11 May 2013

Sylvia Plath said what? where?

In her March 2004 article, "Subject Sylvia" (Poetry, pp. 335-344), Meghan O'Rourke writes the following:
Plath took pains to invest her poems with a mythic severity, and in the weeks before she died spoke on the BBC about the need for the modern poet to draw on myth while making "the metaphor-moral ... intrinsic to the poem, working back and forth on itself, not expressed prosaically at the close, like the moral of a fable." (full text of article; link accessed 10 May 2013)

I am hoping that the power of social interneting can help to identify the source of this quote (above, in bold). "We" know Plath prepared a script of poems for the BBC circa 13/14 December 1962. These include poems such as "The Applicant," "Fog Sheep" ("Sheep in Fog"), "Lady Lazarus," "Ariel," "Death & Co.," "Nick and the Candlestick," "Letter in November," "Daddy," "Fever 103˚," "The Bee Meeting," "The Arrival of the Bee Box," and "Wintering."  However, the text does not appear in that script. The full-text of these poems and introductions appears in the several different places: the Plath Collection at Smith College, the Alvarez papers in the British Library, and some were printed in Ariel: The Restored Edition (2004).

Plath also reviewed, on 10 January 1963, Donald Hall's anthology Contemporary American Poetry. Smith College holds a typescript of this and the audio was released in the 2010 British Library CD The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. The text also does not appear either in this recorded program or in the typescript I have seen (keeping in mind there might be an alternate typescript out there).

So, my question for the faithful, resourceful readers of this blog is: Do you know from where this quote comes?


Melanie Smith said...

Is Miss O'Rourke contactable to confirm her source material? I would be interested in where it is from, and if a definite Plath quote an interesting addition to her writing on her work.

Peter K Steinberg said...


Tried that. However it didn't yield any results. I'm surprised that a journal as reputable as Poetry seems to be wouldn't have either wanted or required citations...


suki said...

Hi Peter
I tried the links


For where the quote seemed to come from, bu the links don't seem to work....

suki said...

Hi Peter
It seems to be self referential

Peter K Steinberg said...

Score! I found it! It IS a Plath quote but NOT from something she wrote in 1962/1963 for the BBC. Sweet. What a relief. Will blog post about it later.


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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.