zarathustras Prologue
63 – The Complex Couch [check] [check]
64 – The Scullion's Dream [check]
65 – Triolet Frivole [check] [check]
66 – Bluebeard
67 – humpty-dumpty
68 – The Dead [check]

Poems Pre 1954 3 2/2/75 M.H.F.
69 – Ballad Banale
70 – Mid-summer Mobile
71 – Carnival Nocturne [check]
72 – "Suspend This Day"
73 – Ennui [check]
74 – To the Boy Inscrutable as God
75 – Sonnet Doom of Exiles
76 – Dialogue en Route [check]
77 – Comment in "Dialogue en Route".
78 – Paradox [check]
79 – Ennui
80 – Van Winkle's Village [check] [check] [check] [check]
81 – The Dead [check] [check] [check] [check] [check] [check]
82 – Sonnet: The Suitcases Are Packed Again [check]
83 – Go Get the Goodly Squab [check] [check]
84 – The Trial of Man [check] [check]
85 – aquatic nocturne [check] [check] [check]
86 – Sonnet to a Dissembling Spring
87 – Sonnet: To Eve
88 – Sonnet: To Time [check]
89 – Dirge for Abigail
90 – The Bronze Boy [check] [check]
91 – City Wife [check]
92 – (Female) Autor(ess) [check]
93 – The Invalid
94 – I Am An American
95 – April 18
96 – Solo
97 – August Night
98 – Incident [check]
99 – Dirge for a Joker [check] [check]
100 – Ode on a bitten plum
101 – Sonnet
102 – Voices [check]
103 – The Grackles
104 – The Farewell
105 – The Stranger

4
106 – Fog
107 – Virus TV (We Don't Have a Set Either)
108 – Humoresque
109 – Family Reunion
110 – Portrait
111 – All I Can Tell You Is About The Fog
112 – housewife
113 – March 21
114 – we two have gone together (first line) (Marcia)
115 – Marcia (3 pages)
116 – she will be always (marcia)
117    Words of Advice To An English Prof
Now for the second document:
Poems – Sylvia Plath – some copies 2/2/75 M.H.F.
1 – Go Get the Goodly Squab ('53)
2 – The Complex Couch
3 – Morning in the Hospital Solarium [check]
4 – Epitaph in Three Parts
5 – Song for a Thaw
6 – Mid-summer Mobile
7 – Spring Sacrament [check] [check]
8 – Wayfaring at the Whitney – a Study in Sculptural Dimensions [check]
9 – Spring Song to a Housewife
10 – Complaint
11 – Prologue to Spring [check] [check]
12 – The Dream
13 – New England Winter Without Snow [check] [check] [check]
14 – Danse Macabre [check] [check]
15 – March 15 Muse
16 – Terminal [check]
17 – Triolet Frivole
18 – roundeau
19 – Winter Words [check] [check]
20 – Dirge [check]
21 – Notes on Zarathustra's Prologue [check] [check] [check]
22 – Complaint
23 – Elegy [check]
24 – Temper of Time [check] [check]
25 – Apparel for April [check] [check] [check] [check]
26 – Eve Describes Her Birthday Party [check] [check] [check]
27 – Harlequin Love Song [check] [check] [check] [check]
Peculiarly, a number of these poems are listed twice with two different numbers. I have not yet totally sorted out what this means -- if a second listing/number means either oversight or possible carelessness on the part of M.H.F. or perhaps another poem with the same title but with different content. In the second list, for example, the poem "Complaint" is numbered 10 and 22; yet the Lilly only has a typescript of the poem with the pencil notation of 10. The typescript for "Complaint", aka 10, is a poem Plath wrote on 6 February 1955 and bears a Lawrence House address in the top right. However, Plath wrote and published another poem called "Complaint" in March 1950 in her high school newspaper, The Bradford so it could be that a typescript of this earlier poem was numbered 22. And a poem like "Winter Words" appears on both lists, number 50 in the first one, and number 19 in the second. And, further some poems have numbers that do not appear on either of these lists, suggesting there was at least a third numbering scheme in the works. An example is Plath's poem "Bereft" which does not feature on these lists, but bares the penciled number 24 on the multiple copies held by the Lilly: 24, 24a, 24c, and a copy with no number. Where is 24b?

The numbers on the poems always had baffled me. Am I alone? And finding these lists tucked away as they are opens up some understanding as to Aurelia Plath's organizational processes. It must have been a terrific challenge to be a custodian of these papers and to view them objectively in light of the emotional pain of memories that each one may have carried.

All links accessed 18 October 2016.

01 February 2017

Update: These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath

Recently, Gail Crowther (website; twitter) and I submitted our final edits to the publisher Fonthill for our forthcoming book of essays These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Currently, we are reviewing page proofs. The timetable for the rest of the pre-publication process is unknown. But progress is being made which is wonderful! We were excited to learn, also, that listings for the book are now Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

And, it gives us great pleasure here to post here the cover for our book:



The Amazon's seem to say that TGA will be published on 11 May 2017. However, the following press release indicates that the book will be published on 25 May 2017. Not sure at this point in time which is correct. All that does matter is that the book is coming out and that you are going to have your socks knocked off by the essays.



Writing this book was such a joy. From the start to (nearly at the) finish, I cannot express how thrilling each essay was to research and discuss and write. We were afforded the opportunity to revise each piece from their original appearances. We feel we greatly improved them (at the expense of some of our archival stories, sadly) for publication. At the same time, though, we were able to bring to your attention brand new archival discoveries and three new, original chapters.

All links accessed 25 January 2017.

26 January 2017

Sylvia Plath's "Gramercy Park" Typescript at Auction

A six-page typescript story, "Gramercy Park" (1948), with holograph corrections in Sylvia Plath's hand is up for auction via RR Auctions.


"Gramercy Park" originally sold in the 1982 Sotheby's auction, then reappeared in their failed December 2014 auction. It did sell last June via Bonhams as part of a two-story lot along with 1949's "The Green Rock".

Indiana University at Bloomington holds, in Plath mss II, two typescript copies of "Gramercy Park". One of them has, on the back of a cover page, a small reproduction of George Wesley Bellow's 1920 painting Gramercy Park, pictured below.


The copy at auction appears to be the draft Plath edited to reach the final version as the edits are reflected in one of the copies at Lilly. It also features some comments in another hand, likely one of her teachers at the Bradford High School.

My thanks to Jett W. Whitehead of Jett W Whitehead Rare Books, THE specialist in poetry in the rare books and collectibles world, for letting us know about this auction. With a web address of www.poetryjett.com, how could you, as a reader of Sylvia Plath, not like this guy!

All links accessed 24 January 2016.

20 January 2017

Elizabeth Sigmund (1928-2017)



As a result of Alison Flood's article "Sylvia Plath's Three Women to be staged in London" in The Guardian, I met Elizabeth Sigmund, who passed away peacefully at her home in Cornwall on Friday, 6 January 2017. Shortly after the article ran my mobile phone rang with an English phone number showing up on the caller-ID. It was Elizabeth, calling to discuss my quotes in the piece and to discuss Plath. We became fast friends. Elizabeth was like that -- instantly likable. We spoke on the phone periodically after that -- it was always a fulfilling thrill to speak to her: especially in July when I'd call her on her birthday and sing to her, and the next day she'd call me on mine and sing back to me. She possessed a beautiful and inviting speaking voice, a vibrant and contagious laugh, and had the amazing ability to make any day we spoke both brighter and happier.

In March 2013, when Gail Crowther and I gave a preview talk for our paper "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past" at Plymouth University in England, we made a side trip to meet Elizabeth and her husband William at their home. Without Gail's navigation, I am confident I never would have found the house, nestled deep in the country. That day was miserably cloudy and rainy, but we were greeted warmly inside with excellent conversation and tea. To say the occasional was a memorable highlight of my years spent studying and discussing Sylvia Plath is an understatement.

There will be better obituaries and tributes to Elizabeth Sigmund than this post will provide by people that knew her much better. It was a privilege to introduce my best friend, Gail Crowther, to Elizabeth, and to work with them on various projects such as their essay "A Poem, A Friend" and their resultant book, Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. I was chuffed to be asked to write the introduction to it. As I say in that, "Sylvia Plath is a connective figure."

Elizabeth and Sylvia Plath met in Devon in 1962 almost by chance after Plath and Ted Hughes's 1961 BBC radio interview "Two of a Kind: Poets in Partnership". As a result of that meeting, the two young women became immediate friends. Friends, indeed, with a bond so strong that within months Plath was to dedicate her novel, The Bell Jar, to Elizabeth and her then husband David Compton. Elizabeth was a vital woman who was unafraid to support and defend Plath after her death. I feel like Elizabeth's passing is a monumental loss both to a connection to Plath and to Plath's memory.

In addition to various letters to the editor, an essay entitled "Sylvia, 1962: A Memoir" (New Review, May 1976 and Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work, ed. Edward Butscher), and Sylvia Plath in Devon, Elizabeth was the author of the book Rage Against the Dying: Campaign Against Chemical and Biological Warfare (London: Pluto Press, 1980). Later, Elizabeth was the subject of an impressive article in The Independent in 1995. It gives a wonderful glimpse at how formidable she was, and how interesting, too.

Our thoughts and prayers go to her husband, William, and to her children and grandchildren. The celebration of Elizabeth's life and funeral ceremony were held on 17 January in Buckfastleigh, South Devon. Gail Crowther attended and read "When Great Trees Fall" by Maya Angelou.

Elizabeth was much loved and will be greatly missed.

Rest in Peace, Elizabeth.



Elizabeth Sigmund with Gwyneth Paltrow


All links accessed 6 January 2017.

10 January 2017

Did you know... Sylvia Plath's Slow Insects and African Pygmies

It has been quite some time since a "Sylvia Plath: Did you know…" appeared on this blog so I thought I should remedy this unintended gap.

Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar (1963) is a fun book to read for its hidden messages and allusions. Plath carefully and consciously manipulated time and people to construct a work based off of many experiences in her own life, but undoubtedly also added fictional color.

One scene in the novel in particular that always makes me chuckle is Esther's motivation for wanting to spend her summer writing a novel. She writes:
Then I decided I would spend the summer writing a novel.
That would fix a lot of people. (1963:126)
After this, Esther drafts a first paragraph,
Elaine sat on the breezeway in an old yellow nightgown of her mother's waiting for something to happen. It was a sweltering morning in July, and drops of sweat crawled down her back one by one, like slow insects.

I leaned back and read what I had written.

It seemed lively enough, and I was quite proud of the bit about the drops of sweat like insects, only I had the dim impression I'd probably read it somewhere else a long time ago. (127)
Did you know... Plath certainly had read this before; and chances are many of you have as well! For the longest time I had looked for this in something Plath wrote, thinking: she must be referring to something she herself wrote. Well, she was! Plath wrote in her January 1955 short story "Tongues of Stone" the following: "Mrs Sneider was the only other one in the sunroom where the girl sat on the sofa with tears crawling like slow insects down her cheeks…" (JPBD 267). Of course, Plath changes the "tears" in the story to "sweat" in the novel, but this is what Sylvia Plath's writing shows us: that through sweat, tears, and through blood, a marvelous, interconnected body of work is created.

Not satisfied with her productivity, Esther states,
I needed experience.

How could I write about life when I'd never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing? (1963: 128)
In my background work for the forthcoming The Letters of Sylvia Plath, I spent a lot of time browsing and reading 1940s and early 1950s issues of Mademoiselle. Imagine how taken aback I was to read a story called "The Hill People" by Elizabeth Marshall (Radcliffe, 1953) published in Mademoiselle August 1952 ... right next to... "Sunday at the Mintons'" by a certain Sylvia Plath! Marshall's story appeared on pages 254, 363-371; Plath's on 255, 371-378.


A biographical sketch for Marshall reads:
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, daughter of Lorna and Laurence Marshall, was born in 1931. She attended Smith College, but interrupted her studies to go to Africa when her father, former co-founder of Raytheon Corporation, retired and decided he wanted to get reacquainted with his family. In 1951, she traveled with her family to what is now Namibia, and the Marshalls undertook ethnographic research on the !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert. (source)
"The Hill People"... In 2004, Harvard held an exhibition called Regarding the Kalahari on the Marshall Family and the Ju/'hoansi !Kung, 1950-1961. "The Hill People" was also published in a spring 1952 issue of the Harvard Advocate and later appeared in The Best Short Stories of 1953 (1954). (See also, Journal of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, 1955: A Finding Aid, held by Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University.)

Are there any instances like these in The Bell Jar that you wonder about?

Another aspect of The Bell Jar that has always struck me is how uneven the novel is. And what I mean by that is its structure. The first thirteen chapters deal with Esther Greenwood's history, if you will: the reasons, people, and experiences that lead her to the brink of self-destruction in her suicide attempt. And yet there are just seven chapters dealing with the aftermath of this. The writing in Chapters 14 through 20 is fragmented, representing the chaos and confusion of waking up alive and being shuttled to several different hospitals. It feels as though there are more short paragraphs… vignettes... which parallels the process the re-construction she underwent while recovering in the three hospitals ("patched, retreaded and approved for the road" (257)). Things get a little more… stable or prosy, if you will, when Esther reaches Caplan/Belsize.

Plath first explored the experience of recovery in her short story "Tongues of Stone" mentioned above. "Tongues of Stone" was completed by 28 January 1955, according to her pocket calendar held by the Lilly Library at Indiana University. In the calendar Plath noted that she "rewrote" the story providing it "with new ending" and indicating that she was sending it to a short story contest at Mademoiselle. This came twenty days after her poem "Morning in the Hospital Solarium" (8 January 1955) and eighteen months before she wrote "Miss Drake Proceeds to Supper" between 23 and 26 June 1956, a week after she married Ted Hughes. In Plath's Collected Poems Hughes writes "(She was writing "Miss Drake Proceeds to Supper" on a parapet over the Seine on 21 June 1956.)". However, this would have been difficult considering the newlyweds were still in England on that date according to her passport. The first poem is less definitely about her hospitalization but perhaps some of the imagery is from her time at McLean. "Miss Drake Proceeds to Supper" is more directly about her experiences there, though in the novel Miss Drake's named was changed to Miss Norris.

Because The Bell Jar is so "short" on the back side and because so much is "missing" in terms of details about her recovery, "Tongues of Stone" can be instructive in filling in the gaps of time and memory. In his wonderful Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study (2010), Luke Ferretter writes that Plath "first wrote ["Tongues of Stone"] in autumn 1954 for Alfred Kazin" (60). Plath had been invited after the Fall term started to join Kazin's first semester only course (English 347a Short Story Writing) after meeting and interviewing the professor as an assignment for an article she wrote "The Neilson Professor". The piece was published in the Smith Alumnae Quarterly, Fall 1954.

The day after she finished "Tongues of Stone", 29 January 1955, Plath wrote to her mother about the experience of doing so at Kazin's suggestion in a letter to his budding writer-student. (The letter from Kazin to Plath may not be extant.) Ferretter excellently summarizes Plath's story, both the first draft and its January 1955 revision:
In the story as Plath rewrote it, the heroine, in hospital after a suicide attempt, has managed to secrete two large pieces of broken glass in her shoes, with which she is going to try to kill herself again. That night, however, she has a positive reaction to her insulin treatment and feels better, for the first time since her suicide attempt. The story ends, as Plath wrote to her mother, with dawn instead of night. Lying in the dark, hearing the 'voice of dawn', the heroine feels the 'everlasting rising of the sun' in her (JPBD 275). Clearly, the earlier version of the story ended either with the heroin's having acquired or ha shards of glass. The story, as Kazin said, had no joy. (60)
Set in October, "Tongues of Stone" starts with a girl sitting on a sofa in a sunroom knitting. The main character has lost track of time, a result of insomnia. This is a new detail; a continuation if you will, from how it went down in The Bell Jar. Both the patient in the story and Esther in the novel experience crippling insomnia during the summer before the breakdown. However, in the novel it is related that during recovery Esther had been sleeping in hospital. The nameless girl in the story has given up hope, and in language lifted almost verbatim for The Bell Jar, the speaker thinks, "After a while the would get tired of waiting and hoping and telling her that there was a God or that some day she would look back on this as if it were a bad dream" (JPBD 268).

We are provided in the short story with actions of the patient that are absent from the novel. Going out with a book to sit in the sun and storing apples picked from the orchard under a pillow so that she could eat them in the bathroom, to name two. This is not to say that these are things Plath did; however, they just may be based off her own experiences or those around her. The details, too, of the girls insulin treatment add to the scenes in The Bell Jar, too. Such as the giving of orange juice to "terminate the treatment" being consumed right before dinner (JPBD 270). The Debby character in the story is probably Joan Gilling from the novel.

Late in the story, the patient recalls some details from immediately after "her second birth" (JPBD 272). This again complements scenes from the novel such as the nurse suggesting Esther will meet and marry "a nice blind man" someday (JPBD  272; The Bell Jar 181). Additionally, there are other details such as the patient still feeling quite suicidal well into her confinement at the hospital. She tries to hang herself with a scarf and contemplates harming herself with shards of broken glass as Ferretter mentions above.

In all, "Tongues of Stone" and "Miss Drake Proceeds to Supper" are highly corresponding pieces to writing in The Bell Jar. The earlier work show Plath trying to process her recent experiences. Absent from these are a fuller narrative and plot such as the back stories including boys, college, the guest editorship, etc: the "reasons" that offer some explanation for Esther Greenwood's breakdown and suicide attempt. As her chapter outline for The Bell Jar shows, Plath was able, with time, to fully incorporate and realize (and perhaps purge) the momentous, formative events that she experienced in the early 1950s.

All links accessed 23 February 2015, 10 June 2016, and 5 January 2017.

01 January 2017

Sylvia Plath Article Transcriptions

Happy Sylvia Plath Info Blog New Year!

In the autumn of 2016, I spent a lot of time during my lunch hour at work going to the Boston Public Library to re-examine all the microfilmed newspapers that they hold re-searching for articles on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt. I did this because at the same time I was transcribing all the articles, for you, I felt it was important to re-check everything. Also, I made new scans of some of the articles that originally were of lesser quality because of the great advances made in microfilm readers since circa 2005-2012.

In the end, I found a number of articles that I missed in my previous researches. It is important to admit that I missed them. Some of the articles were from other editions of a particular newspaper issue and I can only think that when I first started looking for these articles in the first place that I did not place as much bibliographic emphasis/attention on these. And some of them I found because they were not at first about Plath, but mention her disappearance and discovery. Such as all the articles on fellow Wellesley resident Penelope Protze, who lived quite close to Plath at 41 Martin Road.

The total articles at the present time stands at 214, which is simply astounding to me considering that when I started the project, I knew of about seven to ten as were recorded in Stephen Tabor's Sylvia Plath: An Analytical Bibliography! And you can see the progress that has been made since I published my first bibliography of articles in my essay "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." I have asked this a number of times and yet no one has seemed to taken up the challenge: If you live or have access to town or university libraries that have microfilm from 1953. Please do consider a visit to see if any newspaper not listed in the bibliography linked below to search for articles on Plath's first suicide attempt. You need only check from 25 to 28 August. Thank you if you do.

The point of this blog post is not to necessary point out how terrible of a researcher I was and/or am, but to let you know that the transcriptions of all the articles are now on my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is. Please visit the Bibliography of Newspaper Articles on Sylvia Plath's First Suicide Attempt in August 1953. In the transcriptions, I tried to be exact so if there was a misspelling in the article, it appears in the document. Also, if word was broken up by a line break, I have placed in square brackets the complete spelling of that word after it. I loaded them in early December, so visitors to this page may have already taken advantage of them. But, also, Google appears to have cached, full-text, most if not all of the articles so I hope this drives interest in Plath and traffic to my site!

I hope truly that you find all of this work useful. If any of you do take the time to search for articles on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt in your own town/college library, please know how grateful I will be.

All links accessed 16 November 2016 and 31 December 2016.

22 December 2016

Sylvia Plath and the Smith Alumnae Quarterly

The Smith Alumnae Quarterly recently launched a fully searchable and downloadable archive of their amazing publications (story). Sylvia Plath featured in a dozen or so from the time she entered Smith through into the 1970s. I have gone through the issues from 1950 through the current Winter 2016 issue and found the following instances either where Plath authored a piece or she was mentioned. I love that the availability of the online archive takes one to the present issue. Fantastic.

I was going to take the rest of the year off blogging to give you a break from me, but this resource is too cool not to mention and fits in with a theme highlighted in the Year in Review 2016 of digitization.
  • February 1951. Sylvia Plath's Letter excerpt (unattributed) to Olive Higgins Prouty
  • Fall 1953. Sylvia Plath's "'Smith Review' Revived"
  • Fall 1954. Sylvia Plath's "The Neilson Professor"
  • Summer 1955. Mentioned: Scholarship to study at Cambridge
  • Spring 1956. Mentioned: An update from Cambridge: how she spent her Christmas break
  • Summer 1956. Mentioned: An update from Cambridge: renewal of Fulbright
  • Fall 1956. Sylvia Plath's "B. and K. at the Claridge"
  • Winter 1957. Mentioned: In a letter from Marianne Moore regarding Fulbright renewal
  • Fall 1957. Mentioned: Regarding Ted Hughes' The Hawk in the Rain and appearing in the Grecourt Review
  • Winter 1958. Sylvia Plath's "Spinster"
  • Spring 1959. Mentioned: Regarding recent publication in Mademoiselle
  • Summer 1959. Mentioned: Regarding Ted Hughes winning Guggenheim
  • Fall 1961. Mentioned: Regarding winning Chelthenham Festival Guinness prize
  • Spring 1962 Mentioned: Larger update about Cheltenham, Saxton grant, The Colossus, periodical publications, and their daughter Frieda
  • Summer 1962. Mentioned: Listing the publication of the American edition of The Colossus
  • Winter 1966. Mentioned: George Steiner's article "Dying is an Art"
  • Spring 1966. Mentioned: Regarding Lois Ames' biography of Plath asking for letters, photographs and recollections: Where are these now???
  • Summer 1966. Mentioned: Listing the publication of the American edition of Ariel
  • November 1966. Mentioned: Listing recent reviews of Ariel
  • April 1967. Mentioned: Regarding Lois Ames' piece in TriQuarterly and her continued "work" on a Plath biography
  • April 1968. Mentioned: Regarding a grant Lois Ames received for her biography on Plath
  • August 1969. Mentioned: Gift made to Alumnae Fund in memory of Sylvia Plath Hughes
  • November 1971. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of The Bell Jar and Crossing the Water
  • April 1972. Mentioned: Margaret Shook's article "Sylvia Plath: The Poet and the College, reprints "Spinster"
  • August 1972. Mentioned: In a letter to the editor
  • November 1972. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of Winter Trees and more on the never-happening Lois Ames biography
  • April 1973. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of Nancy Hunter Steiner's Sylvia Plath: A Closer Look at Ariel and an alumnae's leading a book club discussion
  • November 1973. Mentioned: Judith Kroll's work on Plath
  • February 1975. Mentioned: In Susan Van Dyne's article "Teaching 'Literary Perspectives on Women'" and on Lois Ames' "completed" biography of Plath
  • August 1975. Mentioned: In Alumnae notes
  • November 1975. Mentioned: In article "Smith Writers" and listing of Plath recording for sale
  • February 1976. "Letters from Sylvia", with commentary by Gordon Lameyer and the subject of a poem
  • April 1976. Mentioned: In article and listing and brief review for Letters Home
  • August 1976. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • November 1976. Mentioned: Listings and brief reviews of The Bed Book and Judith Kroll's Chapters in a Mythology
  • February 1977. Mentioned: In alumnae notes about a film project interpreting "Tulips"
  • April 1977. Mentioned: In alumnae notes on Judith Kroll
  • August 1977. Mentioned: In article by Patricia L. Skarda: "The Smith Letter: Expressions of Form and Formlessness"
  • February 1978. Mentioned: In alumnae notes, about getting recollections from students who took English 11 under Plath's instruction
  • August 1978. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice; the second time still soliciting for recollections. 
  • November 1978. Mentioned: In article. 
  • February 1979. Mentioned: "In the News" regarding The Bell Jar film and in regards to recollections. Most interesting this one.
  • April 1979. Mentioned: In an article "The William Allan Neilson Library"
  • November 1979. Mentioned: Listing and brief reviews of Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and in Jon Rosenblatt's Sylvia Plath:The Poetry of Initiation
  • Fall 1981. Mentioned: "Sylvia Plath" on the acquisition of Plath's papers
  • Spring 1982. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of The Collected Poems
  • Summer 1982. Mentioned: In notice for future article regarding Pulitzer Prize and in Judith Kroll's alumnae notes.
  • Fall 1982. Mentioned. Listing and brief review for The Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • Winter 1983. Mentioned: In alumnae notes regarding Marcia Brown Stern's donation of the letters she received from Plath
  • Fall 1984. Mentioned: In article "Posture Picture On the Wall, Who's the Straightest Of Us All?"
  • Winter 1986. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of Above the Oxbow: Selected Writings by Sylvia Plath
  • Spring 1987. Mentioned: In article and in alumnae notes (Jane Anderson and Cindy Stodola Pomerleau)
  • Summer 1987. Mentioned: In articles under collective title, "Mary Ellen Chase in Review" and in Memorial Gifts section
  • Winter 1989. Mentioned: As subject of Susan Van Dyne talk titled "Revising Woman: Uncovering the Creative Process in Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poems" at a conference
  • Summer 1989. Mentioned: In article and in Memorial Gifts
  • Fall 1989. Mentioned: In article
  • Fall/Winter 1990. Mentioned. In alumnae notes
  • Spring 1990. Mentioned. In article on the book Smith Voices: Selected Works by Smith College Women
  • Summer 1990. Mentioned: In Memorial Gifts
  • Spring 1992. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Summer 1992. Mentioned: In article "Between Two Worlds"
  • Fall 1992. Mentioned: In article and in alumnae notes
  • Winter 1992-1993. Mentioned: In alumnae notes regarding Jacqueline Rose's The Haunting of Sylvia Plath
  • Summer 1993. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of Susan Van Dyne's Revising Life: Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poems
  • Fall 1993. Mentioned: In article
  • Winter 1995-1996. Mentioned in article on alumnae Tanya Metaksa and review of a Mary Ellen Chase biography
  • Fall 1996. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Enid Mark)
  • Winter 1997-1998. Mention: In article "A place for poets" and twice in alumnae notes 
  • Summer 1998. Mentioned: In articles, particularly "Primarily Plath" 
  • Fall 1998. Mentioned: On cover and in feature article "" by Susan Van Dyne on Birthday Letters, and in alumnae notes (Enid Mark)
  • Winter 1998-1999. Mentioned: In letters and alumnae notes (Judith Kroll)
  • Summer 1999. Mentioned. In alumnae notes
  • Spring 2000. Mentioned. In article "Smith Myths"
  • Winter 2000-2001. Mentioned: In alumnae notes regarding The Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • Spring 2001. Mentioned. Feature article "True to her words" by Karen V. Kukil
  • Summer 2001. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Fall 2001. Mentioned: Letter to editor and in alumnae notes
  • Winter 2001-2002. Mentioned: In article "Clothes with a past" 
  • Spring 2002. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Summer 2002. Mentioned: In article "A Palette of Words" by Karen D. Brown about Plath's classmate Enid Epstein Mark
  • Spring 2003. Mentioned: In article "The Storm in My Brain" by Mary Seymour
  • Fall 2003. Mentioned: In article "A Collection of Our Own" by Karen V. Kukil
  • Winter 2005-2006. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice
  • Winter 2006-2007. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Spring 2007. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Judith Kroll)
  • Summer 2007. Mentioned: In article "Baskin 101" and in alumnae notes
  • Fall 2007. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice
  • Summer 2008. Mentioned: In brief article "Plath at 75", in a section on poetry, and in alumnae notes (Marcia Brown Stern)
  • Fall 2008. Mentioned: In alumnae profile
  • Winter 2008-2009. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice (Elinor Friedman Klein)
  • Summer 2009. Mentioned: In profile on her professor Elizabeth von Klemperer and in alumnae notes twice (Marcia Brown Stern)
  • Winter 2009-2010. Mentioned: In article on Gloria Steinem, a review of Smith in the 1950s and in 1963
  • Summer 2010. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Fall 2010. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (obituary for Jane Anderson)
  • Winter 2010-2011. Mentioned: In article "The Poet's Room"
  • Spring 2011. Mentioned: In letter to the editor "Sylvia's Other Rooms" by Marcia Brown Stern
  • Summer 2011. Mentioned: In notice about Plath's induction to Poet's Corner in New York City and in alumnae notes twice
  • Winter 2011-2012. Mentioned: In brief article
  • Fall 2012. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Judith Raymo and Amanda Ferrara)
  • Winter 2012-2013. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice (Judith Snow Denison and an obituary for Marcia Brown Stern)
  • Spring 2013. Mentioned: In brief articles "Plath in Pink" and "Poet in a Tree" and in alumnae notes twice
  • Summer 2013. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Judith Snow Denison)
  • Fall 2013. Mentioned: In article "If these dresses could talk", in alumnae notes three times
  • Winter 2013-2014. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Judith Raymo) and in a classified ad to stay in the Dordogne
  • Spring 2014. Mentioned: In alumnae notes and an obituary (Joanne Michelini Piggot)
  • Fall 2014. Mentioned: In alumnae profile
  • Winter 2014-2015. Mentioned: In Editor's Note and in alumnae notes (Elinor Friedman Klein)
  • Summer 2015. Mentioned: In solicitation by Heather Clark for people to talk about Plath for her forthcoming biography
  • Winter 2015-2016. Mentioned: In "Campus Notebook" about the 2017 "One Life" exhibit and in alumnae notes twice
  • Summer 2016. Mentioned: In article "Voices of Her Ancestors" 
  • Winter 2016. Mentioned: In letter to the editor and and article on Smith Alumnae Quarterly digital archive
This is an amazing resource. Not just for Plath material, but to get an idea of what Smith looked like back in the day, its buildings, students and student life, fashion, the design of the periodical, and the topics that were covered. A real rich history of education, women, and more. I am really grateful for this access to the SAQ archive but that will not stop me from stating my regret that a universal search is not available. I understand there must be limits to what repositories can do. My being gratefully ungrateful notwithstanding: thank you Smith College and all involved in this project.

All links accessed 21 December 2016

15 December 2016

Sylvia Plath Year in Review 2016

2016 saw the passing of Ted Hughes' two siblings: Olwyn Hughes in January and Gerald Hughes in August. May they both rest in peace.

I would like to issue a very special thank you to R. M. for his very generous monetary gift to me this year. It was the first time anyone has sent me money via PayPal for the work I do on Sylvia Plath and meant so incredibly much. Thank you R.

I always wonder which posts on this blog readers found the most interesting during the course of any year. This year, the Sylvia Plath Info Blog turned 9 which means next year will be the 10th anniversary. Seems hardly possible! But, I would love to know from you, the readers of the blog, which posts in particular you liked the best -- from 2007 to the present. Are there particular areas of focus that you miss from the early days? Or are there things you feel are being ignored outright? Are you tired of the blog? The blog archive is all available so please do click through each month and leave a comment. It might help me to write/research for new content! The Year in Review is always Sylvia Plath from my perspective and experiences and culls through the months to refresh what went on for me. But we have different lenses through which we read, journey, research, and write about Plath, so I apologize if your particular leaning is not a part of the following.

There were two bigger stories this year. The first I think was the British Library publishing a website that features a slew of Sylvia Plath archival documents in their Discovery Literature: 20th Century micro-site along with all the very good metadata such things require and some contextual essays. Here's a list of them:

British Library holdings:
Smith College holdings:
Contextual articles:
I never blogged about these documents or what the British Library did but instead used Twitter to broadcast the availability of them. This is an interesting way to spread news but I find it a lot more difficult to use as a resource than, say, putting things on this blog or over on my website A celebration, this is. It feels more "placed" in the blog. On the concept of digitization, though, this sort of cooperation between Plath's estate and the repositories that hold her archives is a wonderful step forward for Plath scholarship. I hope there will be more of this kind of thing in the future. It should also be stated, of course, that the British Library also digitized many Ted Hughes papers as well.

Speaking of digitized materials... Washington University at St. Louis also has a small digital presentation celebrating their "Modern Literature Collection : The First 50 Years". They have a page for Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. On the right hand side, scroll down, you will see separate links for Correspondence and Poetry Collections. In the former, there are one letter each from Ted Hughes to Graham Ackroyd and Ian Hamilton; as well as four letters from Sylvia Plath to her late sister-in-law Olwyn Hughes. The poetry collection features "Typescript and autograph drafts with corrections of Adam and the Sacred Nine by Ted Hughes". The exhibit features, also, "May Swenson's recollection of meeting Sylvia Plath at Yaddo in 1959".

The other big news story this year dropped in July when Kirsten Dunst and Dakota Fanning announced they will direct and star and produce a new adaptation of Plath's novel The Bell Jar. We can only hope and pray it is a far better attempt than the 1979 version. I have high expectations for this film, as do many of you I am sure. In August I was honored to give Dunst and Fanning, as well as Lizzie Friedman and Brittany Kahan, two of the film's producers, a tour of the Plath sites in the Boston area that are important to the novel. This was truly one of the most amazing experiences in my 22 years of Plathing. I found all four engaging, inquisitive, and very fun to be around. Casting is ongoing and filming is anticipated to begin in the first months of 2017.

Archives feature, as usual, on this blog. Get ready for a blitzkrieg of links! The year started with a post about the guest book Plath signed at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. A neat find, for sure. And in October I posted on some of the police records held by the Wellesley Police Department that show the then "live" tracking of Plath's disappearance in August 1953. Puts things into perspective. In February I posted what might be the last on the topic of Plath's work for the Press Board at Smith College. The culmination of six years of off-and-on research yielded 55 articles we can more than likely attribute to Plath based on archival evidence. This added voluminously to our understanding of her extracurricular work while an undergraduate, as well as to her practicing the craft of writing in many different genres. Other archival themed posts involved Plath's work on a Smith College publication, Campus Cat, and Smith's recently acquired Letters to Marion Freeman, which I assisted in them acquiring by befriending Ruth Geissler, Plath's great childhood friend.

Photographs of Plath in Venice, Italy, held by the Lilly Library were the topic of an April post and I used Google StreetView to approximately place Plath on the Grand Canal where the snaps were taken. In July I highlight all the old copies of The Bradford that Sylvia Plath would have read and many of which she contributed to when she was a high school student from 1947 to 1950. Like the press releases, this post brought to our attention several new Plath publications that were previously not recorded in any bibliography. I broke the posts up into thirds, one for each academic year: 1947-1948; 1948-1949; and 1949-1950. Photographs and movies of 1950s Benidorm were the topic of a post in August – thanks again need to go out to Gail Crowther for finding them. And also in August I made available PDF's or JPG's of all the articles I found on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt (website). In fact, after reviewing most of the posts this year, it seems like the gross majority of them are listed here. I know I post far less frequently than I used to, but at the same time I hope that these are of higher quality and content.

There were a couple of major auctions this year. Bonhams held sales on 16 March (results) and 15 June (results). Additionally, a rare proof of The Colossus (Heinemann) sold for well above the estimate in a Freeman's auction on 30 September.


This next sale tickles me… In July I found out about an extra special copy of The Bell Jar (Heinemann, 1963, reprint) and tweeted about it. The book was given by Ted Hughes to Nicholas Hughes, and upon his death Frieda Hughes inherited it. It was damaged, so artist that she is, Frieda drew in clever sketches attempting to metaphorically repair them. That tweet led to the University of Victoria in British Columbia acquiring the copy and I was able to see the book in person in October. As part of their announcing the acquisition and celebrating the special collections 50 year anniversary, I was invited out by Christine Walde and Lara Wilson to give a talk. I wrote a 45 minute talk entitled "'She wants to be everything': Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Letters, and Archives". I gave approximately 15 minutes to each subject in their sold-out basketball gym stadium that seats 2,100. Just kidding. To this day I am still surprised at the turnout, which I wrote about in a post on 1 November.

We had a guest post this year from Annika Lindskog (Sweden) of her visit in June to Heptonstall to see Sylvia Plath's grave. Thanks, Annika!

As mentioned above, I added PDF's to my main Sylvia Plath website, A celebration, this is, of all the articles I have acquired on Plath's first suicide attempt. That was the only major update to the website this year, but I am working on something additional for the first suicide attempt page and will unleash that on you shortly. From 1 December 2015 to 30 November 2016, the more popular pages on the website were: Biography, Poetry Works, The Bell Jar, Johnny Panic Synopses, and Prose Works. I thought I would also look at a different metric this year and that metric is duration. The pages that visitors to the website spent the most time on are: Biography, Johnny Panic Synopses, The Bell Jar, Publications, and Works Index. Between the website and the blog there were more than 90,000 hits. That's just incredible: Thank you!

2016 was rather skinny on monographs about Plath. In January and February, two academic press books were published: Sylvia Plath and the Language of Affective States: Written Discourse and the Experience of Depression by Dr. Zsofia Demjen (Bloomsbury Academic) and Mirrors of Entrapment and Emancipation: Forugh Farrokhzad and Sylvia Plath by Leila Rahimi Bahmany (Leiden University Press). In April we learned that Tracy Brain is set to edit a collection of essays called Sylvia Plath in Context to be published by the Cambridge University Press. This is exciting and should provide a variety of essays on wonderful topics. I am working at the moment on two pieces for the book: fingers crossed they are accepted! Gail Crowther's second book, The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath, was supposed to come out in August but there were delays and as of today I am still impatiently waiting for this work. As are you, I am certain. In early December, a book edited by Amanda Golden was published by the University of Florida Press. It is not about Plath, per se, but Plath features in some of the essays in This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. The essay "'Two Sweet Ladies': Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath's Friendship and Mutual Influence" by David Trinidad is wonderful: it's my favorite. But also find essays by poets Kathleen Ossip and Jeanne Marie Beaumont and academics Jo Gill, Anita Helle, and Amanda Golden. With so few books coming out recently I feel that Plath scholars are anxiously waiting for something big to happen...

But there were two books that I was involved in that came to their fulfillment, of sorts. In late May, The Letters of Sylvia Plath was submitted to Faber & Faber. The book has been edited by myself and Karen V. Kukil and we hope to see it out in 2017. We submitted a beast of a book that included all the known letters that we could get our hands on and the manuscript swelled to nearly 3,400 double-spaced pages. This book had been in the works for more years than I can remember so it was wonderful to bring it to completion. I cannot wait for you to read it. At this point in time I am still unable to answer any questions about the book, so please do not ask!

Then in August, on the heels of the Letters book, Gail Crowther and I submitted a book of essays entitled These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. We heavily revised our original essays which were published from 2009 to 2013, and wrote much new content detailing our Sylvia Plath archival research. We present a lot of new information. We hope to see this book out in 2017, too.

Speaking of 2017: this should be an interesting and busy year. If the Letters are published I would expect this to be big news. Also, look for a long-term exhibit to open at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., in June. Dorothy Moss and Karen V. Kukil will bring off One Life: Sylvia Plath and will feature many items from the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College, the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, Emory University, and private collections. It is going to be amazing. Another, smaller Sylvia Plath exhibit will be on view at the Grolier Club in New York City from 21 September for a month or two. As part of this, Karen V. Kukil, Heather Clark, and I will be panelists on a small symposium at the Grolier in October. More details on these as I learn about them. And, speaking of Heather Clark, she is still hard at work on her literary biography of Sylvia Plath (Knopf). More information on this when I have it, too. Lots to look forward to in 2017, for sure.

Thank you all again for reading the blog and for commenting. Thank you to all the librarians and archivists I have bothered ceaselessly this year asking for information, copies, scans, etc. Be safe this holiday season, be happy and healthy, and read Plath. And look forward to the next post on 1 January 2017!

All links accessed 18 and 22 October, 15 November, 11-14 December 2016.

PS: I see it written a lot, on the internet, that Plath's poem "November Graveyard" was about the cemetery at Heptonstall where she is buried. This information likely has come from Ted Hughes' note in the back of the Collected Poems in which he states that the poem was set in Heptonstall. This may be incorrect. A note in Plath's pocket calendar indicates she began this poem on 9 September 1956. This was three days after a walk to a "green lichengrown graveyard" where she read and "pondered" the old stones. In her pocket calendar, Plath did not an indicate where this graveyard was that she visited.

"November Graveyard" was first published in Chequer in the winter of 1956-1957 under the title of ... "November Graveyard". A typescript copy held at Smith indicates she sold it to Mademoiselle in 1958 -- but the poem was not published in that magazine, seemingly, until November 1965! On 18 April 1958, Plath recorded the poem as just "November Graveyard" for Lee Anderson in Springfield, Mass. A short time after this Plath added in the ", Haworth" to the title as when she read the poem for the Woodberry Poetry Room on 13 June 1958, she recited the title as "November Graveyard, Haworth". When Plath made her recording at Harvard, she even wrote the titles out on the reel-to-reel case (below), which is held by the Woodberry Poetry Room. "The scene stands stubborn", indeed.

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.

Interviews