22 October 2012

Update from the Archives Day 1

What a start to the week. The week of all Sylvia Plath all the time, though saying it like that makes it just like any other week. I met the poet and Plath essayist David Trinidad Sunday evening in Bloomington where we immediately got our Plath on: what a fun, great man and we had some stellar discussions.

Today in the Plath archive at the Lilly Library we worked across from one another, like dueling pianists. He was primarily reading Plath's letters, and being less focused, I was all over the place. I began with the Plath Mss papers - the ones Plath sold in London to a bookseller who was acquring poets papers for the Lilly Library. These are largely poems written in 1960 and 1961, but mixed in are the odd pages of The Bell Jar and short story ("The Fifteen Dollar Eagle"). Not a lot of beefy drafts the way that her later poems are (the ones held at Smith College). However there are fuller files folders for poems such as "Wuthering Heights", "The Surgeon at 2 A.M." and "Private Ground", to name a few. I was fascinated to work with these poems. Many were written on versos of a draft manuscript of her book The Colossus. Some contain writings by Ted Hughes. So much attention has been focused on the Ariel period poems that I feel these are somewhat ignored. That being said, it also is not hard to really see why because Plath neither saved nor numbered nor dated her earlier poems the way she did those from 1962. It would be safe, I think, to say that the reason why she did become meticulous about it is because she had successfull sold this "scrap paper".

After I worked with this, I switched to the Lameyer Mss because in a previous trip I had made some transcriptions from the letters held in this collection and wanted to check my work. I also cannot get enough of the mostly color photographs of Plath from 1954-1956, from Smith College to Venice, Italy.

During the course of the morning both Amanda Golden and Julia Gordon-Bramer came play in the archives and it was most awesome to see Amanda again, and terrific to finally meet Julia.

Following this, I called Plath's Cambridge University period notes in Box 13 of Plath Mss II looking for a needle in the haystack: and sadly not finding it. I saw something in 2010 when I was here on the Helm Fellowship, and was trying to find it again only to discover I had no real recollection of where it was I saw this document. Very frustrating. Maybe tomorrow, maybe Wednesday or so I'll have a more positive update on this front.

The afternoon I spent looking through Plath's calendar's for 1952-1955 (Plath Mss II, Box 7) as many of her letters to Gordon Lameyer are undated (and without the envelopes for post-mark identification/assistance) so I was looking through her academic and summer doings in the attempt to accurately date these undated letters. I am pleased to say I think I nailed 100% of those questionable epistles down. By the time I finished, because it wasn't all hunting and gathering: there was quite a bit of loitering over the details of her days, it was time to leave for the day. Always a downer.

The good news: Tomorrow should bring The Plath Diaries to the library. And, speaking of which, the library re-opens in just 11 and a half hours.


A Piece of Plathery said...

You do realise I am insanely jealous, but hanging off your every word. Do do keep us updated!

Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

There is nothing more fun than sitting around with a group of people who can finish each other's sentences, because of course, they are not ours, but Sylvia's! We are having loads of fun and wish you were here, Melanie. Sincerely.

A Piece of Plathery said...

Boo hoo hoo. Sniff.
Very glad you are having Plath fabulousness though.

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