25 October 2013

Sylvia Plath Collections: Masses of Plath mss at the Lilly Library

As we enter the last week of Archives month in America and approach Sylvia Plath's birthday weekend (her birthday as you know is in two days, on 27 October), I thought a post about additional collections at the Lilly Library would be an appropriate way to celebrate her life and legacy.

The Lilly Library at Indiana University is a well-established place of wonder. Sylvia Plath readers and scholars have made incredible use of the many Plath holdings there. The larger and more well known collections -- Plath mss; Plath mss II; Hughes, Ted mss; and Hughes, Ted mss II -- are really just the beginning as Plath can be found in a number of other collections and newer acquisitions.

Did you know that the Plath mss goes all the up to IX (9) now? Here is a breakdown of Plath mss III through Plath mss IX. Some of the collections do not hold material created by Plath herself, but they relate to her. It should be evident which collections have original Plath material. And, of course, when in doubt, as the amazing Lilly staff.

Plath mss. III, 1941-1951, consists of drawings, paintings, pastel works and college art projects by the poet Sylvia Plath, 1932-1963 (acquired 1988 ).

Plath mss. IV, 1953-1966, consists mostly of letters and manuscripts of Plath and Hughes (acquired 1997). The collection holds four letters from Plath to Myron "Mike" Lotz (9 January, 13 June, 18 August 1953 and 20 May 1960); as well as eleven letters written by Plath and Hughes to their friends Kathy and Marvin Kane and one letter to "Elizabeth" [Sigmund, then Compton] discussing the Kane's visit to them written that same year. The collection includes other items among them including: correspondence between Hughes and Olive Higgins Prouty from 1960-1961 concerning Lupercal, and one letter from Aurelia Schober Plath to Prouty from 1966. The collection includes drafts of Plath's poems "Widow" and "Sow"; a set of instructions to the nanny "Frieda's Schedule"; as well as a photograph of Plath and two candid shots of Hughes.

Plath mss. V, 1944–1945, consists of three items of early Sylvia Plath juvenilia (acquired 2009). I made mention of this collection here.

Plath mss. VI, ca. 1963-1967, consists of early letters and ephemera of poet Sylvia Plath (acquired 2012). Included are original Plath letters to William Clair, poet and critic, former editor of the literary magazine Voyages. Other correspondents include Ted Hughes, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Drew, Katherine Anne Porter, Alfred Young Fisher, Ann Williams, Peter Davison, Frank Murphy, and Ellen Stoianoff.

Plath mss. VII, ca. 2012, consist of posters, schedules, handouts, programs and other ephemera related to the events surrounding the Sylvia Plath Symposium 2012 - The October Poems: the Archives and the Creative Process Seminar which was held on the IU Campus, October, 2012 (acquired 2012).

Plath mss. VIII, ca. 1954, consists of the black and tan cloth suitcase of Sylvia Plath with the initials "S.P." of the front fore edge (acquired 1954). It is not possible that this suitcase was acquired by the Lilly Library in 1954, however that is likely when Plath herself got it. You can see a picture of the suitcase in this blog post from 31 October 2012.

Plath mss. IX, ca. 1972-1978, consists of correspondence between Aurelia Plath and Olive Clifford Eaton (a neighbor in Winthrop, MA), Mary Alice Ericson (Olive Eaton's daughter), and Margery DeLerno (Olive Eaton's daughter) (acquired 2013).

Sylvia Plath, as a named entry in Lilly's finding aids, appears in many other collections at the Lilly Library aside from the obvious ones in the Plath and Hughes mss series. I have posted previously on the Trevor Thomas mss; the Cleverdon mss; the Lameyer mss; the Sanazaro mss; the Wagner-Martin mss; and also the Oscar Williams mss. Plath-related materials can be found in the Antioch Review mss (see below) and the Kizer mss.

The Antioch Review mss.

Plath appears in the Antioch Review mss, however, no original Plath-originated documents were found when the Lilly Library searched for me. The ever-helpful Dave Frasier at the Lilly kindly supplied a list of the contents of the Plath folder in Box 27 of the Antioch Review mss.:

1. Reprint (2 pages) from THE ANTIOCH REVIEW OF Plath's poem, "Black Rook in Rainy Weather" (pp. 150-151). These are pages pulled out from an undated issue of the Review -- "1951-1960: The Second Decade." At end of Plath poem it notes poem originally appeared in vol. 17, no. 2 - summer 1957.

2. Photocopy of Contents page and pages 434-435 from -- DEAR EDITOR: A HISTORY OF POETRY IN LETTERS THE FIRST FIFTY YEARS, 1912-1962 edited and compiled by Joseph Parisi and Stephen Young, W.W. Norton, 2002.

A yellow post-it note attached reads -- "Hi Michelle-Here's the Plath mention of ANTIOCH for your files. Judith." (2 pages)

3. A 2 page handwritten letter from Trevor Thomas to REVIEW editor Robert S. Fogarty dated 7/10/89 discussing Plath's work and submitting his copyrighted manuscript, SYLVIA PLATH: LAST ENCOUNTERS, for consideration to the journal.

1 page typescript letter dated Dec. 8, 1989 from Fogarty to Thomas thanking him for the submission, but stating "it is not for us."

A copy (photocopy with paper covers in ring binder" of Thomas's SYLVIA PLATH: LAST ENCOUNTERS inscribed "To Robert S. Fogarty with compliments and good wishes - Trevor Thomas 7/10/89." Title page states "Published privately in Bedford, England, 1989." (ca. 40 pages).

What is so wonderful about places like the Lilly Library, the Mortimer Rare Book Room, and other "houses of Plath" is that they are still actively acquiring collections, still processing collections, and still improving access to existing collections, which means that with every passing week, there is the prospect of new archival material being "discovered" and made available. If you are interested in Plath archival materials, it is worth your while to remember to periodically check for updates on each repository's website.

You can see more libraries that hold Plath materials on the Archival Materials page of my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is.

All links accessed 18 October 2013.

1 comment :

suki said...

Reading the letters last year... I had wanted a 'particular' box, and some one had it already and my next choice... I took what was there: what was available.
The sudden realisation of where the letters fitted, it's after New York, and wondering, if when I read Dick Norton's cheerful how are you, he doesn't know what's wrong with her, letter and the letter from Gordon saying are you coming, are you coming to the Ball? and felt terribly sorry, what did Plath, in McLean feel?

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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.