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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