11 January 2010

Update from the Archive Day 1

Today was the first day of my research trip at the Lilly Library. I travelled from Boston through Washington DC to Indianapolis by air, and then to Bloomington on the shuttle bus. The total travel time from when I left the house was about 9 hours. It was a beautiful day to fly, the whole eastern seaboard was cloud free: Manhattan and Philadelphia were quite easily spotted. The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia gave way after a while to a flat, snow cover land.

What I focused on today was the correpsondence between 1960 and 1963. Looking for needles in haystacks is never easy and not always rewarding. My reason for spending the day on them is because I am working of a project that must remain ill-defined for now. These letters were at first such a joy to read, but as always after spring 1962 the story takes a turn.

Many of the letters are printed in Letters Home, but not all of them. And while the 1982's Journals are quite transparent about edits and omissions, the letters are not. In Letters Home, an ellipsis usually does mean edited text but one is never quite sure. The letters show moreso than anything I've ever read, how difficult a time it was for Plath. Meeting and/or corresponding with Plath's friends such as Elizabeth Sigmund can help to explain some things: but they are hard to read - and that is putting it mildly.

This letter reading (and comparing to the printed Letters Home) ook most of the day - and by 5 or so my mind was just about fried.

With the remaining time of the day, I called for the first group of manuscripts the Lilly acquired of Plath's; those poems and work sheets from The Colossus and many of the poems written in 1961. The particular poem I called was "Wuthering Heights". The draft of this poem appears on the back of a typed, but unpublished poem entitled "Home Thoughts from London."

The composition of this poem can be dated to late October or early November 1960. The address at the top is 3 Chalcot Square and in the poem Plath mentioned pushing her baby girl in the pram up Primrose Hill. The "Home Thoughts" taken the speaker back to Massachusetts: to it's colorful autumn outside of Boston and to a high school (American) football game. Is it her best poem ever? Clearly not but it was one I didn't realize existed until I started preparing for the trip.

Tomorrow I plan to shift gears and examine clippings. Clippings, clippings, and more clippings.
Hey, I just found out I had an article published in the September 2009 Notes & Queries! The article was co-written by Irralie Doel and Lena Friesen, and gives details about "The Perfect Place" (working title "The Lucky Stone"), the story that Plath published that went unacknowledged for more than four decades! Check it out.


Anonymous said...

Ah, you are such a Plath tease! Looking forward to reading more about your research. How I wish I could be there.....kim

Anna said...

Oh! I'm sooo jealous! I'm dreaming about going one day, too!
Until then, I'm going on a Sylvia Plath tour through the UK some time in March or April ;)


Peter K Steinberg said...

Anna - you should look into applying for a Helm Visiting Fellowship. It gives money towards travel and lodging expenses incurred.

Kim - sorry to be a Plath tease. There are worse things to be I suppose!

Anna said...

Hey, it was a pleasure to stumble across your blog. I am incredibly jealous of your archiving. I was wondering if any letters exist that are not published in 'letter's home'? I am relatively new to Plath, and have been reading my way through her diaries, and the letters that I could find... I didn't really know who to ask. x

Sorlil said...

Any chance you could you post the Home Thoughts poem on here?

Anonymous said...

its lovely to read your report. reminds me of when i visited smith library. good luck peter!

Peter K Steinberg said...

I wish I could post the poem but I'm afraid the copyright police would jump out from behind a snow bank or something.

angelictenderbutton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
angelictenderbutton said...

Peter, that's really s'wonderful that you are spending that much time with Plath's letters.

I can't imagine anything more "intimate" than personal correspondence.

Seeing, as those 40+ have past with both Ted and Nicholas now gone, Frieda's life is moving on from grief, and there you sit in Lilly library on a day in a brand new decade piecing the ellipses together!

Every year when January moves on into February, my finger pull Plath off the shelf. This is always the last full month of her life year after year year, and that kinda of karmic pull gets to me even though I consciously try to ignore it.

Have fun!

Anonymous said...

I always manage to forgive you Peter :-) My time at the Lilly was way too short, likewise Emory. Speaking of, you need to get down to Atlanta - lots of Plath things in those archives......

Melanie Smith said...

Oh to be perusing the archive... You are very lucky Peter :) Thank you for all the info.

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