18 February 2015

Sylvia Plath Memorial Evening

In 1 November 2014, I posted on "Collecting Sylvia Plath". This post was originally part of that, but I decided to break it out for a special occasion. That occasion is today, just after the 52nd anniversary of Sylvia Plath's death.

The following document was acquired from The Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, and was something also formerly belonging to long-time BBC producer Fred Hunter (obit; another obit).

Truly this is a piece of ephemera: a single-sided leaflet produced by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, for a "Sylvia Plath Memorial Evening" which was (to be) held on 29 April. The full text reads:

17 Dover Street
W 1

Sylvia Plath Memorial Evening

The ICA are arranging a memorial evening for
Sylvia Plath on thursday, april 29th at 8.15 pm

The speakers will be Ian Hamilton and M L
Rosenthal and Al Alvarez will be in the Chair.

The evening will be illustrated with recordings
of Sylvia Plath reading her own poems.

ICA                                members & students 2/-
17 Dover Street              non-members 3/6
W 1

Initially, I thought this evening was planned for 1963. The archival record suggested that it originally was.  The ICA's archive is held by the Tate Museum in London. On contacting them, I inquired if they had any event materials pertaining to this evening, as well as any possible correspondence. There was no material for the event, and a search of correspondence found just one letter from the ICA's Dorothy Morland (obit) to Ted Hughes dated 26 February 1963 (15 days after Plath's death). In this letter, Morland expresses interest in the ICA hosting the memorial evening. It would feature "readings of her poetry with only a short introduction". She discussed the event with Alvarez who "expressed some doubts"; though Alvarez said he would talk it over with Hughes. The letter also mentions that Alvarez would be absent all of April. There is a chance the event took place, then, in May. But then again, nothing appears to have taken place that year.There was no reply letter from Hughes found in the ICA's archive.

However, as a few people pointed out in emails to me (thank you Paul, Sheila, and Tim), there was a "Sylvia Plath Memorial Evening" held on 29 April 1965. According to WorldCat, UNC at Chapel Hill holds a copy of the ICA Bulletin for April 1965 detailing that the programme would be "illustrated with recordings of Sylvia Plath reading her own poems." The three page Bulletin includes a "brief biographical and bibliographical entry for Plath opposite on p. 2." The failure of the ICA to host this event in 1963 suggests that Ted Hughes did not want them to celebrate her life -- or possibly call attention to her recent death. Instead, the timing most likely coincides with the publication late that winter (11 March) of Ariel.

Plath had a little history with the ICA in London which was discussed a bit in this blog post. The ICA when Plath was living was located at 17 Dover Street (map) London.

My thanks to Allison Foster of the Tate Museum Archives for her assistance with my queries. And, again to Paul, Sheila, and Tim for their emails and helpful information. Initially I thought that the event would have taken place in 1963 and failed to consider that it might have happened in another year.

All links accessed 2 & 8 July, 1 October 2014, 21 January and 17 February 2015. The post was significantly revised on 20 and 22 February 2015.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, Peter. It's timely that you posted this for I just recently was nosing around the Location Register at Reading and WorldCat and saw something related to this (am visiting the ICA Archives next week and so was looking around for things to look at). And it seems this event was in 1965. http://www.worldcat.org/title/sylvia-plath-memorial-evening/oclc/40662122&referer=brief_results I'll see if I can find anything more for you when I visit.


Peter K Steinberg said...

Paul: thank you for your comment and email about this the other day. Will update post at the weekend. Have fun at the archive and do report back if you find anything of interest.


Anonymous said...

A great piece of collaborative research! Brilliant to see such support in the Plath community.

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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.