14 May 2012

The 50th of Sylvia Plath's First American Colossus


Fifty years ago today, Sylvia Plath's The Colossus was published by Alfred A. Knopf in the United States. A small notice of the publication appeared in that day's New York Times, on page 26.

On 1 May 1961, a year before publication, Plath headed her letter to her mother, published in Letters Home: "GOOD NEWS GOOD NEWS GOOD NEWS!" (417). Plath admitted, "After all the fiddlings and discouragements from the little publishers, it is an immense joy to have what I consider THE publisher accept my book for America with such enthusiasm. They 'sincerely doubt a better first volume will be published this year.'" (417-418). At the end of the letter Plath tells her mother that "I have been writing seven mornings a week at the Merwins' study and have done better things than ever before, so it is obvious this American acceptance is a great tonic" (418). The poems Plath wrote at this time were "In Plaster," "Tulips," "I Am Vertical," and "Insomniac." However, Plath was largely at work on The Bell Jar.

On 14 May 1962, Plath wrote to her mother: "My book officially comes out in America today. Do clip and send any reviews you see, however bad. Criticism encourages me as much as praise" (454).

A brief review in Plath's hometown newspaper, The Boston Globe, appeared on 3 June 1962, on page B22. The reviewer, Herbert A. Kenny, said Plath "writes her poetry with a directness and at time a minor brutality of image that sets her apart from most women poets. Her poems assume a power and poignancy as in her recollections of her grandmother at Point Shirley in Winthrop, one of the finest poems in the book." He continued the brief review by saying, "If some may find in her lines that 'the rats cry out' too much, the skill in language and the vivid workmanship are a compensation, and there is humor."

A bit belated, but, CONGRATULATIONS!

I am working on another post to do with The Colossus that should appear in a few weeks. If anyone cares to guess on what aspect of it - and guesses correctly - you will have our unending respect.

1 comment :

Melanie Smith said...

I am trying to think of a good guess, am sure I will be wrong :)

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