27 May 2013

A Summary of Sylvia Plath's Ariel

The following is a Guest Blog post by Angel DeMonica, who attended the reading of Sylvia Plath's Ariel yesterday (26 May) at the Royal Festival Hall. I would like to thank Angel on behalf of myself and all of this blogs' readers sincerely for her write-up.

I hope to have other reviews of the reading from other attendees soon.

The evening was introduced by Plath's daughter, Frieda Hughes, who was dressed in a black cocktail dress and gold belt. She repeated much of the introduction to the Restored Ariel and was particularly keen to emphasize that Hughes took a "painstaking" approach to the 1965 edition. Frieda stressed that she sees Plath's ordering of the Ariel poems as the "historical version" and is convinced that Plath would have changed, adapted & extracted if she had lived longer, i.e. we shouldn't see it - in Frieda's view - as an incontrovertible original version. She said her mother "treated every emotional experience as a jewel, ring or a necklace" and that in the Ariel collection "she was caught in an act of revenge" in which her father later became a victim. She didn't mention the fact that Plath killed herself, but spoke of her death. Frieda complained that her mother has sometimes been "completely fabricated" and ended by saying the evening was an opportunity to hear her mother "presented exactly as she would want to be - through her poetry".

The forty readings followed, which lasted about an hour and a half. The poems of the Restored edition were read by a mixture of poets (Jo Shalcott, Gillian Clarke, Lavinia Greenlaw) and well-known actresses (Miranda Richardson, Juliet Stevenson, Anna Chancellor). It was a mixed bag I felt: ''Poppies in October" (one of my favourite poems) was terrible, read almost in monotone, "Medusa" was read breathily & quietly & with too little animation. But what was extraordinary was to hear the bee cycle and follow the narrative in its tense movement towards spring - this was a fantastic experience. The highlight for me was hearing Ruth Fainlight (on stage, with a walking stick) reading "Elm" - the poem Plath dedicated to her; and when the lights of the Royal Festival Hall were dimmed, Plath's image was beamed onto the screen and her voice came booming out of the speakers, reading "Daddy". Ultimately, I think, Plath herself is the best speaker of her poetry. But this was still a great opportunity to hear her poems as she said she wrote them - for the ear.


Nick Smart said...

I really enjoyed reading your review So true about the reading of Poppies in October!

Anonymous said...

Is there a video of the reading? I'd like to know how Juliet Stevenson did in her reading of "Tulips?"

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi Anonymous. As far as I know it was not recorded (video or otherwise).

There is a brief bit about the Stevenson reading here: http://willtherebefire.blogspot.co.uk/.


Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

"Poppies in October" is a favorite of mine too. I will hold the sound of it in my head.

Thank you for that review.

Anonymous said...

Having now listened to a recording - don't ask, don't tell - I think Angel's review is spot-on. The recording of "Poppies in October" was ab-sol-ute-ly ru-ined by the ro-bo-tic and ter-ri-bly- bor-ing re-cit-a-tion of the po-em. Oh my god! Poor girl, I don't mean to be mean.

Anyway, it certainly appeared to have been a magical night. Wish I could have been there.

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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 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.
  • 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." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • 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)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (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. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • 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. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • 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. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.