21 December 2014

Sylvia Plath 2014: Year in Review

After the chaos of 2013 in the world Sylvia Plath, I think I was not too surprised that 2014 was a far quieter year. In fact, I think a lot of us needed that from what was an over-saturation of stuff.

Unlike last year, there were very few major newspaper articles about Plath, as well as fewer scholarly essays published during the course of this year. At the present time just one new book published about Plath. Squeaking in under the wire, Gail Crowther's and Elizabeth Sigmund's biography & memoir of dual authorship Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning (Fonthill Media) was published in December. The book features some of Elizabeth's memories of her friend, and an excellent, full length biographical treatment by Gail of Plath's time in Devon from September 1961 to early December 1962. It is the best assessment of that amazing year and period in Plath's life I have ever read, and was honored to be asked by both Gail and Elizabeth to write the "Introduction" to the volume. I hope you enjoy the entire book. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning can be purchased via Amazon.co.uk AYTAmazon.com AYT, and other booksellers, and it available both in print and in various electronic formats.

Julia Gordon-Bramer's Fixed Stars Govern a Life: Decoding Sylvia Plath (Stephen F. Austin University Press, Amazon), was scheduled to be published this year but publication has been delayed. Though last reports were that the book had gone to the printers, I do not think it is officially available as of now. Although, I guess maybe there were some books about Plath published as 2013 biographies by Carl Rollyson, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Winder were all released in paperback format. Sally Bayley (contributor to Eye Rhymes and co-editor of Representing Sylvia Plath) is working on seeing published her new book The Private Life of the Diary: From Pepys to Tweets (Unbound Books). Plath necessarily features in this work.

There was only one book by Plath issued this year, and that was late in the year. In November, Faber released The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit and Other Stories. This is a compilation of all of Plath's children's stories which numbers to just three: "The Bed Book", "The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit" and "Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen" and features illustrations by David Roberts. The book was released simultaneously in England and America, both in paperback and in Kindle editions. It is the first time that "Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen" has been published in the US! For purchasing, visit Faber's website, Amazon.co.uk (UK paperback - UK Kindle), or Amazon.com (US paperback - US Kindle).

As mentioned above, highlights and newsworthy events for Plath this year were fewer than last year, but 2014 closes out with a bang. In November we learned of a major Sylvia Plath archive to be sold at Sotheby's on 2 December. In obsessing over this auction, and its original appearance on the block in 1982, I learned much including the existence of four new Plath letters, as well as additional early poems and stories that were largely unknown.

It was also a good year for tours. In February, I flew to London to give a Plath tour to three Americans. that included London, Devon, and Heptonstall. It was timed to be at Plath's grave on 11 February. On that trip, Gail Crowther and I were shown Plath and Hughes' flat at 3 Chalcot Square. In September, I got to tour Yaddo as they opened their doors to the public for a weekend; and in November, I gave a tour of Winthrop, Anne Sexton's house in Newton, and McLean Hospital to Australian scholar Sarah-Jane Burton.

In looking back through each month, certain posts for me stand about among others. The following posts either took a lot of time to research and gave me a sense of accomplishment, or simply the topic seemed more interesting or garnered more attention:

In January, my wife and I made Sylvia Plath's Heavenly Sponge Cake. It was some good.

February 2014: Concluded a 4 month project to highlight Sylvia Plath collections. The three discussed in February were Martin Booth papers, William Heinemann Ltd. archives, and holdings at the University of Tulsa.

March 2014: The unanimous most popular post this year was "Sylvia Plath and the SS United States". Another neat one with lots of good information was Sylvia Plath's Passport, Part 2. This was following in April with a Part 3 and a fun post on "Sylvia Plath: Three Women and The Journals.

In May and June and July, several posts highlighted newly found articles authored by (or very likely authored by) Sylvia Plath. See posts on 20 May; 8 June; and 7 July. Poet and Plath scholar David Trinidad was the featured blogger for the month of June for the Poetry Foundation. All of his posts are wonderful, but concentrated on Plath: "More is More: Sylvia Plath's Letters" and "Collecting Sylvia Plath".

If you missed "Sylvia Plath & the Mystery of the Ad in the Paper" or "The Search for Sylvia Plath continues..." in August, shame on you.

This blog would not be as successful without the guests posts! Deep, sincere thanks to Christine Walde for her fascinating "Signal to Noise: Reading Ted Hughes papers at the British Library" and to Gail Crowther for her "Sylvia Plath, Bell Jars and Bowen" post from September. In October, November, and December there were some fun posts, too, so be sure to check each month out.

For the sake of consistency, I will report on the popular pages on my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is and give a summary of total hits. I find the metrics behind the website and blog really interest because it helps me to look at how people are finding the site, and also helps me to think about the areas that might need improving (or even removing). Visitors most likely used the keywords "Sylvia Plath", "Sylvia Plath Biography" or "The Bell Jar". The top six pages of the website for the year beginning 1 December 2013 and ending 30 November 2014 are:

1) Biography
2) Poetry Works
3) The Bell Jar
4) Prose Works
5) Thumbs books (SP's prose works
6) Johnny Panic synopses

One improvement to the website this year, and it is still a work in progress, is that on the Works Index page, where known I have added a date, or dates, of composition. As with everything on either the website or this blog, I hope it is useful, and if you notice something missing or wrong, please let me know. And, between the website and the blog, there were a total of at least 90,541 hits. Thank you!

My own blog activity this year was way down from previous years. Why? Mostly because I spent a massive portion of the year transcribing, annotating, and proofing all of the letters written by Plath not held by Smith College (in the neighborhood of 1200), conducting research on these letters for the notes, building the index for these letters, and other duties. This took an enormous amount of time and energy, but I hope that what posts I did do on this blog, and what additions I did make to the website, were useful, interesting, informative, and that they will contribute in some fashion to a better understanding of Plath's life and her creative works. It is a privilege to get to work with these documents so closely and hope when the book is published (when, I'm not sure, so don't ask!) it will be a significant contribution to Plath studies.

Looking ahead to 2015! It will be the 50th anniversary (not another one!) of
Ariel in March. Intentional or not, Faber is releasing a beautifully repackaged edition of Plath's most famous volume of poetry in April as compiled and published after Plath's death by Ted Hughes. (Read their 29 September 2014 announcement on this here.)

I learned so incredibly much about Sylvia Plath this year. Biographically and otherwise. In large part my motivation to research and to try to learn more is because of you, the fine readers of this blog. Thank you all for reading, emailing, and sending me links via Twitter and other means. Thank you also to those who comment and for occasionally discussing some of ideas, issues, and topics brought up in posts. Happy Holidays!

All links accessed 24 October; 21 November; and 4, 8 & 11 December 2014.


The Plath Diaries said...

As always Peter, we are so grateful for all the work you do on Sylvia Plath. You, your blog and website have helped me personally so much throughout the year - thank you so much!

Looking forward to the eventual publication of Plath's letters - ravenous with anticipation! :-)

Have a wonderful winter season and best wishes to you for 2015!

Anonymous said...

I felt touched by this post,Peter..by your words.Grateful also for the a-ma-zing work u've done and do for and about Sylvia and for sharing it with us all. Grateful for all the teachings and discoveries and everything great u give us. Also this has been a great year about Plath thanks to you and the books released and about to be released. Im utterly joining The Plath Diaries comment,totally share it. Im wishing u and the readers of your blog and twitter a great Christmas season and a great 2015. And eternally grateful to u for this admirable work of yours and effort u put in all of this.
My BEST & DEAREST greetings & xmas wishes and thank yous, see u in year 2015, spend a great Christmas holiday, Peter.

Alina (or Alessandra)

A Piece of Plathery said...

Happy Holidays Peter, thank you from all of us out here in the Plathosphere for all that you do and share. The letters project will be a fascinating and valuable tome once out in the public, looking forward to it immensely.
Merry Christmas

Peter K Steinberg said...

Dear Maeve, Melanie, & Alina/Alex/Alessandra!

Thank you three for your comments and kind words. I cannot tell you how much encouragement your words give me to keep this up and to keep trying to find new things on which to blog. So, thank you!

The Letters project continues at a good pace and the work I do I do for you. And you and you and them and they and all.


Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Thanks so much for the mention of Fixed Stars Govern a Life, Peter. It IS coming, and I have been chewing my nails down to the quick waiting. As you know I have had continual delays with this publisher (I've written a bit about my journey over at http://prefirstdrafts.blogspot.com/), and it has taught me a lot of hard lessons about patience, the best-laid plans, etc. The new release date posted is January 15th. Given the fact that it has been at the printer for over a month, and this is a university press dependent on students, that seems realistic to have them back in class working by then. We can hope, right? ;-)

Happy holidays to you and all the readers here!

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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.