16 July 2008

Sylvia Plath collections: Yaddo Records - Update

I recently obtained the details of the Sylvia Plath related files held in the Yaddo Records (New York Public Library). I wrote about this first in April, click here to see that posting. To recap, Plath and Hughes stayed at Yaddo from September - December 1959. It is here that Plath wrote many of the poems that completed her first volume of poetry, The Colossus. Yaddo is located in lovely Saratoga Springs, New York - 199 miles from Boston, 194 miles from New York City, New York, and 4,258 miles from North Pole, Alaska. The New York Public Library obtained these records in 1999.

The main correspondents in the file are Sylvia Plath (and Ted Hughes) and Elizabeth Ames, the Executive Director of Yaddo, though there are others. All material dates from 1959. Below is a list of letters.

1. Elizabeth Ames to Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, typed, undated, 1 p.
2. Sylvia Plath to Elizabeth Ames, typed, 11 February 1959, 1 p.
3. Elizabeth Ames to Sylvia Plath, typed, 13 February 1959, 1 p.
4. Sylvia Plath to Elizabeth Ames, typed, 22 February 1959, 1 p.
5. Elizabeth Ames to Philip Booth, typed, 25 Feburary 1959, 1 p.
6. Elizabeth Ames to John Sweeney, typed, 25 Feburary 1959, 1p.
7. Philip Booth to Elizabeth Ames, typed, 28 Feburary 1959, 2 p.
8. John Sweeney to Elizabeth Ames, handwritten, 6 March 1959, 2 p.
9. Elizabeth Ames to Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, typed, 3 April 1959, 1 p.
10. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes to Elizabeth Ames, typed, 8 April 1959, 1 p.
11. Elizabeth Ames to Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, typed, 12 August 1959, 1 p.
12. Sylvia Plath to Elizabeth Ames, typed, 24 August 1959, 1 p.
13. Sylvia Plath to Elizabeth Ames, typed, 5 September 1959, 1 p.
14. Elizabeth Ames to Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, typed, typed, 16 September 1959, 1 p.

In addition to the correspondence are miscellaneous items, all worth a mention. They hold two copies of Plath's application, which stretches to three pages and includes:

I. Name and address
II. Brief biographical note
III. Plans for work done at Yaddo
IV. Fellowships and awards
V. References (John Sweeney and Philip Booth)
VI. Preferred dates to visit Yaddo

They also have typed "file" notes by anonymously acronymed people - R. E., J. C. , and M. D. Z. R. E. I think is Richard Eberhardt. J. C. may be John Cheever. M. D. Z. I think is Morton Dauwen Zabel. At any rate, M. D. Z.'s comments on Plath are particularly interesting.

The New York Public Library is online here. The section of the library you'll want to contact is the Manuscript & Archives division. The finding aid to the Yaddo Records is online here. The Plath materials are in Box 276 (page 79 of the finding aid). To contact the archives, email mssref at nypl dot org.


Funky Shakespeare said...


I enjoy your informative blog... But I lament the sad fact that you have spent so much time writing about a poet who just isn't worth your time and energy.

I have just begun a blog that tries to explore the reasons why contemporary poetry sucks in comparison to poetry of the past. For some reason, I believe that after the death fo robert Frost, poetry went rapidly downhill. and I argue in my blog that Plath is one of the forerunners of this poetic decline!

I'll hope you'll check out my tongue-in-cheek blog at:


And join in what I hope will be an ongoing blog about the pros and cons of modern poetry.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi Wade aka Funky Shakespeare-

Thank you for your post, and for appreciating my efforts.

Robert Frost passed away approximately 13 days before Sylvia Plath. That is a very rapid decline indeed, considering most of Plath's poetry was written prior to Frost's death.

Kind regards,


Melanie Smith said...

Well, oh dear me, comes to mind.

Thanks for your updates Peter.

Anonymous said...

What were M.D.Z.'s interesting comments on Plath? I'm intrigued!

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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.