03 April 2009

Round 2 Recap of Sylvia Plath 2009 Poetry Tournament

Round 2

One word: Bloodbath. "Sheep in Fog" and "Balloons" obliterated their challengers. Poor "Years" was left, like "Words", 'dry and riderless'. "Years", I'm sorry, but everyone "can tell what [you] lack": votes. "Candles" torched "Parliament Hill Fields" (something Guy Fawkes didn't even get to see) but the other competitions were all ties. How interesting!

Round 3 features some really interesting match-ups. "Black Rook and Rainy Weather" versus "Poem for a Birthday" and "Candles" versus "Three Women". I don't know how "Sheep in Fog" versus "Balloons" will turn out; and "Thalidomide" versus "The Rabbit Catcher" offers Plath at her best.

From Sylvia Plath Info

Thanks to those that voted!

Round 4 will be posted on Saturday with the finals appearing Sunday. Also on Sunday, I will start serializing a forthcoming novel about Sylvia Plath and so much more.


panther said...

Colossus : Black Rook in Rainy Weather

Crossing/Winter : Candles

Ariel : Balloons

Ariel Restored : The Rabbit Catcher

I feel "Thalidomide" is a marvellous poem but I am snagged on some comprehension issues with it. "Your"-is that Plath addressing the drug directly ?

Hell, they are all marvellous.

Thanks for the heads-up about the book on Plath and the Cold War. I've just managed to order it second-hand from Amazon.

Anonymous said...

My votes:

Colossus section:
Poem for a Birthday

Crossing/Winter section:
Three Women

Ariel section:
Sheep in Fog

Ariel Restored section:
The Rabbit Catcher

The rabbits are currently running the fastest!

Peter K Steinberg said...

My votes are as follows:

The Colossus: Poem for a Birthday
CTW/WT: Three Women
Ariel: Sheep in Fog
Ariel Restored: The Rabbit Catcher


panther said...

Come on, lurkers, you must have some opinions about these ?

Peter K Steinberg said...

My sentiments exactly. Thanks for that!

Laurie said...

Black Rook



Rabbit Catcher makes me too sad. I recently read Ted's version and the two poems collide, head-on while I watch, helpless.

I do really like Poem for a Birthday, so that was the hardest decision.

And I do appreciate how this caused me to re-visit these pieces.

A new novel?? Interesting!

Sorlil said...

1)Black Rook
2)Three Women
3)Sheep in Fog

Peter K Steinberg said...

This race is heating up! Thanks Sorlil, Panther, Laurie, myself, and Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

1)Poem for a birthday

It may be unfair to pit other poems against this sequence. These poems should probably be judged individually. I feel like "Who" and "Dark House" are too derivative of Roethke to stand on their own. But, as much as I like "Black Rook" and feel its an important poem in Plath's body of work, when I read "Flute Notes on a Reedy Pond" and "Witch Burning" (especially the latter) I feel like the top of my head is melting. Emily Dickinson said: "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off,I know that is poetry." That's what "Witch Burning" does to me.

2)Three Women

I've always said this is Plath at her best.

3) Balloons

The dates of these 2 poems "Sheep in Fog" and "Balloons" give them a poignancy that makes it very difficult to choose, but I think "Balloons" is a more original, and a braver poem.

4)The Rabbit Catcher

Same for this one.

Panther: I think Thalidomide is operating on more than 1 level. So, yes, I think it sounds like she's addressing the drug--but she may be looking at a photo in a magazine of one of the infant victims. I was 14 yrs old in 1962 and remember that those photos were out there in the news magazines. In the poem, while it is about the drug, I think the drug is a metaphor for her own abnormal anxiety that makes it difficult for her to appreciate that her own child is safe--because she sees it through the the dark glass of her own fears. It's a strong poem, but I agree that it's true subject is, perhaps inevitably, uncertain.

--Jim Long

Anonymous said...

Hello, All!

I'm getting to this tourney a bit late, but here are my votes:

Colossus section:
Poem for a Birthday

Crossing/Winter section:

Ariel section:

Ariel Restored section:
The Rabbit Catcher


panther said...

Thanks, Jim, for that.

I do think POEM FOR A BIRTHDAY is truly great, though uneven. I realize I may have contradicted myself, voting for it in one round, then not in the other. But we're spoilt for choice ! As for Roethke, apparently Sylvia and Ted met up with him in London (in 1961 , I think) and enjoyed a meal and liked each other. He was to die only a few months after Sylvia, apparently drowning in a swimming pool after having a heart-attack. I read somewhere recently that the people who owned the swimming pool (on some big estate in Washington state-can anyone recall the name ? ) had it filled in after Roethke's death. . .and had it transformed into a very simple Zen rock garden.

Anonymous said...

According to Allan Seager's bio of Roethke "The Glass House", Roethke did not actually meet Sylvia in 1961. At the time he was in London she was in the hospital, probably with that miscarriage. He asked a mutual friend to send her flowers on his behalf. Later he tried to help Hughes get a job at Univ. of Washington. Roethke died on the estate of some friends (their neighbor's parents) Mr. and Mrs. Prentice Bloedel on Bainbridge Island, outside of Seattle, where the Roethke's has a small house.
--Jim Long

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Roethke....I find it intriguing (or at least interesting) that Plath found so much in his work that she could relate to and use, since his ancestors were German immigrants, just as hers were (his were Prussian) and his father's name was Otto (!). Seager, in his bio, constantly refers to Roethke as 'Ted', and who did Plath marry? Also, the fact that Roethke died by water, the same death that Plath often projected on her father. So, Roethke personified elements of both father and husband. Interesting, no?
--Jim Long

Laurie said...

Very intersting stuff. I remembered that there was a Roethke connection with PfaB--not plagarism but a stylistic 'borrowing' from what I recalled...and it was one of the reasons that early on in this poem smackdown I strayed away from it, although I like it very much. I do love these 'connections.' We novices (or I'll speak for myself!) are so lucky to have you scholars of this subject sharing the wealth information!

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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.