22 August 2013

Sylvia Plath Did you know... August 22, 1961

Did you know that on August 22, 1961, Sylvia Plath was efficiently busy. Plath's busyness that day is briefly discussed in "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past", a paper that I co-write with Gail Crowther. But to give some additional detail...

On August 22, 1961: Plath was about nine days away from moving to Court Green...

On August 22, 1961: Plath sent her drafts of her poem "Insomniac" to Eric Walter White. Collected Poems generically (generally) dates the poem to "May 1961"; however, Plath dated her final typed copy "May 23, 1961". Good to know. The letter and poetry drafts are held by the British Library in the "Cheltenham Festival prize poems" (ADD MS 52617).

On August 22, 1961: Plath sent her drafts of her poem "Tulips" (variant title "Sickroom Tulips") to Jack Sweeney. This poem was written on March 18, 1961, a week or so after her release from hospital from having her appendix removed. The poem was written on commission for the Poetry at the Mermaid festival and was read live (and recorded) on July 17, 1961. Her letter and the drafts are held by the Houghton Library, Harvard ("Sylvia Plath papers for Sickroom Tulips" MS Am 1780). Sweeney exhibited the drafts in the Poetry Room two months later.

On August 22, 1961: Plath annotated the sentence in her journals, "Why don’t I write a novel?", saying, "I have! August 22, 1961: THE BELL JAR". Plath's journals are, of course, held in the Sylvia Plath Collection, Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College.

In the absence of any acceptance letter, of which none is known to exist, can we possibly conclude that on this date Plath and her publisher Heinemann came to agreement to publish the novel? Tough to say. Three days earlier (August 19, 1961), Plath wrote to her brother and sister-in-law, Gerald and Joan Hughes, saying that she was working on finishing her first novel before they moved. The letter to Gerald and Joan Hughes is held in Ted Hughes mss. II at he Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington.

There are so many Plath archives! See more of them on my website A celebration, this is.

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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." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • 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 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: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • 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.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (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. 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. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • 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. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • 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. "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. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.