31 July 2009

Sylvia Plath - Three Women, The First Revival

This August, director Robert Shaw's version of Sylvia Plath's "Three Women" will be on stage at the Edinburgh Festival.

What you need to know:

Where: Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2LR, Scotland
Phone: 0131 623 3030
Website: Assembly Festival
When: Thu 6th Aug - Mon 31st Aug
Cast: Neve McIntosh, Louisa Clein, Lara Lemon

Thanks to Jo Gill for bringing this to our attention. She and others discussed this on the BBC Radio 4 programme, Woman's Hour, on 30 July. Those in the UK may be able to listen to it...

30 July 2009

Two Plath events

One: If you are in the Northampton, Mass. area this summer and fall, you might want to stop by the William Alan Neilson Library to see their exhibit on Yaddo, "Unconquered by Flames: The Literary Lights at Yaddo", curated by the amazing Karen V. Kukil. The exhibit opens in mid–August and continues through October.

Two: If you are in St. Petersburg, Florida, you can see Paul Alexander's biased play Edge on stage at a theatre called The Studio@620. No longer starring Angelica Torn, this Edge stars Marcy J. Savasano.

620 First Ave. S.,
St. Petersburg, Florida

When: August 6-9, 13-16, 2009, Thurs, Fri, Sat @ 7:00 pm, Sunday Matinees @ 1:00 pm
Pricing: $30 front row seating, $25 general admission, $15 students and seniors,
Phone:727-895-6620
Web: studio620.org

28 July 2009

New article published on Sylvia Plath

Plath Profiles 2 is just around the corner, but in the meantime, Plath is receiving attention in other scholarly journals.

Scott Knickerbocker recently published "'Bodied Forth in Words': Sylvia Plath's Ecopoetics". This paper is in College Literature 36:3, Summer 2009, pages 1-27.

Here is Knickerbocker's abstract:

"Plath demonstrates a combined interest in the texture of the natural world and the texture of language, which in her poems enacts and does not merely represent that world. Her unfortunate categorization as a 'confessional' poet as well as critics’ obsession with her biography have resulted in, on one hand, an underestimation of Plath’s engagement with the “real world” beyond her subjectivity, and on the other hand, an insufficient consideration of the craft and formal properties of her poems. She was, from an early age, drawn to the natural world, although she was equally fascinated by the sounds of language. Plath’s sense of irony and linguistic awareness, that is, puts her in a different category from that of a mere nature lover. Her poetry derives its power from the generative friction between speakers and a nonhuman world that resists figurative appropriation. For Plath, this resistance is itself to be figured forth, creating the formal reverberations with which her poems still startle us."

Thanks to Amanda for pointing out Knickerbocker's paper. If anyone else out there finds a new article on (or has written one), please let me know.

P.S. As of this morning the summer 2009 issue was not listed as the "current" issue on College Literature's website. It is available through Project Muse if you have access to this database.

25 July 2009

Sylvia Plath collections: Critical Quarterly Archives, 1958-1989

The John Rylands University Library at the University of Manchester holds the Critical Quarterly archives, 1958-1989. Within this collection are some Sylvia Plath related materials. The Critical Quarterly was an important publisher for Sylvia Plath and she both placed a number of poems with them, and edited their 1961 supplement (No. 2), American Poetry Now.

The reference code for the collection is GB 133 CQA. The full, online catalogue (finding aid) is online here.

Plath related materials can be found in the following series and files:

CQA1: Papers relating to Critical Quarterly writers and contributors
File 106: Plath, Sylvia ([1961]-18 Oct 1976)

Materials include photocopies of typescripts of "Two Campers in Cloud Country" and "On Deck" and 27 poems by various contemporary poets typed by Plath for American Poetry Now, and other materials.

In CQA1, there is also a Ted Hughes file (CQA1/1/65), which also contains references to Sylvia Plath.

CQA5: Papers relating to poetry pamphlets
File 1: "American Poetry Now" (3 May 1961-3 October 1962)

The Critical Quarterly Archives also contain some correspondence with Linda Wagner-Martin around the time she was writing her biography, Sylvia Plath: A Life (1987). Plath is referred to in the Robin Skelton file (CQA1/1/124), William Logan (CQA1/1/83), and David Holbrook (CQA1/1/60). In the small series "Miscellaneous and unpublished proofs" there is a review of Winter Trees by Eileen M. Aird from 1971.

In and after Plath's lifetime, she had more than a dozen publications in the Critical Quarterly (or its poetry supplements). For a list of Plath's periodical publications, see the periodical publications page of my website. A number of the Critical Quarterly covers can be found here.

21 July 2009

Sylvia Plath's sources

The Bell Jar, often considered depressing by those compelled to see Plath's own end and that of the novel as one and the same, contains in its very first chapter, an indication that everything would be alright for Esther Greenwood. At her internship at Ladies Day magazine, she and the other girls were given presents, which they considered "as good as free advertising." (4) These presents - a reminder of a stressful and dark time - were tucked away for a while. "But later, when I was alright again," Esther says, "I brought them out...and last week I cut the plastic starfish off the sunglasses case for the baby to play with." (4) This statement, perhaps more so than the cliff-hanger ending of the novel, guarantee's a 'happy ending' to The Bell Jar.

The source of a river or lake is the point origination of the water's flow. For Sylvia Plath, a source for much of her creative writing was her journals. Sylvia Plath's Journals, published in full in 2000, act both as diary and notebook, where experiences in Plath's life are captured for two purposes: to record and to recall. A third purpose, to practice, has elements of the first two, I think. The recall aspect of her Journals helps to define it as a writer's notebook and a source for inspiration. The quote above from The Bell Jar has its source from Plath's examination and description of "Mr. and Mrs. Ted Hughes' Writing Table" from Benidorm, Spain, August 17, 1956: "... and a white plastic sunglasses case sewn over with a decorative strewing of tiny white and figured shells, a few green and pink sequins, a plastic green starfish and rounded, gleaming oval shell." (page 259)

Plath's Journals are bursting with these kinds of details - real life jottings that somehow found their way into poems, stories, articles, and her novel - and many more ideas that unfortunately never came to fruition. One can find in Plath's Journals the source for her story "Den of Lions", her poem "Fable of the Rhododendron Stealers", as well as cross-overs, scenes that appear in multiple creations. Even in her earliest journal entries from 1950 and 1951 (most of which are undated) there are the seeds of a couple of her most famous poems: "The Applicant" and "Lady Lazarus". The image of a bell jar itself appears on page 118, from July 11, 1952, shortly before she began employment for the Cantor's in Chatham, Mass.

There is much to be gained by a close reading of Plath's Journals (and Letters Home, for that matter) and a comparison to her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. To a certain degree, it is a way to untangle the life from the myth, and vice versa. That is, if one were inclined to want to untangle...

The above quotes from The Bell Jar are from the Harper & Row edition, 1971.

17 July 2009

Crockett & Wormser

My only vice is that I can't get enough Plath.

In the 14 July 2009, Sotheby's London auction of English Literature, History, Children's Books & Illustrations, there were several Plath items that both sold and failed to sell. The biggest money maker was a first edition of Sylvia Plath's The Colossus (Heinemann, 1960) for £17,500. The copy was signed and inscribed by Plath- on her birthday - to her high school English teacher, Wilbury Crockett. The lot included a Christmas card from 1960 with a note from Plath to Crockett.

Also at this sale were the following Plath items:
Two early manuscripts of Plath's, which sold for £5,000.
Illustrated typescript poem in the form of a handmade "get well" card, which sold for £4,000.
Early typescript poem in the form of song lyrics entitled "Class Song - 1950", which did not sell.
Plath's copy of Edna St. Vincent Millay's The King's Henchman: A Play in Three Acts, which did not sell.

The links includes images, too. I recommend clicking the enlarge and the using the zoom tool. These were the first Plath items sold at Sotheby's since 2006, when some of her original drawings were offered for sale. You can look at the list of Plath items sold by clicking here. Some amazing stuff, for sure. Makes one really wonder what else is out there... Thanks to Philobiblos for the heads up on the auction.

On a completely different note...The poet Baron Worsmer recently published a collection of short stories entitled The Poetry Life (Fort Lee, New Jersey: Cavankerry, 2008). Each of the ten stories are named after a poet. Plath is among them. The other poets are William Blake, William Carlos Williams, Elinor Wylie, John Berryman, Weldon Kees, Anne Sexton, Gregory Corso, Audre Lorde, and Joe Bolton. Thanks to Sarah for bringing this collection and story to our attention.

13 July 2009

Sylvia Plath: Did you know...

Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, like almost every other book by (or about) Sylvia Plath, has an interesting publishing history. It first appeared in 1977 in England, published by Faber in that shockingly orange dust wrapper. It was re-issued in paperback with additional material from the Sylvia Plath Materials held at Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1979*. On January 2, 1979, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams first appeared in the US, published by Harper & Row.

Did you know that Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams was published in Sweden before it was published in the United States? Noveller och annan prosa was published by Trevi (Stockholm) in 1978. The translations were completed by Margareta Tegnemark.

The Harper and Faber contents still do differ, with the Faber edition including two earlier stories Plath wrote in 1949, "The Green Rock" and "A Day in June".

On the heels of the US publication was the Japanese translation Jonī Panikku to yume no seisho : Shiruvia Purasu tanpenshū.

*The Lilly Library acquired the bulk of their Sylvia Plath Materials in 1977 from Aurelia Schober Plath. See http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/guides/plath/plath2.shtml.

09 July 2009

A Poet's Guide to Britain - The Book

This post is a follow-up on the recent BBC Poet's Guide to Britain, which featured Sylvia Plath's poem "Wuthering Heights" (as well as "The Great Carbuncle" and "Hardcastle Crags" a.k.a. "Nocturne" and "Night Walk")...

Amazon.co.uk lists a book version of A Poet's Guide to Britain, Owen Sheer's recent BBC Four series highlight six poets and six poems about inspired by the beautiful British landscape. The cover, left, features nice notches, don't you think? Reminds me of Hilda's hats ("Bile green. They were promoting it for fall, only Hilda, as usual, was half a year ahead of time. Bile green with black, bile green with white, bile green with nile green, its kissing cousin.")!

The product description, pasted below, is rambling. Just read the last sentence to know what the book, a tie-in anthology, will include.

"Six films about six very different poems from six different places in the British Isles. Each film tells the story of a poem - where it comes from, how it works and the nature and reach of its influence and legacy. Each film will be structured as a journey through that particular landscape. Overall these are films that open up not just the ideas of individual poems but also the idea of poetry itself. Each poem will be explored and analyzed in detail with locals and leading figures in the contemporary arts. Presenter Owen Sheers passionately believes that poems, and particularly poems of place, not only affect us as individuals, but can have the power to mark and define a collective experience - our identities, our country, our land. He has chosen six powerful poems, all personal favourites, and all poems that have become part of the way we see our landscape. The tie-in anthology of the series will follow a similar format to the series itself while also offering additional poems about the landscape and nature of Britain."

Look for this book, published by Penguin Classics, around October 29, 2009.

05 July 2009

Updates to Plath's library on LibraryThing

Over the last few months, I've been adding books and information to Sylvia Plath's Library on LibraryThing.

Having recently re-read Plath's Journals (edited by Karen V. Kukil, 2000), I added information about what books Plath was reading, and when. The information contained in the catalog includes the date read and page number in the 2000 Journals of Sylvia Plath (or, in the US, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath).

The best way to find these new books is to search for "Kukil" in the search box when viewing the cataloged books in library.

There is still plenty of information to add, but wanted to let you know that reconstructing her library is a work in progress. If you have information on titles not listed in the library, or information to add to the library, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sincere thanks in advance.

01 July 2009

Plath in Fiction: Another new forthcoming book

If books about (fictionally speaking) Sylvia Plath is your thing, you may be interested in the forthcoming Crossing Washington Square by Joanne Rendell.

The blurb on Amazon.com reads, "A story of two strong-willed and passionate women who are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities, from the author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club.

Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching relevant contemporary women’s stories like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.

The two conflicting personalities meet head-to-heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts…together."

Look for Crossing Washington Square around 1 September. Other titles of interest (read: worth) featuring a fictionalized of Sylvia Plath are the recent The Lost Papers of Sylvia Plath by Grace Medlar and Wintering by Kate Moses.

Thanks to Caroline for pointing this out.
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