07 March 2009

Sylvia Plath: Did you know...

Sylvia Plath long sought to publish poetry and short stories in The New Yorker, one of the most esteemed periodicals of all time.

Plath received a first reading contract from The New Yorker on 28 February 1961, while she was recovering in hospital from having her appendix removed. The contract came with a check for $100, and meant that Plath would send all her new poetry to them first. To that point, Plath had placed six poems with The New Yorker. Beginning with her first publication of "Mussel Hunter at Rock Harbor" in the 9 August 1958 issue (pictured above), she published also:

"Night Walk" (later "Hardcastle Crags") on 11 October 1958;
"A Winter's Tale" on 12 December 1959; (pictured below)
"Man in Black" on 9 April 1960;
"Water Color of Grantchester Meadows (Cambridge, England)" on 28 May 1960;
"The Net Menders" on 20 August 1960.

Did you know that in Plath's lifetime, after she signed this contract, The New Yorker accepted only three additional poems? "On Deck" appeared on 22 July 1961; "Tulips" appeared on 7 April 1962; and "Blackberrying" on September 15, 1962.

From the time she signed this contract, which was renewed in 1962, Plath had slightly greater success publishing poems in rival magazines such as Harper's, and literary journals such as London Magazine and Poetry.


panther said...

So the first reading contract didn't actually lead to many more poems in the magazine ? Still, it's nice to be given a first reading contract (I would imagine) and $100 was worth so much more in 1961 than it is today.

I get the impression that THE NEW YORKER liked Plath's ornate, rather wordy late-50s work much more than the early-60s stuff, which probably frightened them, being so much more visceral. I understand it frightened a lot of editors. If I was used to well-crafted rather cerebral poetry and then "Daddy" appeared unannounced on my desk, I would have been rather unsettled, too ;)

Lux_Atman said...

My review about the book "Sylvia Plath -AntologĂ­a-" has been published in LUX ATENEA LIBROS.


All the best,


Peter K Steinberg said...

Yes, after "Mussel Hunter at Rock Harbor" she really seemed to hit a streak with The New Yorker. Just like her short stories, once she figured out what they (editors & readers) wanted, she was able to create, partially, based on those tastes.

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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.