Sylvia Plath’s first published poem was in August 1941. Her first published artwork was a year later in August 1942. This kind of got me thinking: what was Plath’s most successful month in which her work was published? Working with Stephen Tabor’s excellent Analytical Bibliography - as well as publications that I have found that he did not include/know about - I was able to come up with the following counts.
January - 16
February - 11
March - 18
April - 27
May - 27
June - 14
July - 14
August - 24
September - 8
October - 39
November - 26
December - 12
Undated/Unknown - 3
I had to set some limits. Well, I did not have to... But I felt like I should and so I worked with known publications from 1941 through the end of 1963. The reason for this being that although some of those 1963 poems were submitted by Ted Hughes on Plath’s behalf after her death, a number of the publications were, in fact, submitted by Plath prior to her death. Also, for quarterlies I assigned publication in Winter to January, in Spring to April, Summer to July, and Autumn to October. The few undated/unknowns are annual publications.
October is the highest number at 39 publications. Fitting, no? It was her month, after all.
There were 239 publications in total which averages, over the 23 years included in this review, to 10.39 publications per year.
Looking at publications by the month made me also wonder: what was her busiest, most successful year (in terms of the number of publications). The numbers for these, for the same inclusive years, are:
1941 - 1
1942 - 1
1943 - 0
1944 - 0
1945 - 4
1946 - 8
1947 - 7
1948 - 2
1949 - 6
1950 - 8
1951 - 4
1952 - 23
1953 - 18
1954 - 6
1955 - 7
1956 - 17
1957 - 14
1958 - 7
1959 - 35
1960 - 18
1961 - 16
1962 - 20
1963 - 17
A great many of the 1952 and 1953 publications came anonymously as little articles in regional newspapers around Smith College during Plath’s stint on Press Board. She did publish poetry and prose too, but the drop in 1953 is noticeable, as is the slow recovery in 1954 and 1955 as she herself recovered from her nervous/exhaustion breakdown and suicide attempt. Plath got her groove back in 1956 and 1957 before the terror of the teaching year at Smith in 1957/58 got the better of her (the majority of publications in 1957 came before she started teaching at Smith and not surprising at all, all of her 1958 publications came after she stopped teaching). 1959 was the busiest year, the majority of her publications coming in poems and articles (with illustrations) in Boston’s Christian Science Monitor; 17 of them to be exact.
By decade - because why not: when one is this far over the deep-end does it really matter how much further down one can go? - the numbers are: 1940s - 29; 1950s - 139; 1960s - 71.
I think these numbers are interesting. In her Collected Poems we can track how many she wrote per year (although we know there to be faults with the current arrangement of poems in the book) but approaching Plath’s poems this way makes them look a bit different. For example, according to her Collected Poems Plath wrote something like 12 poems in 1960 (plus a couple of short stories); but in that year she published 18 times (including multiple poems appearing in single issues of periodicals). So while her poetic creativity and output does not look very impressive or consistent compared to other years - taking into consideration her move to London and the birth of her first child an all - she was quite productive. It also shows that in the early 1960s her work was being very receptively accepted, and consistently so. Of note is that these numbers above do not take into account that she published in the 1960s three books: The Colossus in October 1960 and May 1962 and The Bell Jar in January 1963.
This post celebrates the achievements of Sylvia Plath on the 48th anniversary of her death.
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.