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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