31 January 2009

Links reviews, etc. - week ending 31 January 2009

Catherine Bowman's long awaited book of poems, The Plath Cabinet, will be published on 1 April 2009 by Four Way Books. Bowman's "Plath" poems have appeared in print in various journals, and she's read them at readings, perhaps most notably at the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Oxford. Come 1 April, we'll be able to see them all. The marketing blurb for this title reads, "Part homage, part exploration, The Plath Cabinet offers a new window onto Sylvia Plath's world, from her hand-made dolls and her passport to a preserved lock of her hair. The Plath Cabinet is not simply an unparalleled biography: it is a memoir in poems, telling the story of Bowman's relationship to Plath and to poetry. The Plath Cabinet is a must-read for Plath-lovers, for anyone interested in memoir and biography, and for all readers of contemporary poetry."

I'd like the thank Jim Long, author of Between Wings: Poems, for letting me know about the publication date.

Harold Bloom's newest series, "Bloom's Guides", a comprehensive research and study guide, features Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar . At $30, this is likely a title you'll find in public or academic libraries, rather than in personal libraries. Nevertheless, Bloom - whose disdain for Plath is well-documented - has done it again, and succombed(?) to the popularity of Plath. I received a review copy, which I hope to start reading shortly. Look for a review on this same, identical blog in mid-to-late February.

Larry Nevin and Jerry Pournelle have joined forces in their forthcoming Escape From Hell. The blurb on this one may prove interesting to some: "Allan Carpenter escaped from hell once but remained haunted by what he saw and endured. He has now returned, on a mission to liberate those souls unfairly tortured and confined. Partnering with the legendary poet and suicide, Sylvia Plath, Carpenter is a modern-day Christ who intends to harrow hell and free the damned. But now that he's returned to this Dantesque Inferno, can he ever again leave?" Look for it on 17 February.

24 January 2009

Links, etc. - Week ending 24 January 2009

From Sweden comes Lady Lazarus. This is a website designed and created by Sonja and Florian Flur. Theirs is quite a unique relationship and situation; one that upon reading their webpages will lead many to have questions. The website looks at two living people who identify with Sylvia Plath and Otto Plath. They explore "the possibility of reincarnation and how a person possibly goes from one life to another." The Flur's have several separate webpages and two movies that detail the stories of their lives and some of the interesting connections with the lives of Sylvia Plath, Otto Plath, and Ted Hughes. Having read the pages now a couple of times, I'm still trying to process their story and the possibility of reincarnation. The Flur's are kind enough to include a link for leaving comments, should you have any. The site is beautiful designed, the movies wonderfully shot and edited, and easy to navigate.

From Italy comes "Raccontando Sylvia " ("About Sylvia") by Lorenzo De Feo. On 26 January, at Bibli Library, Rome, there will be a preview of the play "Raccontando Sylvia" ("About Sylvia"). The play - a monologue written and interpreted by Rita Pasqualoni and directed by Lorenzo De Feo - talks about some of the most important moments of Sylvia' life as a woman in a very intimate way. From De Feo, "We enter the Plath's world in the most soft way to highlights her emotions and sufferings without being never disrespectful or vulgar." This is neither a reading nor a presentation of research on Plath the poet-artist but, above all, on Plath the woman, with all her resolution and weaknesses but also her feeling of inadequacy about the society in which she lived. This is still a real situation in which many women can find themselves.The play, after this preview, will be performed at Teatro dei Contrari (Via Ostilia 22, Rome, near Colosseum) - an intimate theatrical place thanks to its warm welcome - in February (8th, 9th, 15th, 16th and 22th).

All these international goings-on! Three Women continues its run at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London through 7 February.

Something for everyone: This spring, HarperPerennial will publish Stonepicker and The Book of Mirrors by Freida Hughes. Stonepicker was originally published in 2001; look for a single volume of The Book of Mirrors this fall.

21 January 2009

Robert Shaw on Three Women

In today's Guardian, Robert Shaw strikes back at his critics.

Defending his production of Sylvia Plath's Three Women, Shaw picks apart Lyn Gardner's 9 January review. Not having seen the production leaves this blogger at a loss to comment further.

Also on the Guardian's website, Shaw discusses his production in a video feed.

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.

14 January 2009

Another review of Three Women

Rhoda Koenig at The Independent somewhat coldly reviews Three Women by Sylvia Plath.

Koenig picks up on the poetry of Three Women, and some of the consistenices of language and imagery. She like the stage design and Tilly Fortune, and I think the work itself, but little else.

Simon Collings at The Oxford Times also reviews Three Women today. (added subsequently to the Koenig review and link)

Collings points out Plath's mastery as a writer, and compliments the director who ensure that "Each [voice/speaker] is in a self-contained world."

Anyone in England who has seen Three Women, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I'd love to read more opinions on this from people not necessarily being paid to criticize. Thank you in advance.


Three Women publicity photo.
L-R Elisabeth Dahl, Tilly Fortune, Lara Lemon. Credit Marilyn Kingwill

13 January 2009

The Telegraph on Three Women

Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph reviews Sylvia Plath's Three Women.

Cavendish gives a coolish reception to Three Women. He is more critical of the price of admission than just about anything else... At least he seemed moved by the words Plath penned (or typed), and contributes "[Robert] Shaw's lucid, uncluttered staging" which allows for "the work's spellbinding qualities."

11 January 2009

Additional review of Three Women by Sylvia Plath

One more review to post...

Claudia Pritchard at The Independent reviews Sylvia Plath's Three Women today.

Pritchard acknowledges Plath's distinctive voice, but is somewhat critical of Lara Lemon's "Third Voice", saying it is "possibly the most sketchily drawn role." This might be because Plath did not actually experience giving a baby up for adoption, so she could not draw from the storehouse of emotions necessary to pull this voice off. She does compliment director Robert Shaw and Lucy Read's set, which allows for the color of Plath's writing to emerge and be the focus.

09 January 2009

Reviews of Three Women by Sylvia Plath

Reviews started pouring in on 8 January for Robert Shaw's production of Three Women. The reviews continued into the next day. Here are a list of links...

Lyn Gardner at The Guardian (9 January)
A mixed review: while Gardner recognizes the power of Plath's poetry, it's translation from a radio drama to stage doesn't work for her.

Benedict Nightingale at the Times (9 January)
A more enthusiastic review, though Nightingale wishes there was more acting.

Ian Shuttleworth at the Financial Times (8 January)
Shuttleworth's title says it all, "The words do all the work." His review concludes, "Three Women resonates soul-deep, regardless of one’s experiences or one’s sex. But the power is all Plath’s, and nothing to do with the staging."

Fiona Mountford of The Evening Standard at This is London (8 January)
Mountford also seems more optimistic about the text of the poem, versus its being performed. She says, "there can be no getting around the fact that this isn’t a work crying out to be performed in a visual medium."

Heather Neill at Stage.co.uk (8 January)
Neill is also critical of the performance, saying, "This lyrical piece - intimate, luminous and fearless in its imagery - does not, despite the director’s assurances and the actors’ commitment, prove her a dramatist."

Sarah Blissett at Whatsonstage.com (8 January)
Blissett find Three Women to be "thought-provoking." Ultimately, however, she "was left disappointed at the attempt to present a world that Plath had intended for the imagination."

Overall, Plath's Three Women receives praise. Especially when they are looking at the poem, the words. They are more critical when it comes to assigning the title of dramatist to Plath (when even she called this a poem). Most of the reviews make special note to compliment Tilly Fortune's performance as the "Second Voice" who miscarries. Blissett quote just above seems to sum up the feeling of these reviews best.

If any Sylvia Plath Info Blog readers have seen the performance, please submit comments or a review to me via email and I'll post it here!

07 January 2009

Review of Three Women by Sylvia Plath

Viv Groskop at The Guardian reviews the Robert Shaw production of Sylvia Plath's "Three Women" here!

The review is as good as I was hoping it would be. While I am envious of those who are in attendance, at least the text is available for reading and consideration at any time.

03 January 2009

Robert Shaw, Director, on Sylvia Plath's "Three Women"

I received the following letter from Robert Shaw, Director of the revival of Sylvia Plath's "Three Women". "Three Women" commences a five week run at London' s Jermyn Street Theatre this Monday, 5 January 2009. I am posting it on the blog with his permission. The letter, which was attached in an email from Clare Butler, Press Officer for Inside Intelligence, was titled "Why Three Women".

Dear Peter,

I first came upon the text of Sylvia Plath's verse play Three Women in summer 2006, while I was on holiday in Croatia. I didn't know she'd written a play, so for a theatre director always on the lookout for projects, the best ones that give you that heady buzz of excitement when you think of them, it was like a gift. As soon as I read it, I realised that this was a text to uplift and inspire readers and audiences. I had what Peter Brook calls that instinctive knowledge that this is the play that has to be done and it has to be done NOW.

The word now, of course, is relative… It wasn't that quick to get permission. The final agreement only came through in June 2008. I was really in a hurry by then.

The play was written for radio and was first broadcast on August 19 1962, with a cast including the legendary British screen actor Jill Balcon. It describes the emotional journey of three women through pregnancy. One of them gives birth successfully, one of them has a miscarriage and one of them, a student, has to give her baby up for adoption. There was no legal abortion in the days when Plath wrote.

Plath lays bare the inner lives of these three women. She expresses, I think, what every pregnant woman knows but don't usually find the words for. In a way, she validates the everyday routine experiences of being pregnant. Well, that's what this man believes. And there are some great lines and extraordinary images.

What it certainly does is create a response. People behave differently after reading it. When I asked the receptionists at the Croatian hotel to print it out for me, their only interest was in how much they could charge me per page. There were several pages and their eyes were alight in anticipation of the money to be made from this tourist. When I went back to collect it, they wouldn't take a penny from me for printing quite a long document. Their eyes were alight in an entirely different way. It's been like that ever since.

1700 actors (all of them women, I think) applied for the three roles, from as far away as New York and Los Angeles, a well-known film actor among them. How could I afford to employ a movie star? But what a tribute to Sylvia…

Taking a radio play written in verse and making it work on stage is a risk. I have been blessed with the best cast any director could hope for. It's the sort of risk that has to be taken, thrilling and terrifying, inevitable and impossible to predict the result. Rehearsing this show has provided the excitement that only the theatre at its best can give. And it leaves me with a yearning thought - what wonderful dramatic writing would Sylvia Plath have produced if only we could have had her for longer?


Robert Shaw, Director

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