31 October 2007

Plath in translation

One thing the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium taught me is just how far and wide Plath studies extend across this planet. My blog here, with its lists of books by and about Plath grossly under-represents this fact. Therefore, I will start a Plath in translation list, as well as a list of Non-English books about Plath. Please be patient as the list may be slow to develop at first.

29 October 2007

Day four of the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium, continued...

Al. Alvarez and Sally Bayley engaged in a long talk about Alvarez’s friendship with Plath and Hughes. The conversation stayed mostly on the former, despite the opportunity for a longer friendship with the latter. Alvarez started by explaining his role and presence at the Symposium. He asked Sally, when approached, if he was to be a participant or an exhibition! Laughter rolled through the audience.

Alvarez read Plath’s “The Moon and the Yew Tree”, discussing as he did in Voices and Visions how the poem shows two voices, both vying for supremacy. Ultimately, Plath’s true poetic voice triumphed, evidenced in lines such as “I simply cannot see where there is to get to.” On this transformation of Plath’s voice, Alvarez says, “She said fuck it! To hell with all this English gentility.” He also commented that there is “much more life in Plath’s writing about death… There is energy…”

Alvarez was quite candid. At one point his train of thought derailed, so he turned to Sally and questioned, “What the fuck was I saying”.

Alvarez does not keep up with what has been written about Plath, saying that he’s got other things to do. He didn’t want to become a professor of Plathology or Applied Plathology. It was quite humorous. Alvarez is a completely entertaining man, a strong presence in the room. He held his court captivated.
The last session of the day led several panels to go up against Judith Kroll. If anyone attended, please post your thoughts in a comment. I could not attend as Irralie Doel and I presented “Sylvia Plath’s ‘Perfect Place’” to a small six person audience. The story, the working draft titled “The Lucky Stone”, was printed in the 28 October 1961 women’s weekly magazine My Weekly. Someone pointed out that we were also presenting the story on 28 October! Oddly coincidental. Prior to this panel, I did write about it in my 2004 biography of Sylvia Plath. The story, unacknowledged in any Plath bibliography or biography, is set in Whitby, England, a town on England’s east coast Plath and Hughes visited in August 1960.

Lena Friesen read a reference to the story in Letters Home from 9 November 1961. I found the typescript at Smith College and a letter from My Weekly dated 1962 rejecting two other stories “Shadow Girl” and “A Winter’s Tale”, but commenting on how the editor enjoyed “The Lucky Stone” which they published the previous year. Irralie Doel connected the magazine, eventually tracking down a copy of the story. At some point the title was changed to “The Perfect Place”. Plath was also eager to get her works into print, and was generally receptive to changes suggested by editors and their ilk.

Irralie’s paper gave a history of My Weekly and its publishing guidelines, as well as working in images that appears in the story and in Plath’s prose, like “Ocean 1212-W”. My own paper looked at the story in relation to the next large prose project Plath worked on, The Bell Jar, comparing characters, themes, etc. between both the story and the novel.

The panel moderator was Luke Ferretter who presented his paper on the first day of the Symposium. His work on Plath’s prose and women’s magazines is very promising, so please keep your eyes out for that.

Sunday evening included a reception at the Oxford Playhouse, which I missed, taking a pint at the King’s Arms with Gail, Annika, and Petter. The Sylvia Plath Gala Celebration I did attend. Diane Quick gave a spooky, disquieting welcome to the audience before the variety show began. These was a short film which made little sense, an operatic version of “Sheep in Fog”, “The Couriers”, and “The Night Dances” which was odd, doing nothing to three of my favorite Plath poems. Perhaps the two best acts were a scene from The Bell Jar done in drag. I don’t speak only for myself when I say I am glad that the Buddy Willard character exited stage right to reveal to Esther his main course of Thanksgiving dinner. I also enjoyed listening to a full reading of “Three Women”, though the actresses were over-dramatic in parts.

I could not attend the last, final mornins sessions on Monday, 29 October, 2007. So, if anyone was there and wants to submit comments, please do! So, I'm back in London now, heading home tomorrow...

28 October 2007

Day four of the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium

This morning commenced with an informal morning forum on Sylvia Plath websites, led by me. As the crowd was slow to assemble, I held off on my memorial for the late Sylvia Plath Forum moderated Elaine Connell. I discussed three Sylvia Plath web sites, highlighting each websites focus. Anja Beckmann’s www.sylviaplath.de, Elaine Connell’s www.sylviaplathforum, and my own www.sylviaplath.info received some attention. I included slides details some of the towns, cities, states, and countries that I’ve traveled to in order capture physical locations in film of places where Plath lived or places about which she wrote.

For the concluding twenty minutes, several audience members and I got into a small dialogue about Plath websites in general, and I showed a slide show of photographs and book covers that seemed, I think, to entertain. I was so pleased to have had this opportunity to discuss my contribution to Plath’s presence on the web, and am thankful for the feedback received throughout the weekend. Thank you to all who attended this morning’s session, and for those who’ve visited and found use in all three websites.

Tracy Brain talked about “Plath’s Representations”. This was a shorter paper of a longer work while she’ll be discussing in November in London. She was particularly critical, and rightly so, of the way some of Plath’s biographers create a fictional narrative in their purportedly non-fiction works. And, more critical of the lack of sources given when clearly sources would be needed to have supplied such minute detail. It was an interesting talk; a near in subject to one which was also presented on Saturday afternoon.

Langdon Hammer's paper “Plath’s German” discusses Plath’s poems “Lorelei” and “Daddy”. His careful, clear reading really fresh and original.

The afternoon featured some memories of an American actress Linda Gray, who briefly “had a thing” with Al Alvarez in 1964. She met, in the course of their relationship, Assia Wevill and Ted Hughes and many other important figures I’m sure. She sung a song in Hebrew that Assia taught her from Song of Solomon, and recounted just how impressive a man Hughes was. She was clear about not trusting Assia Wevill and finding her to be generally manipulative, though admitted she was stunningly beautiful. This lunch time gossip sessions were well attended, entertaining, and appreciated by the crowd. Anne Alvarez, Al Alvarez’s wife, agreed fully with Linda’s assessment of Wevill.

Al. Alvarez and Sally Bayley conversed quite freely after this. This is a lot to say about this, but you see I’m quite tired at the moment! I will write up my notes Monday about the this conversation and about the rest of the day!

27 October 2007

Day three of the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium

Day three at the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium is done; it was the biggest day on the schedule in terms of featured and guest speakers in included a very big surprise guest.

The morning started with an informal forum on the Plath archives at Smith College, the Lilly Library (Indiana University) and Emory University. Karen Kukil discussed the holdings at Smith, and discussed the differences in their holdings from that of IU or Emory. She also discussed how the archives each came to hold separate, though obviously complimentary collections.

The first round of featured speakers after this forum was Karen Kukil and Robin Peel. Karen’s talk was "Sylvia Plath’s Women and Poetry"; she discussed Plath’s association through the years with women such as Marianne Moore, Lynn Lawner, Elizabeth Bishop, Judith Jones (her editor at Knopf), Assia Wevill, Frieda Hughes, and Anne Sexton. Her paper drew from the collections at Smith, University of Texas at Austin, the Massachusetts Historical Society, Mount Holyoke, and others. All in all, Karen’s talk was completely thorough and lovable presentation by a true professional and expert. After Karen’s talk, she brought up surprise special guest Marcia Brown Stern, Plath’s friend from Smith. Brown (on the right, pictured above with Kukil) addressed a rapt audience, talked about some of her memories of Plath, and even fielded some questions.

Robin Peel’s paper, “Reading Back: Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, and publication” was also a very interesting paper. Peel has moved on slightly from his 2002 book Writing Back, but he hasn’t lost any of his heroic way of mining archives, both Plath’s, Dickinson’s, and others, and presenting new, exciting research findings whilst also filling the audience with further ideas of looking at Plath’s through social, historical, and political contexts.

Lunch was a treat; while the sandwiches left me wanting, Jillian Becker’s conversation with Ben Morgan filled us up. Becker did mention some of the things she discussed in her book Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, but it was wonderful to hear her first hand. She talked about reading Plath’s poems in The Colossus, a collection she still owns, and her reaction to it. Additionally, she talked about some of their outings, to movies, the last weekend, and some of the mistreatment of Sylvia, both before and after Plath’s suicide. She even put down the Sylvia film.

The after lunch special was Anne Stevenson, just back from the US where Poetry (Chicago) gave her some kind of award for being the most neglected but important poet. Stevenson’s paper, "Sylvia Plath and Ruth Beuscher: A tale of two women", roused a already attentive crowd, drawing attention to the ‘relationship’ between SP and RB (nee Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse). Much of the talk drew on information from an unpublished, incomplete work by the late Norman Elrod, “Sylvia Plath and Ruth Beuscher: The Tragedy of a Patient’s Blind Love for her Doctor’”. There is some controversial information either known, withheld, or suspected and should prove a rich, contentious subject for further research.

Christina Britzolakis spoke after Stevenson, giving a “keynote” address. Her paper, “Plath’s Dreamwork” brought Freud out of the closet, dusted him off, and applied itself to some of Plath’s bee poems and her short story, “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams.” It was interesting but a bit over my head.

After the keynote, we were again faced with decisions about which panel and topics to attend. My choice was “Editing Plath” with Fran McCullough, Jonathan Ellis, and special guest Marcia Brown Stern, who fielded more questions from an eager audience. McCullough discussed her 20 year relationship with Plath’s work and the Hughes family, including her falling out with them after the publication of the edited Journals. It was a nice, first-hand account of one of the more controversial and confounding aspects of Plath’s posthumous life, if you will. She likened Plath’s suicide attempt in 1953 with her successful attempt in 1963 this way: Plath’s rejection from Frank O’Connor’s class at Harvard contributed strongly to the former attempt; and the few, negative reviews of The Bell Jar in 1963 to the latter attempt.

Jonathan Ellis’s paper, “That reader over your shoulder: Editing Plath’s letters” was seriously interrupted by chattering, noisy audience members and I frankly missed the first, crucial bits that may have helped me understand his point of view. Sorry. He did gracefully give up some of the time allotted for his paper to Marcia Brown Stern, thus, he could not finish his paper before time was up.

The last session of the day featured four interesting topics, but I chose to sit in on “Images and Viewer of Plath”. Each of the four panelists, Gail Crowther, Neslihan Ekmekçioğlu, Annika Hagström, Philippa Hawker presented interesting and original research, but I quite preferred Crowther and Hagström because, well, I’ll be frank, they stuck to their time slots. Crowther, like me, visits Plath places and has ventured to scary places, like France. Her discussion of Berck-Plage and Finisterre, as places and Plath poems. Her paper, “The playfulness of time” discusses pilgrimages the few and the strong make to Plath places, suggesting that it allows a reader to participate in Plath’s poetry, creating, in a way, a new work. By making a pilgrimage to text, we act as textual voyeurs. I am a strong believer and supporter of this communication and interaction with Plath’s works, and the research shows much originality and promise. Likewise, Hagström’s paper, “Stasis in darkness: Sylvia Plath as a fictive character” shows ingenuity and imagination. Her angle examines the expression, and definition, of Plath in terms of her cultural representation and reception. As a majority of these biofictive representations have appeared since 2000, it suggests that Plath as a major subject of fictive works has yet to peek.

It was a great birthday for Sylvia Plath, and though no one wore party hats or sang songs, Jillian Becker did raise her glass of water – wishing it was wine – to the memory of her friend.

Day two of the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium

The morning started with an informal, optional forum of a new journal called Plath Profiles, conceived by Prof. Bill Buckley of IU Northwest. The journal, which will be online and in print, though in print less frequently, will feature a variety of content ranging from standard academic essays to note and reactions to single poems or groups of poems, to interdisciplinary thoughts to Plath’s work. And much, much more. A second part to the Forum will take place today, to further brainstorm.

Following this, Lynda K. Bundtzen and Tim Kendall presented on very interesting subjects. Bundtzen’s paper “Confession, Contrition, and Concealment in Ted Hughes’s Howls and Whispers”; which is a chapter, or part of a chapter of a longer work on Hughes. Howls and Whispers, for those who do not know, is a small, eleven poem collection printed in limited numbers (110) and intended for ownership by rare book rooms, special collections, or very wealthy private owners. They are poems written in a similar mind to Birthday Letters, but left out for reasons she explains. Unlike Birthday Letters, the poems in Howls and Whispers do not follow a set chronology, which makes it more difficult to get into and through the poems. I likely did her talk no justice just now, but please look forward to her book…

Tim Kendall’s paper, “Sylvia Plath and the purpose of poetry” went through some poems of Plath’s that he called failures. Poems like “Winter Trees”, “Stillborn”, and “The Jailer”. These are poems Plath perfects in other ways, using similar imagery. “Winter Trees”, composed on 26 November 1962, he contends is a “transitional poem”, caught in the unfortunate position between the Ariel poems and the 1963 poems. He gave a careful, considerate reading to both “Winter Trees” and “Words”.

After lunch, I sat in on the panel Plath and Hughes Manuscripts Verso, which featured papers by Emma Hoare (“Double exposure: Plath’s poetry drafts”), Helen Decker (“The shared sheets of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes: The double-sided manuscript collection”) and Uta Gosmann (“Double inscriptions: Plath’s “Amnesiac” and Hughes’s “The Calm”).

Decker stepped up first and talked about a Christmas card from Plath and Hughes in 1960 to their friends Ann and Leo Goodman. Ann, nee Davidow, and Plath met at Smith in the fall of 1950; but after the first semester, she did not return. They maintained friends as correspondents, only occasionally seeing each other before Plath’s death. The paper was well researched and presented, featured nifty PowerPoint slides, and was very enjoyable. Decker compared Hughes’s handwritten note to Plath’s typed note in the card, which harks back to Plath’s description of their writing desk on their honeymoon; Hughes’s side was unkempt; Plath’s in perfect order.

Emma Hoare conducted research at the Lilly Library, and discussed Plath’s re-use of her own manuscripts, which is a very nice and welcome change from the focus of just those manuscripts that Plath and Hughes both wrote on in the creative process. She concentrated on a short story from 1955 titled, “Home is where the heart is” and a nine poems that appear on the verso, each poem written between 1952 and 1955, but most undated. The poems and short story do have an element of “call and response”, to quote Diane Middlebrook. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Uta Gosmann’s paper argues that Plath’s manuscripts develop a character of their own; though she writes on the back of something Hughes composed. In “Amnesiac”, as with other poems, Plath takes ownership through “writing over” and writing “against” Hughes’s play “The Calm”. She points out that Plath tended to write “upside down”, in that she flipped Hughes’s draft over, and the wrote from bottom to top. A nice talk, with the use of an overhead projector which is a lost, but welcome art.

There is so much more to say…Steven Gould Axelrod discussed Plath and Torture, a talk that combined modern day war and its consequences to Plath’s use of torture in her poetry, both as a victim and perpetrator. Linda Wagner-Martin, whom I met that morning over breakfast, discussed her experiences in the Plath archives dating back to the late 1970s and talked, in particular about Plath’s poetry sequence “Poem for a Birthday” which ends the British edition of The Colossus, but was broken apart for the American edition printed two years later.

More to say more to say, but later!

26 October 2007

Book available at Symposium

The new edition of Judith Kroll's Chapters in a mythology: The poetry of Sylvia Plath published by Sutton Publishing is available at the Symposium.

25 October 2007

Day 1 of the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium…

The morning commenced with an opening by Barbara Mossberg. It was a passionate address welcoming all to the event, commenting on Plath’s continued, yet, rising importance internationally as a vital 20th century poet, re-made and re-evaluated, in a sense, in the 21st century.

The first session I attended was the literary panel “Plath, Sexton, and the Literary Market”. The panelists were Luke Ferretter, Jo Gill, and Melanie Waters. Ferretter discussed Plath’s short fiction in relation to the Ladies’ Home Journal and other magazines for women. In particular, he talked about her short stories “In the Mountains” and its successor “The Christmas Heart”, which is held at the Lilly Library. Other stories discussed were “Platinum Summer” and “The Smokey Blue Piano”, unpublished stories also held by the Lilly. The stories and articles that ran in the Ladies’ Home Journal were a focus, as was Plath’s mistaken belief of thinking her stories were LHJ material.

Jo Gill discussed, for the most part, Anne Sexton, and in particular about photographs of the poet compared and contrasted to what Sexton reveals via her “confessional” poetry. How images of Sexton expose, in different ways, words committed to paper. It was an interesting discussion, and no doubt may be expanded upon in her forthcoming Anne Sexton’s Confessional Poetics (University Press of Florida).

Melanie Waters discussed both Plath and Sexton, but spent more time on Plath’s giving a very interesting and compelling re-reading of “Lady Lazarus”. It was a convincing paper, and a welcome re-interpretation of one of Plath’s most well known poems.

The afternoon sessions, I had the fortune and pleasure to moderate “Sylvia Plath Family Romance”. It was a loaded session, with six fulfilling presentations by Susan Bowers, Nick Owen, Kara Kilfoil, Aubrey Menard, Ann Walsh, and Kristy Woodcock. I found it difficult to take notes, pay attention, and keep time, but each presenter was quite respectful and stayed within their allotted 20 minutes. Not to belittle any presentation, I particularly enjoyed Kara Kilfoil’s paper on Frieda Hughes’ somewhat contradictory behavior regarding her mother’s estate; Aubrey Menard’s discussion on Plath’s matrilineal cycle, and Ann Walsh’s expose on Winthrop and “Electra on Azalea Path”. I wish I’d’ve know about her visiting Winthrop this summer as I’d’ve shown her around!!! You know, given her the Winthrop-treatment.

The question and answer session that followed was somewhat passionate, with a dialogue between Richard Larschan and Kara Kilfoil and an anonymous American supplying some quality entertainment.

The highlight of the day, possibly, took place with talks by featured speakers Anita Helle and Richard Larschan. Both concentrate on Plath’s Winthrop background, though each respectfully in very different ways. Winthrop’s day in the sun!! Anita showed rare, possibly never before seen photographs of the young Sylvia Plath, photographs sent to her family from Aurelia from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. She discussed reading the photographs, which involves a very critical knowledge of the history of photography as well as an investigation into the Plath family history. She argues that the photograph album both identifies and produces an identity for Plath, drawing on poems from “Sonnet to Satan” and “Bluebeard” to “Paralytic” as well as some text from Plath’s prose.

Richard Larschan’s discussion on Plath’s non-fiction prose from 1962-1963 (“Ocean 1212-W” and “America! America!” dispelled some of Plath’s mythic exaggeration. He drew on his personal relationship with the Plath family (Aurelia) and deconstructed each piece, separating fact from fiction, biography from autobiography. It was wholly convincing and enjoyable.

A great day; I’ve no idea what took place in the other sessions so any panelists or attendees, please submit comments full of impressions, reviews, etc. that may help to bring about a fuller picture of the important events taking place in Oxford this weekend.

The evening ended at Blackwell's Book Shop on Broad Street with a selection of sandwiches, champagne, and wine. Attendees were treated to a poetry reading of Plath's poems, and original poetry. Books were for sale, conversations were had, and seeds planted for future projects, ideas, and ways of promoting Sylvia Plath.

24 October 2007

The eve of the Sylvia Plath 75th Symposium

Coming to you live from Oxford, a gray day here, with a chilly raw wind. The schedule for the Sylvia Plath Symposium was updated Monday as I flew to England. The picture to the right is from the Oxford University Press bookshop.

Unfortunately, Diane Middlebrook is a late subtraction to the Sunday schedule.

I was able to buy a copy of Eye rhymes: Sylvia Plath's art of the visual from a bookshop in London. I have not have much time to read it, but a glance through the pages was very rewarding in an of itself. My cursory review and feeling beat my expectations; the reproductions alone of Plath's art work knocked me out. The essays by Kathleen Connors, Diane Middlebrook, Fan Jinghua, Langdon Hammer, Sally Bayley, Christina Britzolakis, and an Afterword by Susan Gubar can only add to the books value and importance to Plath scholarship.
Throughout the Symposium I will try to post impressions, reviews of sessions I attend, photographs, details of Plathian fist fights and pub crawls and brawls. Additionally, if anyone participating wants to write up their impressions on sessions, please send me an email and I'll post it here.


Event reminder: Diane Middlebrook at Jesus College

Just a brief reminder of a Sylvia Plath event today!!

Diane Middlebrook will discuss Her Husband: Plath and Hughes, a marriage with Juliet Mitchell on 24 October 2007.

Here are the details:
Time: 1-2.30pm
Date: Wednesday, 24th October 2007
Place: Jesus College, Upper Hall, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England.

22 October 2007

Sylvia Plath broadside "Ariel [and] Morning Song"

In 1977, or before, an unknown publisher printed a broadside of Sylvia Plath's poems "Ariel" and "Morning Song". The image of a nude woman in the fetal position accompanies the text of both poems. The text, due to the background color and the color of the ink, is very difficult to read.

Stephen Tabor's Sylvia Plath: An analytical bibliography does not have much more information than this. An unknown number were printed, and I found no record of any library holding a copy in WorldCat.

Press release: Oxford marks 75 years of Sylvia Plath

From www.booktrade.info

Press Release: Events

Oxford Marks 75 Years Of Sylvia Plath
Posted at 8:50AM
Monday 22 Oct 2007

'Creative Process and Product,' a Symposium to mark 75 years since the birth of the poet Sylvia Plath will be held at Oxford University from 25 to 29 October and will bring together scholars, writers, artists and actors to explore the full range of Plath's work.

The Symposium will include readings from Plath's poetry by some of Britain's leading actors, including Diana Quick, Emilia Fox, Susannah Harker and Tom Hollander at a Gala event on Sunday 28 October.

The Symposium will provide the opportunity to discuss new Oxford research on Sylvia Plath, Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual by Sally Bayley and Kathleen Connors reassesses Plath's juvenilia and role as a visual artist. The book aims to make these aspects of her life known beyond academia and explores the links between different forms of art.

There will be an exhibition in the Divinity School at Oxford's Bodleian Library displaying early editions of Plath's writing and illustrations and exploring the links between words and images.
A series of talks and panel discussions will look at a range of aspects of Plath's work, including her relationship with Ted Hughes, the links in her work between creativity, pain, destruction and pathology and even Plath's role in popular and Cold War culture.

Dr Sally Bayley, who organised the Symposium, said: 'This anniversary is an opportunity not just to review one of the truly iconic figures of 20th century literature but also to reassess her work. Plath's work as an artist is important in itself but also provides new insights into her poetry.'

The Symposium will be accompanied by performance art events. There will be a series of performances of the one-woman play I Wish I had a Sylvia Plath. This show, which uses the last ten seconds of the life of a housewife to explore the life of Plath, received a Fringe First Award for Outstanding New Writing at the Edinburgh Festival, and also received a Stage Award nomination for Best Solo Show.

There will also be a number of films exploring different aspects of Plath's ideas. This includes Lady Lazarus by the late experimental filmmaker Sandra Lahire and The Girl Who Would be God a new animation by Suzie Hanna exploring Plath's journal entries about her feelings of power as she entered womanhood.

For more information, or if you wish to attend any of the events work in more detail please contact Oxford University Press Office on 01865 270046 or email james.worron@admin.ox.ac.uk. Dr Sally Bayley will also be available from 25-29 October to discuss her book Eye Rhymes either by phone or in Oxford.

19 October 2007

Event update: Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium schedule

The Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium programme was updated today. See below. Abstracts and biographies are online now at the Symposium's website. Click the link for the "Full Programme" to download/view them.


Thursday, 25 October

9:00-5:00
All-day registration, Rhodes House

9:00
Continental breakfast, Rhodes House

9:30
Opening, Barbara Mossberg, Rhodes Milner Room

10:00-11:45
Literary panel, Rhodes Milner ~ ‘Plath and Pathology’
Elana Ciobanu, Mary DeShazer, Ralph Didlake, Deborah Phelps

10:00-11:45
Literary panel, large Rothermere ~ ‘Expressing Struggle and Pain’
Beth Martinelli, Pamela Ryan, Ghanim Samarrai, Isabella Wai

10:00-11:45
Literary panel, small Rothermere ~ ‘Plath, Sexton and the Literary Market’
Luke Ferretter, Jo Gill, Melanie Waters

12:00-12:45
Welcome lunch, Rhodes

1:15-2:00
Featured artist exhibition talk, painter Kristina Zimbakova, Oxford Playhouse

1:15-2:15
Literary panel, small Rothermere ~ ‘The Bee Poems’
Georgiana Banita, Bethany Hicok

1:15-3:45
Literary panel, Rhodes Beit ~ ‘Plath Family Romance’
Susan Bowers, Kara Kilfoil, Aubrey Menard, Nick Owen, Ann Walsh, Kristy Woodcock

1:15-3:45
Literary panel, Rhodes Milner ~ ‘Plath in Comparison’
Abdolmajid Eskandari, Hilary Holladay, Adrianne Kalfopoulou, Gary Leising, Anastasia Logotheti, Barbara Mossberg

1:15-3:45
Literary panel, large Rothermere ~ ‘Plath Parallels with Persian and Turkish Women Writers’
Majid Avali & Raja Sekhar, Nafize Sibel Güzel, Nadide Karkiner, Leyli Jamali, Omid Varzande

2:30-3:45
Guest speakers Marianne Egeland and Pamela Norris, Rhodes Beit
Egeland ~ ‘The Use and Abuse of a Poet: The Reception of Sylvia Plath’
Norris ~ ‘Writing the Life as Fiction: Sylvia Plath and the Problem of Biography’

4:00-5:45
Featured speakers Anita Helle and Richard Larschan, Rhodes Milner
Helle ~ ‘“The Photographic Chamber of the Eye: Plath, Photography and the Post-Confessional Muse’
Larschan ~ ‘“What Mightn’t the Sea Bequeath?”: Plath’s Mythical Massachusetts’

6:00-7:00
Wine reception at Divinity School, Bodleian Library exhibition of Plath’s small press books

7:00-9:00
Reception and poetry reading at Blackwell’s Bookshop (P)

8:00-9:15
Featured playwright Elisabeth Gray’s play ‘Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath’, Pilch Theatre (P)

Friday, 26 October

9:00-5:00
All-day registration, Rhodes House

9:00
Continental breakfast, Rhodes House

9:00-9:45
Forum, Rhodes Beit ~ ‘Plath Profiles on-line journal 1’Bill Buckley, Kathleen Connors, Mary Nolan

10:00-11:45
Featured speakers Lynda K. Bundtzen and Tim Kendall, Rhodes Milner
Bundtzen ~ ‘Confession, Contrition, and Concealment in Ted Hughes’s Howls and Whispers’
Kendall ~ ‘Sylvia Plath and the Purpose of Poetry’

12:00-12:45
Lunch, Rhodes House

1:00-2:20
Literary panel, Rhodes Milner ~ ‘Plath and Hughes Manuscripts Verso’
Helen Decker, Emma Hoare, Uta Gosmann

1:00-2:20
Literary panel, small Rothermere ~ ‘Plath’s Influence on Irish, African American, and Indian Writers’
Maria Johnston, Malin Pereira, Raja Sekhar

1:00-2:20
Literary panel, large Rothermere ~ ‘Plath, Motherhood and Marriage’
Annie Finch, Katherine Keenan, Sondra Swedborg

1:15-2:15
Guest speaker Sarah Churchwell ~ ‘Doubletake’ ~ Rhodes Beit

2:30-4:15
Featured speakers Steven Gould Axelrod and Linda Wagner-Martin, Rhodes Milner
Axelrod ~ ‘Plath and Torture’
Wagner-Martin ~ ‘All Those Years in the Archives: A Life with Sylvia Plath’

4:30-6:30
Literary panel, small Rothermere ~ ‘“Lady Lazarus” and Suicide’
Nadia Boudidah Falfoul, Marcia Elis de Lima Françoso, Kamran Javadizadeh, Stephanie Roush

4:30-6:30
Literary panel, Rhodes Beit ~ ‘Plath in Popular and Cold War Culture’
Joan Dargan, Erik Mortenson, Patrick O’Connor, Cornelia Pearsall, Nicola Presley

4:30-6:30
Literary panel, large Rothermere ~ ‘The Bell Jar’
Özlem Görümlü, Esin Kumlu, Elaine Pigeon, Janet Stallard

4:30-6:30
Literary panel, Rhodes Milner ~ ‘The Plath-Hughes Dialogue’
Heather Clark, Diana Conzett, Janne Stigen Drangsholt, Dianne Hunter, Terry Hunter

4:30-5:00
Suzie Hanna’s introduction to animation ‘The Girl Who Would be God’ ~ Oxford Playhouse

5:00-6:30
Hanna/Simmons animation and Lahire films ‘Edge’, ‘Lady Lazarus’ and ‘Johnny Panic’ Top Room, Oxford Playhouse

8:00-8:30
Sarah Purcell’s introduction to Sandra Lahire films ‘Edge’, ‘Lady Lazarus’ and‘Johnny Panic’ Top Room, Oxford Playhouse (P)

8:30-10:00
Lahire films, Hanna/Simmons animation, Top Room, Oxford Playhouse (P)

8:00-8:30
Barbara Mossberg’s introduction to Elisabeth Gray’s play, Pilch Theatre (P)

8:30-9:45
Elisabeth Gray’s play, ‘Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath’, Pilch Theatre, Oxford (P)

Saturday, 27 October

9:00-5:00
All-day registration, Rhodes House

9:00
Continental breakfast, Rhodes House

9:00-9:45
Forum, Rhodes Beit ~ ‘Plath archives at Smith, Lilly & Emory’

10:00-11:30
Featured speakers Karen Kukil and Robin Peel, Rhodes Milner
Kukil ~ ‘Sylvia Plath’s Women’
Peel ~ ‘Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, and Publication’

11:00-12:45
Lahire and Hanna/Simmons animation, Top Room, Oxford Playhouse (P)

11:45-12:45
Lunch, Rhodes House, with Guest speaker Jillian Becker
~ 'The Secret Life of Sylvia Plath' in conversation with Ben Morgan

1:00-1:50
Featured speakers Anne Stevenson/Martin Schaetzle, Rhodes Milner
~ ‘Sylvia Plath and Ruth Beuscher’

2:00-2:50
Keynote speaker Christina Britzolakis, Rhodes Milner ~ ‘Plath’s Dreamwork’

3:00-4:30
Featured photographer Linda Adele Goodine and Featured fibre artist Ann Dingsdale, Rhodes Milner

3:00-4:30
Guest speakers Francis McCullough and Jonathan Ellis, large Rothermere
~‘Editing Plath’

3:00-4:30
Featured and Guest poets Catherine Bowman and Crystal Hurdle, small Rothermere
Bowman’s ‘The Plath Cabinet’
Hurdle’s ‘After Ted & Sylvia: poems’

3:00-4:30
Guest artist Amanda Robins and Siall Waterbright, Rhodes Beit
~ ‘Sylvia Plath as Artistic Inspiration’

4:45-5:45
Forum, small Rothermere ~ ‘Plath Profiles on-line journal 2’
Bill Buckley, Mary Nolan

4:45-6:30
Literary panel, Rhodes Milner ~ ‘Images and Viewers of Plath’
Gail Crowther, Neslihan Ekmekçioğlu, Annika Hagström, Philippa Hawker

4:45-6:30
Literary panel, Rhodes Beit ~ ‘Plath and Pedagogy’
Amanda Golden, Eusebio de Lorenzo Gomez, Kate Gray, Jason Lee

4:45-6:45
Literary panel, large Rothermere ~ ‘Plath and Female/feminist Identity’
Janet Badia, Christina Belcher, Patricia Grisafi, Jessica McCort, Dorothy Wang

8:00-9:15
Elisabeth Gray’s play ‘Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath’, Pilch Theatre, Oxford (P)

Sunday, 28 October
9:00-5:00
All-day registration, Rhodes House

9:00
Continental breakfast, Rhodes House

9:00-9:45
Forum, Rhodes Milner ~ ‘Sylvia Plath Websites’
Guest speaker Peter K. Steinberg with memorial for the late Elaine Connell of Sylvia Plath Forum

10:00-11:45
Featured speakers Tracy Brain and Langdon Hammer, Rhodes Milner
Brain ~ ‘Representing Sylvia Plath’
Hammer ~ ‘Plath’s German’

12:00-12:45
Lunch, Rhodes House, with Guest speaker Linda Gates
~ ‘Being an American in London 1964’

1:00-2:00
Book signing, Rhodes (P)

2:15-4:00
Featured speakers A. Alvarez and Diane Middlebrook, Rhodes Milner
Alvarez ~ ‘My friendship with Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes’ in conversation with Sally Bayley
Middlebrook ~ ‘The Three Caryatids’

4:15-5:50
Literary panel, Rhodes Beit ~ ‘Ariel’
Smita Agrawal, Bora Im, Jennifer Ryan, Chloe Stopa-Hunt

4:15-5:50
Literary panel, large Rothermere ~ ‘Plath, Gender, and Self definition’
Andrew Browne, Vassilis Manoussakis, Janet McCann

4:15-5:50
Literary panel, small Rothermere ~ ‘Plath’s Prose’Ipsita Bhattacharyya, Irralie Doel & Peter K. Steinberg with notes of Lena Friesen

4:30-5:30
Guest speaker Judith Kroll, Rhodes Milner
~ ‘Backstory: Working on Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems (London and Court Green, 1974)’

6:00-7:30
Oxford Playhouse reception

7:30-9:30
Oxford Playhouse performance ~ ‘Sylvia Plath ~ A Celebration’ (P)

Monday, 29 October ~ Panels are free and open to the public

9:00
Continental breakfast, Rhodes House

10:00-11:30
Literary/Art panel, Rhodes Beit ~ ‘Plath and Visuality’
Sally Bayley, Kathleen Connors, Laure de Nervaux

10:00-11:30
Literary panel, Large Rothermere ~ ‘Plath’s Landscapes and Descriptions’
Katherine Hazzard, Bajrang Korde, David Troupes

10:00-11:30
Literary panel, Rhodes Milner ~ ‘Plath as Visionary’
Bill Buckley, Nephie Christodoulides, Anna Dillon, Ananya Ghoshal

11:45
Closing, Rhodes Milner


(P) public events

Open hours
Rothermere Library exhibition of Enid Mark’s ‘About Sylvia’ book of illustrated poems

New edition: Chapters in a mythology: The poetry of Sylvia Plath

Sutton Publishing of Stroud, Gloucestershire, is issuing Judith Kroll's Chapters in a mythology: The poetry of Sylvia Plath in its first UK edition. This edition includes a new, long Foreword by Kroll.

Word on the street is that Sutton is trying to have the book available at the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium; so in addition to your well-read US copies, be on the lookout for this item. There is space on my bookshelf for it, how about you?

Sutton also published Lynda K. Bundzten's eye-opening work, The Other Ariel (2003) and Ronald Hayman *%^$&#* biography, The death and life of Sylvia Plath (2005).

Edge on stage


The one actress play Edge, about Sylvia Plath, written and directed by Paul "Rough Magic" Alexander and starring the lovely Angelica Torn, is now on the Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street, in Manhattan's East Village. The theatres are located on the north side of Bleecker Street, between Lafayette & Mott Streets. Tickets are $35 - $45, the telephone number is 212/239.6200. Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. The play lasts 2 hours, 15 minutes and has one intermission.

For more information, please visit the Edge web site.

18 October 2007

Sylvia Plath collections, Selden Rodman, 1938-1959

The Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University recently posted a new collection to WorldCat, the "Selden Rodman collection, 1938-1959".

Here is the abstract to the collection:
"The collection contains correspondence, poetry, writings, and printed material collected by Selden Rodman from 1938-1959. The collection focuses on Ted Hughes and W.H. Auden, and includes handwritten and typed drafts of poems by Hughes and Auden, correspondence to Selden Rodman, writings by Rodman concerning Auden, printed and manuscript drafts of reviews by Auden, and newspaper clippings. The collection also includes two typewritten poems by Sylvia Plath. The collection sustained heavy fire and water damage prior to acquisition. Some items are not fully intact or may be difficult to read."

According to the staff at the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Library, the two poems are "Full Fathom Five" and "Sculptor".

Selden Rodman is not a name I know; has anyone heard of him? Yale University also owns some Rodman papers, and they have a succinct biography of him here.

17 October 2007

Abstracts online for Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium

Having trouble deciding which of the concurrent sessions to attend based solely on title/topic? Well, your decision just got easier!

For those attending, or wishing they were attending the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium, which starts in eight short days, the abstracts and biographies of Symposium participants have been posted to the Symposium's main web site.

To read them, click the link just above and then click Full Programme.

16 October 2007

Letters of Ted Hughes now available


Today is a good book day!! In addition to Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual, the Letters of Ted Hughes, edited by Christopher Reid, is now available, according to Waterstones and other UK bookshops.


Recently, the Telegraph online serialized excerpts of Hughes's letters regarding Sylvia Plath. This promises to be an invaluable addition to Plath and Hughes scholarship.

Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual


Amazon.co.uk, and other UK bookstores, list that Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual is in stock.

15 October 2007

Event Schedule Update: Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium

A new schedule is available; see posting on 19 October 2007.

Below is the most recent schedule for the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium.

Sylvia Plath collections: Photographs from the Kathryn Irene Glascock Poetry contest records

The Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, featured in posts on 21 June and 27 September, have a selection of images available online as part of their digital collections.

As part of their Glascock Poetry Contest records, they have made available two photographs of Plath. One is from 1955, as a contestant. The second is from 1959, as a judge.

Provided that the links stay consistent, if you click here you will see a search result for the word "Plath".

The 1959 picture was new to me; the 1955 is amongst my least favorite and likely the least flattering photograph of Plath out there.

If the link above does not work, this one should take you straight to the 1959 image.

If the link above does not work, this one should take you straight to the 1955 image.

14 October 2007

Sylvia Plath's "Pigeon Post"

On 18 September I posted about Sylvia Plath broadsides. I referred to a broadside of a poem entitled "Pigeon Post".

On a recent visit to Smith College, I found this poem in the working papers for Plath's Collected Poems. These working papers contain all known versions of Plath's poetry, either in typescript or printed version. It's a very remarkable part of the collection that I didn't know existed. The typescript indicates this to be a poem belonging to the 'Cambridge Manuscript', poems Plath submitted as part of her final examinations as a student at Newnham College, Cambridge University. This dates the poem between 1955 and 1957; but as it was not included in The Collected Poems, it can be presumed to be from 1955.

Only three libraries list themselves as owning this broadside, the University of Chicago, Princeton, and Cambridge University. I obtained a high quality digital scan of the broaside in the mail the other day. It's the poem, centered on the page, on a blue background. There are no other images. The copyright statement reads, "1993 Frieda and Nicholas Hughes". Underneath that is the Turret logo and the following text, "Published by Bernard Stone and Raymond Danowski. The Turret Bookshop, London May 1993".

Pigeon Post

In barren regions
of skeptic fall,
I split my soul
into twin pigeons
and hurled them hard
beyond life's wall to bring me word.

With homing spiral
one drops from heaven,
blue plumage riven
and plucked by peril,
to cry, as I feared:
"I was not given
bed or board."

Bloored to the roost
glides my other bird,
plump-fed, admired,
from an elegant nest
in the fields of hell:
"Mistress, I fared
the well."

13 October 2007

Sylvia Plath event: 28 November, Southbank Centre, London

Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual is the title of an event taking place on Wednesday 28 November 2007, 7:45 P.M, in the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre in London. Tickets are £10, with a limited number available at concession rates.

In this unique, illustrated event, artist Stella Vine joins playwright Elisabeth Gray and poet Clare Pollard to discuss what Sylvia Plath means to them, her continuing legacy, and their perspectives on Plath in the light of these new discoveries. The event is chaired by Sally Bayley.

Sylvia Plath’s position as a cultural icon and as a hugely influential writer is unassailable. With the publication of Eve Rhymes: Sylvia Plath’s Art of the Visual, co-editors Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley present fascinating new material about Plath as a painter and as a reader, and how these influenced her development as a writer.

For more information, or to book tickets, please visit the Southbank Centre's website. http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/visual-arts/productions/sylvia-plath-s-art-of-the-visu-18157

12 October 2007

Event: Diane Middlebrook at Jesus College, Cambridge

Diane Middlebrook will discuss Her Husband: Plath and Hughes, a marriage with Juliet Mitchell on 24 October 2007.

Here are the details:
Time: 1-2.30pm
Date: Wednesday, 24th October 2007
Place: Jesus College, Upper Hall, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England.

This is part of the Gender Studies Public Events Series sponsored by Cambridge University Press.

Other books by Diane Middlebrook:
Anne Sexton: A Biography
Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton
Ovid


Diane Middlebrook, online.

Update: Release of Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Visual of the Art

Update: Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Visual of the Art is shipping from warehouses across the United Kingdom on Monday 15 October, 2007. Look for it in bookshops by mid-to-late week!

11 October 2007

Cheltenham Festival event with Al Alvarez, Kathleen Connors, & Diana Quick

On 14 October, just three days from now, Al Alvarez, Kathleen Connors and Diana Quick will be discussing Plath in different ways.

Title: SYLVIA PLATH
Event Number: 210
Venue: Everyman Theatre Reserved Seating

In Eye Rhymes, marking the 75th anniversary of Sylvia Plath's birth, Kathleen Connors shows on stage for the first time the poet's remarkable pictures and photographs. She joins poet and critic Al Alvarez, one of Sylvia Plath's personal friends, and actress Diana Quick, who reads a selection of her poetry, to celebrate her life and share some fascinating new insights into Plath's extraordinary creativity.

Duration 60 minutes.

Special Note: Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual, edited by Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley will be on sale at the event.

Sylvia Plath collections: Sylvia Plath VI poems

Another Plath manuscript formerly for sale was "SYLVIA PLATH VI POEMS. (A.M.S., autographed manuscript signed)."

This notebook, described in detail below, sold several years ago. The bookseller recently advised me that it may have gone to an institution in New York, though he is unsure which one it may be. I've searched the catalogs of Cornell, Columbia, and NYU, as well as WorldCat and found nothing. If anyone has worked with or seen this notebook, the Loch Ness of Plath manuscripts, please let me know! Paragraphs added by me.

"Wellesley, MA: circa 1944-45, original notebook, signed, ruled pages wire-stitched in original cloth reinforced red paper covers. The title "Sylvia Plath VI Poems" is written in the author's hand on a white label with double ruled red border, and applied to the upper center of the front cover.

"The following description is taken from the letter of authenticity which accompanies the notebook: "Sylvia Plath created this notebook of favorite poems and schools exercises while in the sixth grade at Marshall Perrin Elementary School in Wellesley, Massachusetts during the 1944-5 school year. It is entirely in her holograph and a gummed label on the upper cover reads 'Sylvia Plath VI Poems.' This remarkable piece of Plath iconography includes seventeen (sic) copies in a fair hand of some of her favorite classic poems, from Emerson, Masefield and others. Her school exercises, including lists of spelling 'demons,' holidays, birthdays of significant people, etc. show much personal precocity. In fact, at this point in her life she was unusually happy and highly successful in school, being of extraordinary creativity and intelligence. . .and this seminal artifact of her youth is a missing link to the final terrible genius of Ariel. . ."

"Of particular interest is the neat and orderly text, along with the uniformly attractive penmanship of a sixth grade girl. Her choice of poems, lyrics & prose pieces (totaling nineteen pages) along with her appliqued embellishment of Emerson's "Concord Hymn" are intriguing. There are copious lists of geographic locations, earth formations, famous birthdays, holidays, and perhaps the most insightful and curious is her list of "100 Spelling Demons". This glimpse into the early development of Sylvia Plath, touching directly both her academic and creative spirit, is a unique window unavailable elsewhere. The physical notebook shows very little wear, and is in remarkably fine condition. One of a kind."

The list price on this item, $19,500, was well below that of the Corrected carbon typescripts of Ariel. This item is contemporary with the poems held by the Morgan Library, New York.

10 October 2007

Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual


Oxford University Press has updated the publication date for Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual. Look for availability around 18 October 2007; or, just eight days from now!

Other information:
Price: £25.00 (hardback)
ISBN-13: 978-0-19-923387-8

Eye Rhymes will be for sale at the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium.

In the US, look for availability in December.

Corrected carbon typescripts for Ariel

Plath's Ariel manuscripts are held mostly by Smith College. As I reported here, the Houghton Library and Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard hold "Tulips". The recently published Ariel: The Restored Edition is a blessing to Plath scholars. The addition of facsimile typescripts gives the reader an idea of the holdings; though, seeing the real thing cannot be matched. One day, maybe all of her typescripts in facsimile will be available commercially. Not too long ago the following collection of Ariel typescripts was for sale.

In the book world, literary manuscripts are among the rarest of the rare as well as the biggest ticket items. There are a couple of manuscript poems by Plath from the 1940s for sale ("Snowflake Star" and "The King of the Ice"). However, in the last five years or so, two sets of poems were on the market. This post will cover a very rare, interesting set of Plath's Ariel poems that was for sale but was recently removed from the booksellers' online catalog. According to the bookseller, the typescripts sold about six months ago to a private collector.

The description (I've added paragraphs breaks for flow) of the collection is as follows.

"Plath, Sylvia (1932-1963). Corrected Carbon Typescripts for Ariel. 1960-1962. Seventy-five quarto sheets, text on rectos only. Original corrected carbon typescripts for forty poems, twenty-eight of which were published in Ariel (1965); the remaining twelve poems were published in later volumes. The title poem, "Ariel," bears a highly significant and previously unrecorded holograph dedication: "For Al [Alvarez]." Fifteen of the poems have been annotated by Plath in the top right-hand corner with the names of the journals and magazines which had accepted her poems for publication. Most of the poems bear numerous autograph corrections of accidentals throughout (mostly changing colons to periods).

"The present group of typescripts is almost certainly another copy of the carbon typescripts which Ted Hughes mentions in "Publishing Sylvia Plath," as being the scripts from which he selected the poems to be published in Ariel: "She left behind a carbon typescript, its title altered from Daddy to Ariel, its pages littered with minor corrections, containing about thirty-five poems, beginning as now with "Morning Song" and ending with the Bee poems . . . It began with the word "love"` and ended with "spring," as she pointed out . . ." Hughes discusses the same typescript in his introduction to Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems: "Some time around Christmas 1962, Sylvia Plath gathered most of what are now known as the "Ariel" poems in a black spring binder, and arranged them in a careful sequence. . .This collection of hers included almost everything she had written between The Colossus [1959] and July 1962 -- or two and a half years` work."

"In her biography of Sylvia Plath (Bitter Fame, 1989), Anne Stevenson suggests that Plath may have rearranged the text on 15 November 1962: "It contains "Death & Co.," written the day before, but no poem written later. . .The manuscript [i.e. the text] had already been through earlier revisions; there were former titles crossed out on the title page, and the order of certain poems changed, with several of them corrected by hand."

It seems from these descriptions of the typescript that both its contents and its sequence match those of the present series (although "The Swarm" is missing here). It also seems likely that, having gathered the carbon typescripts in the black binder and into what was to be the "final" typescript for Ariel, Plath then annotated the present carbon copies with the names of the journals, her typing corrections and the dedication of "Ariel" to Al Alvarez (the last presumably in or after December 1962). This dedication to Al Alvarez, at that time literary critic for The Observer, is particularly striking in view of the relationship that seems to have grown up between him and Plath during the winter of 1962. In December she had "got in touch with Alvarez to show him the completed manuscript of Ariel. . .Very probably Sylvia was looking for a new man in her life, a relationship that would fulfill her emotionally and intellectually and restore her pride. . .A. Alvarez may well have been Sylvia`s first choice. He was influential, amiable, and attractive; clearly he admired her and fully responded to her new poetry. In his memoir Alvarez implies that his relationship with Sylvia was no more than literary, yet he confesses frankly to a bleak feeling of having let her down." (Anne Stevenson, Bitter Fame, 1989). Alvarez himself comments in The Savage God, 1971, on his initial reception of Ariel and Sylvia Plath`s response: "I told her it was the best thing she had done and a few days later she sent me a fair copy of it, carefully written out in her heavy, rounded script, and illuminated like a medieval manuscript with flowers and ornamental squiggles."

"Ted Hughes explained why the Ariel published in 1965 was different from the volume Plath herself had planned. It contained the poems she had written in 1963 and omitted "some of the more personally aggressive poems from 1962." The published Ariel was his "eventual compromise between publishing a large bulk of her work -- including much of the post-Colossus but pre-Ariel verse -- and introducing her late work more cautiously, printing perhaps only twenty poems to begin with. "I`m still not sure whether Ariel would not be a better book if I had kept out everything that followed the "Bee" poems, as in her version. She herself regarded those last poems as the beginning of a new book." The twelve "more openly vicious" poems of the present series which were omitted in the final Ariel volume are: "The Rabbit Catcher," "Thalidomide," "Barren Woman," "A Secret," "The Jailor," "The Detective," "Magi," "Lesbos," "The Other," "Stopped Dead," "Purdah" and "Amnesiac." The poem which is usually known as "The Courage of Shutting-Up" is here entitled "The Courage of Quietness."

"The journals and publications named on some of the typescripts are: The Observer, Partisan Review, Hutchinson Anthology, London Magazine, New Yorker, Mermaid Festival Commission, PEN 1963, New Statesman, Harper`s and The Atlantic Monthly. Several poems are annotated with the names of more than one journal. Judging from the publication of her poems during her lifetime and after her death, it seems that Plath annotated those poems which had already been accepted by the named journals. Plath spoke of "The Moon and the Yew Tree" on the radio in July 1962, and the BBC recorded her reading of "Berck-Plage" on November 17, 1962 -- both of these poems, as well as "The Rabbit Catcher," are marked "BBC." "Medusa" is dated in Plath`s hand "October 16 1962" it is the only dated typescript of the series. On eleven occasions Plath had difficulty in positioning the carbon paper. This resulted in only the top part of the last line of "Berck-Plage" being reproduced, the last line of "Purdah" being added in ink by her, and the last lines, sometimes three or four, of nine poems being retyped directly onto these sheets. A key document in the emergence of the book which established Sylvia Plath`s literary reputation. The vast majority of Plath`s manuscripts were sold to Smith College in the 1970s with the obvious consequence that manuscripts of any importance are virtually unheard of on the market. We have seen nothing to compare in significance with the present typescript offered for sale to the public."

The research value of this collection of corrected carbon typescripts is immense. I am thankful, at least, for such a long narrative description of the collection and do hope it will be available for scholars one day.

08 October 2007

Review of The Unraveling Archive: essays on Sylvia Plath

For more than four decades, Plath's greatest achievement has been her suicide. The focus is displaced, severely, from where it ought to be: on the writing. Certain milestones throughout the decades perpetuated and expanded upon Plath's dark ending. Robert Lowell's introduction to the first American edition of Ariel set the tone, ''These poems are playing Russian roulette with six cartridges in the cylinder.'' His comment is presumably on the poems, but the image reflects more upon her final act. In the 1970s, Plath's fan base grew thanks in part to the feminist movement. However, a vision or label of Plath as a hysterical writer affixed itself to an image of Plath as a strictly suicidal writer. Popular culture refers to Plath in books and television, as well as in the music and film industry. These references continue the stereotypes already mentioned, as a hysterical suicide. Most recently, Fox's House (played by Hugh Laurie) referred to a depressive, pill-popping patient, saying, "You were practically living with Sylvia Plath." Plath scholars have had enough.

Around 1998, however, critical attention to Plath began to change. Publication of Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters coupled with the unsealing of some of Plath's journals and the subsequent issuance of an unabridged addition of the journals set in motion serious review of Plath's works and her placement in literary tradition. Of particular focus in this Plath renaissance has been primary source materials. These are her published and unpublished papers housed in three major literary archives at Smith College, Indiana University, and Emory University. These archives hold her poetry and fiction manuscripts, unpublished letters and journals, rarely discussed artwork, other educational effects, and much more. The result of this re-examination will not be a skipping, sing-songy snap-happy Sylvia Plath. Rather, the result of such investigations may be a better understood woman and poet and maybe, if the right scholar(s) approaches the right materials, a better understanding of her life and its conclusion.

Anita Helle's The Unraveling Archive: essays on Sylvia Plath is a very welcome and long-awaited addition to Plath scholarship. The eleven literary critical essays examine Plath's work and life and each author's experience using Plath's archives connects and informs their topic. Helle writes, "The collection aims to enlarge and enrich the contexts of Plath's writing with the archive as its informing matrix, unraveling tangled connections...." This aim is very much achieved.

Historically, two dates define Plath's writing: 1950 and 1956. Both the published journals and letter start in 1950. Plath's Collected Poems begin in 1956, the year she met Hughes, with a select fifty poems classified as "juvenilia". Even Plath's two major archives divide her life: with some exceptions, the collection at the Lilly Library primarily holds earlier materials and the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Plath's later papers. Plath scholars are no longer content - if they ever were - with the arbitrary division of Plath's writing - and life - into two discrete parts, juvenilia and mature. The essays in The Unraveling Archive look at Plath's total archive. That is, they unite otherwise inextricable collections separated by hundreds of miles.

The essays are divided into the following sections (themes): "The Plath Archive" and "Culture and the Politics of Memory." The essays in the first section concern themselves with "newly published, underutilized, and underrepresented material." (8) Tracy Brain, Robin Peel, Kathleen Connors, and Kate Moses examine various aspects of the Plath archive. Brain discusses Plath's Ariel manuscripts and the recent publication of Ariel: The restored edition. In his survey of Plath's political education, Peel continues to draw out Plath's interest in politics, following up on his 2002 book Writing Back: Sylvia Plath and Cold War politics. Kathleen Connors, mastermind of the 2002 exhibition "Eye Rhymes" and co-editor with Sally Bayley of a forthcoming book under the same title, discusses the riches of Plath's visual works, a skill which was highly developed at an early age. Moses draws on the audio recordings of Plath's voice in a variety of poetry readings and interviews conducted from 1958 through early 1963.

The essays in the "Culture and the Politics of Memory" section reflect "the opening up of critical approaches to Plath and also the explosion of the canon." These essays explore "works that have received less critical attention" but also drawn on the "heightened awareness of the contexts and settings that have mediated our understanding of Plath's multiple identities." (8) Essays by Sandra Gilbert, Ann Keniston, Janet Badia, Anita Helle, Marsha Bryant, Lynda K. Bundtzen, and Diane Middlebrook each present valuable, critical insight and opinion on Plath's work and literary merit. Each helps to continue a theoretical re-evaluation of Plath's critical reception.

Plath scholarship has moved away from over-reading canonized works such as "Lady Lazarus" and "Daddy". Thankfully, there is a movement towards looking at lesser known poems and stories. Each of the essays in the second part examines such works. Gilbert contextualizes culture and history in Plath's 1962 poem, "Berck-Plage". Critics typically pan Plath's use of Holocaust imagery in her poetry, but Keniston attempts to reset this disapproval by assessing a combination of Plath's lyrical technique with her dictionary annotations. Badia looks at Plath's cultural image and interpretation, as well as her status as a cult figure, with particular attention given to her female readers. Anita Helle's essay assesses photographs of Plath as "image events." She also looks at relatively neglected poems such as "The Hermit at Outermost House", "Point Shirley", and "A Winter's Tale", each poem is rich in scenic, photographic detail of places frozen in time and place through Plath's words. Bryant explores the archive of the Ladies' Home Journal, a magazine that published only one of Plath's poems in 1958. The Ladies' Home Journal was Plath's Holy Grail, not just the magazine she most wanted to see her work printed in, but the magazine that also epitomized mid-century American domesticity and what it meant to be a woman in America. Bundtzen and Middlebrook look at the Plath/Hughes creative partnership and poetic influence each had on the other. Bundtzen appraises Plath's poem "Burning the Letters" and Middlebrook compares Plath's "The Rabbit Catcher" with Hughes's Birthday Letters poem of the same name.

With some exceptions, I find the essays in "The Plath Archive" more readable than I do those in the second section. However, as a frequent user of the Plath archives and as a one undergoing training and schooling to be and archivist, perhaps my enthusiasm for the first section is not too surprising. All the essays dig deeply into Plath's archives, however, the focus of the essays by Brain, Peel, Connors, and Moses is placed more centrally on the "stuff" of the archive. I find their use of the materials and the presentation of their findings of such immense importance and interest that it overshadows the theoretical approaches applied to essays in "Culture and the Politics of Memory." More attention is given to reading and interpreting what is physically on the page versus the endless, tricky, and interconnecting "discourse" of academic theory.
I find that theoretical discourse does much less unraveling of those tangled connections than it purports to do. Also, I have never found this kind of criticism understandable, more my own failing than that of the authors.

Plath predicted in her journals that she and Hughes would "publish a bookshelf of books between us before we perish!" Plath perished too soon, but her books do fill a bookshelf. For the most part, books about Plath continue to add substantive analysis and review of her contributions to literature. Anita Helle's The Unraveling Archive: essays on Sylvia Plath is a most welcome addition to my bookshelf of Plath books. Two enthusiastic thumbs up; my only regret is that I do not have more thumbs...

07 October 2007

Third link to Ted Hughes's letters

I have added the third and final link to the Telegraph's serialisation of the forthcoming Letters of Ted Hughes. The letters cover a period from 1969 to 1998, and covers the period of Sylvia Plath publications through the 1970s and 1980s, and through his Birthday Letters.

To see the article and excerpts, please see the post from 6 October.

06 October 2007

Links to Letters of Ted Hughes

As reported earlier today, the Telegraph is running extracts of Ted's letters, with a particular focus on letters to or about Sylvia Plath.

For part one, please click here.

For part two, please click here.

For part three, please click here. (Added 7 October 2007)

New book: Letters of Ted Hughes

Faber will release the Letters of Ted Hughes, edited by Christopher Reid, on 1 November 2007. The Telegraph recently ran an article, announcing their intention to print extracts in the coming days. I do quite adore the Telegraphs honesty in pulling extracts, "We have, inevitably, concentrated on the relationship with Sylvia Plath, the subject of an enduringly prurient, non–literary fascination."

The mammoth 800-page book will retail for £30.00, but if you buy it early - from amazon.co.uk for example, you could save as much as 50%.

Since 2000, large volumes of letters of some of the twentieth centuries greatest poets such as Dylan Thomas and Robert Lowell have been published. These tomes add much to our understanding of the poets lives. A collected letters of Sylvia Plath would be a most welcome addition to this genre. Having read many unpublished letters in the archives held at Smith College, Indiana University, and King's College, Cambridge University, there is valuable, and pertinent information awaiting a wider readership.

A volume this size should come with a warning!

05 October 2007

Sylvia Plath event in London on 20 November

The Programme for the Autumn 2007 term of the MSS: Modern Manuscript Studies Seminar at the Institute of English Studies includes the following event:

Speaker: Tracy Brain (Bath Spa University), "Representing Sylvia Plath"
Date: 20 November 2007
Time: 17:30 - 19:00
Venue: Room NG14

The event will be held in the Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.

Tracy Brain is the author of The Other Sylvia Plath (Longman: 2001).

New book: The Writer's Brush by Donald Friedman

There is a new book out, The Writer's Brush by Donald Friedman. See the link for a complete description of the book.

Sylvia Plath's tempura "Two women reading" is on the cover! This book appears to be on sale nationwide. Plath's artwork, and this one in particular, was one of the highlights of the 2002 Eye Rhymes exhibit at the 2002 Sylvia Plath Symposium at Indiana University. Strangely, though, the image is reversed from that which appears on the a web site announcing the Eye Rhymes exhibit. A color reproduction of "Two women reading" also appears in Kathleen Connors essay, "Visual art in the life of Sylvia Plath: Mining riches in the Lilly and Smith archives," which can be found in Anita Helle's The Unraveling Archive: essays on Sylvia Plath.

Accompanying the books publication is an exhibit. Currently the exhibit is on at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery in NYC through 27 October, 2007.

Anita Shapolsky Gallery
152 E 65th Street
New York, New York, 10021
Phone: 212/452.1094

The exhibit will travel to Cambridge, MA in December. Stay tuned for updates!

03 October 2007

Elaine Connell


It is with great sadness that I report here of Elaine Connell's passing on 1 October 2007.

I met Elaine in February 2003 and spent a week with her, her partner Chris, and Morgan. It was quite a memorable week; they were very good company and made me feel very much at home. Elaine's book Sylvia Plath: Killing the Angel in the House and the Sylvia Plath Forum are great legacies to the Sylvia Plath canon.

Elaine Connell will be missed. Rest in peace.

Schedule update: Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium

A new schedule was made available on 15 October 2007. This schedule, no longer valid, was removed.

Please find below the most recent schedule for the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium.

Updated: Bibliography of authors participating in the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium

The bibliography of authors participating in the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium has been updated.

02 October 2007

Schedule update: Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium

This schedule is no longer valid. Please see the posting for 3 October.

The following is the most recent schedule for the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium, which opens in just 23 days!

01 October 2007

Sylvia Plath collections: Edward Weeks papers, ca. 1934-1989

The Massachusetts Historical Society holds the Edward Weeks papers, ca. 1934-1989. This collection consists of personal papers of Edward Weeks, writer and editor of the Atlantic Monthly magazine. Papers include personal correspondence, lectures, notes on writings, and materials on fishing.

There are some Plath related materials in this collection. I found the following earlier this year.

1) From: Edward Weeks To: Margaret Clapp, 29 January 1957.
Letter discusses Plath's completing her degree at Cambridge. Includes some or all of a letter by Plath detailing her travels and experiences abroad as well as her intention to get a teaching job when she returns to Massachusetts. Weeks sent the letter to Clapp asking, "Is she worth looking into as a possible instructor in English" at Wellesley College, where Clapp worked.

2) From: Margaret Clapp, To: Edward Weeks, 1 February 1957.
Lets Weeks know that she forwarded his note to the English department. She seemed doubtful as Wellesley had "four or five poets already who are so busy creating that the rest of the faculty does the work."

The Edward Weeks papers are unprocessed, so the collection may hold other correspondence to, from, or regarding Plath. Another collection of Weeks' papers is held by the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at the University of Texas, Austin. This collection consists of 69 boxes of correspondence, manuscript works, proof copies, clippings, and other materials. I was unable to locate a finding aid for this collection via the HRC web site.
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