Looking back through the blog to see what in the world was going on, largely from my perspective, in Sylvia Plathdom, shows quite a varied year. In January I spent a week at Smith College doing both some archives research and attending a documentary editing class taught by Karen V. Kukil. I pitched in bits of information when I could, but being around the students and learning the tricks of the documentary editing trade was really interesting. We edited letters from Sylvia Plath to a number of people. I was lucky enough to transcribe one letter to Phil McCurdy from 1954 and one to Plath's German pen-pal Hans Joachim-Neupert from 1949. I gave, throughout the week, updates from the archive which gave some of the information I was learning but not all. Got to save some stuff for the blog for a rainy or snowy day! The general January 2012 archive is the best way to see these posts, that is, if you care to review them!
The following is a list of some of the more -to me- memorable posts from the year, for various reasons, and ones that might possibly have garnered more comments from readers.
- February: Sylvia Plath's Horse Chestnut;
- March: Sylvia Plath was Busy (Press Board);
- April: On 1 April, it was reported (falsely) that Plath's grave stone was vandalized by pro-Hughes people, the release of the Sylvia Plath Stamp, a look at Sylvia Plath's "Desert Song"; and this blog turned 5!
- In May, we had the 50th anniversary the American edition of The Colossus and the content of the Olwyn Hughes Correspondence at the British Library was highlighted.
- In June, we learned of the death of John Horder, and had a brilliant and beautiful guest post by Gail Crowther.
- The 5th issue of Plath Profiles was published in July to good feedback with amazing content. I had two papers in the issue, one was co-written with Gail Crowther ("These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England") and one on which I spent years working and was glad to see more or less finished ("Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications"). In July, there was also a little post on Plath's "Context".
- Sylvia Plath's friend Marcia Brown Stern passed away in July and an obituary was published in August, but perhaps the bigger Plath story was the article on the FBI files on Otto Plath that I found. Lastly in August, I did a post on Plath's disappearance in August 1953.
- September saw a post on Plath's short story "The Shadow" and I visited an archive located somewhere in the United States to see relatively newly available Plath materials: this means you should look forward to "These Ghostly Archives 5: Subtitle to be Determined" with Gail Crowther next summer in Plath Profiles 6. I also did a Sylvia Plath Collections post on two collections with Sylvia Plath archival material held by the New York Public Library. These collections and more were featured in the paper I co-wrote with Gail Crowther: "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England."
- The month of Plath's birth seems, year by year, to provide newsworthy events. This year, Melanie Thomas and Caged Bird Productions brought Plath's verse poem "Three Women" to stage in Melbourne, Australia. Our good friend in Plath, Plathery, was able to see the performance and wrote a review on A Piece of Plathery. In addition to Plathery's review, you can see sets of photographs from the rehearsal here and here. A period of quietude passed between "Three Women" and the Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium, which took place at Indiana University, Bloomington, from 24-27 October. I traveled early to Indiana to spend quality time in the archive before the events kicked off. In an attempt to be consistent, I provided daily "updates" from the archive (1, 2, 3, 4) which mentioned some of the materials I with which I worked, but not telling everything because I need to keep some secrets... Also, there were updates made throughout the symposium, as well as guest posts by Susan McMichael, Lauren Benard, Jaime Jost, and Bridget Lowe, talking about panels I did not attend or, in one instance, a panel in which I participated (It would have been far too easy to say "Steinberg's talk on 'Sylvia Plath: Palimpsestic Writer' simply rocked the house...) Please see the general October 2012 archive on the blog to read and/or re-live these posts... On the Saturday of the Symposium, Plath's birthday, the amazingness that is Gail Crowther visited Heptonstall and sent photographs of Plath's grave and the environs. And, lastly, there was a "photo dump" to conclude the month that showed some of the scenes from the Symposium including the exhibit "Transitions" in the Lilly Library, and some against-policy photographs taken of Kristina Zimbakova's artwork.
- In November, Carl Rollyson released a trailer for his forthcoming book American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath. There were two posts I was particularly curious about: the first being a poem published to no real fanfare in 1998 and the second, a small post on Plath's lines from the play Bartholomew Fair from her 1955 re-experiment with acting. Re-experiment as Plath was in The Admirable Crichton in high school. At the end of the month, a new portrait of Plath was unveiled at Smith College.
- To be honest, December is still happening and I'm not entirely sure anything memorable has happened, will happen, or will have happened!
I am interested in metrics. I check, daily, stats on the website and blog which includes pages hit, keyword searches that yield hits, etc. In the past I've detailed the most and least popular pages. From December 1, 2011 to November 30, 2012, the top five pages hit on my website "A celebration, this is" were: biography, poetryworks, belljar, proseworks, and prose thumbnails. During that same time period, the top five pages, by time spent on that page, were: Biography, Johnny Panic synopses, The Bell Jar, Publications, and Dissertations about Sylvia Plath.
New books in 2012 by and about Sylvia Plath (and Ted Hughes) included:
- Poetic Memory by Uta Gosmann
- How to Write about Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Crowley
- Critical Insights: The Bell Jar edited by Janet McCann
- Depression in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar edited by Dedria Bryfonski
- Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study by Luke Ferretter (Paperback)
- Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar
- Ted and I by Gerald Hughes
- Sylvia Plath: Poems selected by Carol Ann Duffy
- The Poetic Art of Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study of Themes and Techniques by Raihan Raza
- With Robert Lowell and his circle : Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, and Others by Kathleen Spivack
- Analyzing Sylvia Plath by Alice Walsh (fiction)
How many of them did you read? I read most of them and feel that some were more successful than others. The majority of them were reviewed throughout the year on this blog, some positively and some not so much! The Duffy selection of poems published by Faber is the leader in my mind because at least it's a book "authored" by Plath; of Plath's works. Duffy's selection of poems is really interesting, especially when compared to the previous selected poems of Plath, edited by Ted Hughes (there was an additional selected poems edited by the late Diane Middlebrook which was published by Knopf in 1998). A comparison and critique of these three selections would be fascinating in how the selectors exhibit the evolution of Plath's poetics: their vision of Plath, in some way. Back to the books of 2012...Of the critiques, though only just a chapter long, Uta Gosmann's is the most original.
Books to look forward to in 2013, so far, are:
- The Bell Jar 50th Anniversary Edition (Faber) by Sylvia Plath
- Claiming Sylvia Plath: The Poet as Exemplary Figure by Marianne Egeland
- The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Peter K. Steinberg (just kidding)
- American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson
- Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson
- Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder
- How to Analyze the Works of Sylvia Plath by Victoria Peterson-Hilleque
- Plath Profiles 6
- The Journals of Sylvia Plath (probably a re-issue): 5 September 2013
- Sylvia Plath Drawings by Frieda Hughes: 5 September 2013
No doubt 2013 is all about Plath's life, even though the sensationalism of the 50th anniversary of her death will be more headline-making. It is also the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Bell Jar. Where do you rank The Bell Jar. Is it as important as her poetry? Are they even comparable? This might more apply to longer-standing Plath scholars, but how different is Plath's literary reputation now than it was in the mid-1970s? Is she better off? Worse off? These are questions I'm sure we'd all like to take a stab at answering. If you feel like exploring this, please consider this blog as a place to voice your opinions.
Thank you all for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for following and tweeting and retweeting. Happy holidays and Happy New Year. Be well.
Unless something significant occurs between now and 1 January I am taking a few days off from the blog. But, I will check comments. Was there any post that was your favorite throughout the year? If so, leave a comment and let me know why. It might help me to continue to build content next year.
Remember that when you are on the internet, you should also read The Plath Diaries (and follow her on Twitter) and A Piece of Plathery.