16 January 2010

Update from the Archive Day 5 and a half

Bleerb buhb Lilly gungdsr*#@ Plath a09jdnjh!!! Flidpo finger breaking slitherbeck!

What a week! This morning I continued works through Box 7a, reading poems listed (or not) and uncollected in Collected Poems. Most of these works were written before 1955, some contain edit suggestions by professors, annotations by her mother, and so on. Her development from those poems in the 1940s to those written at Smith is so wonderful to see. As it stands if you read Collected Poems, you kind of just jump right into the middle - or even well past the middle. But, working through the poems alphabetically as one does in an archive, the years dissolve away and it's just Plath. Plath being Plath. A new collected poems that goes back to at least 1950 -to bring the poems more in line with the Journals, Stories, and Letters - would be great. However, as not all copies are dated sometimes it would be quite difficult to place some of them. But the right person or people I feel could figure something out. For example, starting around 1947, Plath's poetry started using ;'s to end lines moreso than before - and after her suicide attempt in 1953, a lot of the poetry was lowercase (to begin lines). One thing that was always there was use of exclamation (!) and the em dash (---) to end a line. Just think about those Ariel poems with their heavy use of both --- and !

Once this was done I called for Ted Hughes mss II to read through the letters Hughes and Plath wrote to Hughes' brother Gerald in Australia. And, in the last half hour the sap in me called the Lameyer mss. to see the color photographs and slides of Plath. These are so lovely and wonderful (the cover of Anita Helle's The Unraveling Archive uses one of these pictures) - and the first paper back of Alexander's Rough Magic uses another (the one of Plath up against a tree).

This was a truly great week for the projects I'm working on, made possible by the the Lilly Library's Helm Visiting Fellowship and the support of this blogs readers. If I can quantify for you the result of these five and a half days, I took 149 pages of notes: that's 27.09 pages of notes per day or 3 pages per hour. I've got my work cut out for me once I get back home with regards to hunting through microfilm for full citations for clippings. Updating Plath's library on LibraryThing will be another project that I can work on more leisurely from home. But already this week I've added a title and information to some of the books so keep an eye out! Please excuse whilst I take some time off!

8 comments :

Jennifer Wall said...

Dear Sir:
I have a 1916 Beckwith Concert Grand player piano with 142 piano rolls (majority are German titles) and the interior case is hand-signed Mrs. Emil Plath. I have been able to make a few connections to Sylvia playing a piano as a child, but was wondering if you could add anything? So intriguing!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thanks for your comment Jennifer. Could you send an image of the signature? As far as I know, Aurelia Plath never went by Mrs. Emil Plath. Sometimes she went by Mrs. O. E. Plath. It could, perhaps, be Otto Plath's first wife?

Anonymous said...

Ottos furst wife… Does anyone know anything about her? I would would eat my hat for such information / F

Peter K Steinberg said...

No, but if we were to learn something, I'd bring the salt and pepper.

panther said...

You've more than earned a rest ! 149 pages of notes-even if every page is small,which it might not be-is a lot of notes !

I daresay you DREAM Plath and all her works too, don't you ?

BridgetAnna said...

WONDERFUL blogging, Peter! Wish I'da known you'd be in Indiana, I would have tried to have met up with you---I'm here in Columbus, OH and have travelled to the library in Indiana on several occasions. It is SUCH a fantastic place! I've only gone for I think three days at most--always when the school is on break so that parking is easy. Five days there---whew, that would be a treat and a luxury!

I remember when I first saw her typescript of "The Babysitters" - my favorite poem of hers - and almost... trembling, I suppose. There's a real sense of wonder in holding the same piece of paper your idol once held.

I wonder, was there any ONE thing there that gave you that *shiver* to hold?

Peter K Steinberg said...

BridgetAnna,

Thanks! I wish I'd've known that too, it would have been nice to have someone to talk to...

I'm not sure if anything really gave me the shivers on this trip. I have had that feeling, particularly at Smith seeing her elm plank desk, the outline for The Bell Jar, etc. But, I had a lot of those really special moments where the research was really productive and felt right ("like a well done sum").

I love her scrapbooks; the Lameyer photographs knock my socks off. I love that each visit reveals different findings - even if I look at the same thing. Working in the archive is just a wonderful experience.

BridgetAnna said...

Yes! The Lameyer pics are a sight to behold! They are so intimate it's almost... creepy. At least I remember one of them making me feel that way (you could see part of her breast from the angle the shot was taken (she was wearing a bikini)). But they are gorgeous COLOR photographs of our beloved SP! So rare. I'm glad you went and that you took lots and lots of notes and that we will all benefit from your hard work. Thank you!

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