16 June 2010

Speaking This Promise: Bloomsday

Sylvia Plath wrote "Wreath of a Bridal" sometime in 1956 after her marriage to Hughes. Undated in her Collected Poems, it is placed near some of her honeymoon poems such as "Alicante Lullaby" and "Fiesta Melons." Aside from it being referenced in "The Couriers," "Daddy," and a few other poems, "Wreath for a Bridal" is, I think, one of the only poems Plath wrote on her wedding. A companion piece would be Ted Hughes' "A Pink Wool Knitted Dress" from his 1998 Birthday Letters, which begins, "In your pink wool knitted dress / Before anything had smudged anything / You stood at the altar. Bloomsday."

Today is Bloomsday, it was on this day 54 years ago that Plath and Hughes spoke the promise and were wed. The altar is pictured here.

Which poem is "better"? I don't know. Do I/we have to pick one? I think Hughes' is more approachable and certainly less restrictive. But it's supposed to be biographical, if you will, and its retrospective lens does answer to Plath's contemporarily written poem. Plath's rhyme scheme and technical approach is simply something at which to sit back and marvel. In a eerie harbinger that is something we have grown accustomed to in Plath, after "speaking this promise" Plath and Hughes left the altar, left the church, left the city and left the country, and from step to step they pressed forward, in order that "each step hence go famous."

The poem "Wreath for a Bridal" first appeared in Poetry magazine, in January 1957, along with "Dream with Clam-Digger," "Strumpet Song," "Metamorphosis," "Two Sisters of Persephone," and "Epitaph for Fire and Flower" (see cover image of this issue here). These were her first poems in this venerable serial. But, more on Poetry in a subsequent post.

In 1970, the Sceptre Press in Surrey, England, published the single poem Wreath for a Bridal in a limited edition of 100 numbered copies (see image of cover here). If you have a couple of hundred dollars lying about (cause who doesn't, right?) you can own one of these. There are presently four copies for sale via ABEbooks. If this is outside of your means, by all means visit one of the 50 or so libraries that hold copies, according to WorldCat.

2 comments :

Julia said...

Happy Bloomsday!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Cheers! You too! Had a perfect pint of Guinness at lunch to celebrate.

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.

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