18 January 2009

Sylvia Plath: Did you know...

Did you know that a letter from Sylvia Plath to Stevie Smith from November 19, 1962, is reprinted in Smith's Me, Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1982). The letter appears on page 6. Also on November 19, 1962, Plath was at work on "Mary's Song", the first poem written after her Ariel period concluded.*

*"Death & Co", written five days earlier, was the last poem she included in her original manuscript of Ariel.


Jim Long said...

Hi, Peter. If I may comment on your footnote suggesting that "Death & Co" was the last poem in the original manuscript collection written "before her Ariel period ended". Even Frieda Hughes, in her Foreword to "Ariel: the restored edition", says that, after April 1962, "from this point, all the poems she wrote were in the distinctive Ariel voice" (p.xii) The condition of the manuscript in the "black spring binder" found on her desk after her death, with multiple titles pages with titles filled in and subsequently changed, suggests that the manuscript was still in development, and that the nineteen poems written after mid-November 1962 were intended to be added to the growing collection. As Frieda herself suggests, "In all, she left around seventy poems in the distinctive Ariel voice"(p.xiii)I believe that this included all of the late poems written right up until a few days before her death, which were added to the binder manuscript for the edition published by Ted Hughes. In other words, I believe that the "Ariel period" lasted right up to the date of her death: there were no poems written "after her Ariel period ended"; it ended at her death. Jim Long, Honolulu Hawaii

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi Jim,

Thank you very much for your comment, which I agree with completely. I did not mean to suggest that the Ariel period ended with "Death & Co." I apologize if it came off that way.

We know Plath was forever rearranging her manuscripts looking for the strongest arrangement and selection. The October 1962 outburst is not dissimilar to her creative period at Yaddo in later 1959. These poems comprised much of The Colossus. Similarly, the October 1962 poems would comprise most of Ariel.

I do find the tone of Plath's final poems from January and Febrary 1963 to be quiet different from anything written prior to "Mary's Song". Obviously this is not always the case, I find "The Moon and the Yew Tree" closer in tone and voice to maybe "Mystic." But I see very little in the final poems like "Stopped Dead", "The Rabbit Catcher", "Lesbos", "Lady Lazarus", and the Bee poems...maybe "Gigolo". The October 1962 poems are like something written on a high, on a roll, whereas what came shortly before her death are poems that to me are more assured of themselves. I don't know if I've explained myself well or not. Probably not.

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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 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, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • 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: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • 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.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (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, Volume 1, 1940-1956. 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. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • 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. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • 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. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • 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. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.