24 January 2009

Links, etc. - Week ending 24 January 2009

From Sweden comes Lady Lazarus. This is a website designed and created by Sonja and Florian Flur. Theirs is quite a unique relationship and situation; one that upon reading their webpages will lead many to have questions. The website looks at two living people who identify with Sylvia Plath and Otto Plath. They explore "the possibility of reincarnation and how a person possibly goes from one life to another." The Flur's have several separate webpages and two movies that detail the stories of their lives and some of the interesting connections with the lives of Sylvia Plath, Otto Plath, and Ted Hughes. Having read the pages now a couple of times, I'm still trying to process their story and the possibility of reincarnation. The Flur's are kind enough to include a link for leaving comments, should you have any. The site is beautiful designed, the movies wonderfully shot and edited, and easy to navigate.

From Italy comes "Raccontando Sylvia " ("About Sylvia") by Lorenzo De Feo. On 26 January, at Bibli Library, Rome, there will be a preview of the play "Raccontando Sylvia" ("About Sylvia"). The play - a monologue written and interpreted by Rita Pasqualoni and directed by Lorenzo De Feo - talks about some of the most important moments of Sylvia' life as a woman in a very intimate way. From De Feo, "We enter the Plath's world in the most soft way to highlights her emotions and sufferings without being never disrespectful or vulgar." This is neither a reading nor a presentation of research on Plath the poet-artist but, above all, on Plath the woman, with all her resolution and weaknesses but also her feeling of inadequacy about the society in which she lived. This is still a real situation in which many women can find themselves.The play, after this preview, will be performed at Teatro dei Contrari (Via Ostilia 22, Rome, near Colosseum) - an intimate theatrical place thanks to its warm welcome - in February (8th, 9th, 15th, 16th and 22th).

All these international goings-on! Three Women continues its run at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London through 7 February.

Something for everyone: This spring, HarperPerennial will publish Stonepicker and The Book of Mirrors by Freida Hughes. Stonepicker was originally published in 2001; look for a single volume of The Book of Mirrors this fall.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Peter,
I couldn't help but be intrigued by the idea of these people who identify so closely with Plath that they imagine they are the reincarnation of Sylvia and her father (although the husband seems less intensely involved with the whole concept). My first question would be Why? Why would someone feel compelled to identify so closely with someone whose life turned out so tragically? Of course, I can understand that Sonja feels an affinity for Plath based on the physical resemblance, which is apparent, particularly in her facial structure and her smile. And apparently she has had some difficult times in her life that make Plath's story resonate strongly in her psyche. But resemblance and empathy do not equate to identity. I too felt a strong affinity for Plath and her way of experiencing her world. When, as a graduate student, I tried to write a thesis on Plath's poetry, one of my thesis advisors suggested that difficulties arose because the subject "touched too poignantly on old personal scars", which was a very insightful analysis of my problem with writing the paper. I think something similar is afoot with Sonja -- that Plath's story touches on old wounds in her life that make her feel this close personal connection. But reincarnation? I don't think so. And I think her deep identification with Sylvia could be dangerous and if I were her husband I wouldn't encourage it.
As for the movie "Sylvia": I saw it again recently on cable TV and each time I see it I like it less. Mainly for the fact that it makes the story all about their marital difficulties and her possessiveness and jealousy, which are made to seem neurotic -- it's ultimate effect is to blame Sylvia's death entirely on the Hughes betrayal, with little weight given to other factors, such as her long-standing suicidal tendency, or possible medical problems that might have contributed. All in all, it strikes me as a rather cold portrayal of a complex and intense life. Or maybe I'm just so familiar with the story that I no longer respond emotionally to it. Jim Long

Al said...

I agree with Jim's comment above. While I can definitely understand being able to relate to Plath's writing and life, even a physical resemblance to Plath does not make one a reincarnation of her, no matter what talents one possesses. What we know of Plath's personality and life is based on memories, accounts, and her own personal accounts, but these bits of information (no matter the depth, reliability, or quantity) are in no way a substitute for Plath herself.

What strikes me about people who identify as Plath normally do so because of pain; there are probably layers to Plath we have never seen because her life has been lost in a sort of contemporary mythology. I can attest to the fact that even something as intimate as a journal cannot capture the entirety of a person; writings, photographs, and accounts of an individual can expose aspects of someone but do not necessarily form a complete picture of someone. Even if such a portrait were to exist in its entirety, it is simply that: a semblance of the person who lived.

Which is why I am quite honestly disturbed by this "I am Plath incarnate" sort of thing.

"And I think her deep identification with Sylvia could be dangerous and if I were her husband I wouldn't encourage it."

I agree; this deep identification seems to be bordering on some dangerous territory.

Melanie Smith said...

fascinating, but quite disturbing too... I must read over it a bit more.

I cannot say that I believe it but like Anonymous am intrigued by what they have created on the site.

Anonymous said...

how can i leave my massage????

Anonymous said...

Dear Jim and Al,

I thoroughly agree with you. It is really meaningless and futile - even bizarre and dangerous - to identify oneself with a suicidal, a tragic heroine. It is pure suffering and anguish.
But!!! In reality - and for many people reality means the incarnation/reincarnation level- things must be working differently. There is simply no room for any "whys". It happens - if it happens!- and that is all.

Anyway, everything goes exactly the way how it had been promised. Take these lines:

"I may be skin and bones
I may be Japanese (or Swedish)
Nevertheless, I am the same identical woman."

For me these lines means that there are a dozen - or two - possiblke reincarnations. Even a fat pink pig can suddenly cathch the feeling of this sort of a weird sensation. The point I would like to take here is that it is never the human's choice. This phoenix-power (fate? ) comes to you, and never YOU go and take it as a role. In this case,the resemblance is really convincing.

I do take this webpage as another proof for this extraordinary talent,who is constantly justified, permanently reborn and popped up, and palpably here...so a big congratulation for the webpage maker and an even bigger one for Plath who might read all these lines from somewhere above, definitely with red hair.....

Best wishes,
Tinker Jack.

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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.