09 November 2009

Sylvia Plath: The Disquieting Muse

At 5 p.m. on 13 November 2009, Catherine Bowman will be at the Woodberry Poetry Room. She will be both reading from her collection of poems The Plath Cabinet and playing recordings of poems by Plath (and possibly Ted Hughes and Anne Sexton, too). If you are in the area, please come to the informal event, it is free and open to the public. The Woodberry Poetry Reading is in Room 330 of Lamont Library at Harvard.

In conjunction with this event, I've created a little exhibit entitled "Sylvia Plath: The Disquieting Muse". Items featured in the exhibit include a first edition Heinemann The Colossus, a typescript of "The Disquieting Muses" with a typo, the reel tape boxes from Plath 1958 and 1959 Harvard recordings, and a few other items and photographs. The exhibit will be up for a while. The picture here is intentionally small...

Also coming up next weekend, 13-15 November 2009, the 33rd Boston Antiquarian Book Fair is on at the Hynes Convention Center (T to Copley, Back Bay, Prudential or Hynes). It'll be your chance to start or build upon your collection, or to just gaze and drool over the fine books. Be forewarned, most book sellers have a "You drool, you buy" policy. Pretty Colossus signed by Plath for Theodore Roethke.

6 comments :

panther said...

Thanks for this, Peter.As always, your ability to stay on top of all things Plath is to be applauded. (Sounds of applause.)

I clicked onto the Colossus signed for Roethke and read the interesting auction note there. . .and the cool price-tag !

I had never heard of Roethke when I first read Plath's "The Stones." But then I went to read Roethke's poems. This is my favourite way of discovering a poet-through another poet I admire.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Well, as I work at the Poetry Room this one was easy to be on top of!

I've seen this signed Colossus at the Boston Book Fair before. It's stunningly beautiful.

panther said...

Beautiful, yes. And I like to think of Roethke being in England that time and Plath getting to meet him. I also wonder what he thought of her.

Unfortunately R. did say in some essay or another, in reference to women poets in general (??) something like "Poems by women are little more than a cross stamping of feet." Umm.

Anonymous said...

Panther...unfortunately, I don't think that Roethke left behind any evidence of what he thought of Plath's work. I think the passage you're referring to, on women poets in general, is the first paragraph of his essay on "The Poetry of Louise Bogan" whose work he admired (originally published in Critical Quarterly, Summer 1961, and reprinted in "On the Poet and his Craft", Univ. of Washington, 1965). It's worth reading the whole paragraph:

"Two of the charges most frequently levelled against poetry by women are lack of range - in subject matter, in emotioonal tone - and lack of sense of humor. And one could, in individual instances among writers of real talent, add other aeshetic and moral shortcomings: the spinning-out; the embroidering of trivial themes; a concern with the mere surfaces of life - that special province of the feminine talent in prose - hiding from the real agonies of the spirit; refusing to face up to what existence is; lyric or religious posturing; running between the boudoir and the altar, stamping a tiny foot against God; or lapsing into a sententiousness that implies the author has re-invented integrity; carrying on excessively about Fate, about time; lamenting the lot of the woman; caterwauling; writing the same poem about fifty times, and so on."

Hard to say which of these charges he might have levelled against Plath's work - she certainly can't be accused of "hiding from the real agonies of the spirit". And some might suggest that Roethke himself tended to write the same poem over and over.
--Jim Long

panther said...

Thanks, Jim-it's a while since I read that.

Plath can hardly be found guilty of embroidering trivial themes, either !

Also, Roethke's "Two of the charges most frequently levelled against poetry by women" bothers me somewhat, with its use of the passive. Who exactly has levelled those charges ? Is Roethke in agreement with the charges, or not ? He's being evasive. Which is another poetic sin all of its own.

Marie Augustine. said...

3 de los más grandes poetas

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