Vanessa Thorpe in Sunday's Observer publishes "Sylvia Plath fans call for a fitting memorial to the poet." Being that two of my good friends, Gail Crowther and Elizabeth Sigmund, were quoted in the article, I have to say outright I knew it was coming. I found both of their comments very sensitive and smart.
The article was supposed to be about Elizabeth's poem "Shep-en-Mut" which appeared in Gail and Elizabeth's paper "A Poem, A Friend", recently published in Plath Profiles 3. But the article took a turn for the dramatic, as they are want to do by the editors wanting to get more hits and sell more papers. Can't fault them there, honestly. But it is a little disappointing to have had some expectation that were dashed and shattered. This is probably my own fault for foolishly being optimistic that Gail and Elizabeth's paper would receive some press, and that this might then give Plath Profiles greater visibility and awareness through an increase in readers and contributions. That being the case, I do agree with the article that Plath's grave is relatively neglected by her family and, along with Gail and many others, I can and would give money to the Church or a fund for more considerate, consistent care. And, I would also encourage those making the pilgrimage not to leave stuff (i.e. crap), however well-intentioned it may be meant to be, on the grave. In addition to the family, it is our own responsibility to care for the grave. However modest the stone may be it is a memorial, it is a tribute.
In the fourth paragraph there is a pretty bad error that I hope will be corrected. The link to a "popular Plath website" is wrong. The link should take readers to Plath Profiles but as of now it sends them to my blog. I appreciate the link and therefore by association the sentiment that my blog is popular, but it is erroneous.
As with any summary or biography of Plath that spans one or two paragraphs, brevity seriously affects accuraccy and clarity. Particularly the third to last paragraph. For any readers new to Plath, courtesy of Thorpe's article, please read the online biography on my website, A celebration, this is. And, please read Plath Profiles.
All this being the case the message of the article is one I must back. The Observer was a supporting newspaper to Plath from 1959 so it is great that they still write about her; so I appreciate the coverage. For decades now the gravesite has been a contested, sensitive issue. Fortunately the name hacking stopped and while I suppose I understand the idea or rationale behind it, it is disrespectful to Plath's memory to do so. Likewise, it is simply disrespectful of her fans and readers to leave mementos which turn, sadly, into rubbish. Take pictures, they last longer.
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.
- 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.
- Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
- Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
- Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, 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. 2000. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books. (Acknowledged in)
- Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
- Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
- Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
- 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. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
- 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. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
- Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
- "Banking on his passion for Plath" by Melissa Davis Haller. UMW Today. Spring 2005.
- "Sylvia Plath's Three Women to be staged in London" by Alison Flood. The Guardian. 3 December 2008.
- "FBI files on Sylvia Plath's father shed new light on poet" by Dalya Alberge. The Guardian. 17 August 2012.
- "There Are Almost No Obituaries for Sylvia Plath" by Ashley Fetters. The Atlantic. 11 February 2013.