22 December 2016

Sylvia Plath and the Smith Alumnae Quarterly

The Smith Alumnae Quarterly recently launched a fully searchable and downloadable archive of their amazing publications (story). Sylvia Plath featured in a dozen or so from the time she entered Smith through into the 1970s. I have gone through the issues from 1950 through the current Winter 2016 issue and found the following instances either where Plath authored a piece or she was mentioned. I love that the availability of the online archive takes one to the present issue. Fantastic.

I was going to take the rest of the year off blogging to give you a break from me, but this resource is too cool not to mention and fits in with a theme highlighted in the Year in Review 2016 of digitization.
  • February 1951. Sylvia Plath's Letter excerpt (unattributed) to Olive Higgins Prouty
  • Fall 1953. Sylvia Plath's "'Smith Review' Revived"
  • Fall 1954. Sylvia Plath's "The Neilson Professor"
  • Summer 1955. Mentioned: Scholarship to study at Cambridge
  • Spring 1956. Mentioned: An update from Cambridge: how she spent her Christmas break
  • Summer 1956. Mentioned: An update from Cambridge: renewal of Fulbright
  • Fall 1956. Sylvia Plath's "B. and K. at the Claridge"
  • Winter 1957. Mentioned: In a letter from Marianne Moore regarding Fulbright renewal
  • Fall 1957. Mentioned: Regarding Ted Hughes' The Hawk in the Rain and appearing in the Grecourt Review
  • Winter 1958. Sylvia Plath's "Spinster"
  • Spring 1959. Mentioned: Regarding recent publication in Mademoiselle
  • Summer 1959. Mentioned: Regarding Ted Hughes winning Guggenheim
  • Fall 1961. Mentioned: Regarding winning Chelthenham Festival Guinness prize
  • Spring 1962 Mentioned: Larger update about Cheltenham, Saxton grant, The Colossus, periodical publications, and their daughter Frieda
  • Summer 1962. Mentioned: Listing the publication of the American edition of The Colossus
  • Winter 1966. Mentioned: George Steiner's article "Dying is an Art"
  • Spring 1966. Mentioned: Regarding Lois Ames' biography of Plath asking for letters, photographs and recollections: Where are these now???
  • Summer 1966. Mentioned: Listing the publication of the American edition of Ariel
  • November 1966. Mentioned: Listing recent reviews of Ariel
  • April 1967. Mentioned: Regarding Lois Ames' piece in TriQuarterly and her continued "work" on a Plath biography
  • April 1968. Mentioned: Regarding a grant Lois Ames received for her biography on Plath
  • August 1969. Mentioned: Gift made to Alumnae Fund in memory of Sylvia Plath Hughes
  • November 1971. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of The Bell Jar and Crossing the Water
  • April 1972. Mentioned: Margaret Shook's article "Sylvia Plath: The Poet and the College, reprints "Spinster"
  • August 1972. Mentioned: In a letter to the editor
  • November 1972. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of Winter Trees and more on the never-happening Lois Ames biography
  • April 1973. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of Nancy Hunter Steiner's Sylvia Plath: A Closer Look at Ariel and an alumnae's leading a book club discussion
  • November 1973. Mentioned: Judith Kroll's work on Plath
  • February 1975. Mentioned: In Susan Van Dyne's article "Teaching 'Literary Perspectives on Women'" and on Lois Ames' "completed" biography of Plath
  • August 1975. Mentioned: In Alumnae notes
  • November 1975. Mentioned: In article "Smith Writers" and listing of Plath recording for sale
  • February 1976. "Letters from Sylvia", with commentary by Gordon Lameyer and the subject of a poem
  • April 1976. Mentioned: In article and listing and brief review for Letters Home
  • August 1976. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • November 1976. Mentioned: Listings and brief reviews of The Bed Book and Judith Kroll's Chapters in a Mythology
  • February 1977. Mentioned: In alumnae notes about a film project interpreting "Tulips"
  • April 1977. Mentioned: In alumnae notes on Judith Kroll
  • August 1977. Mentioned: In article by Patricia L. Skarda: "The Smith Letter: Expressions of Form and Formlessness"
  • February 1978. Mentioned: In alumnae notes, about getting recollections from students who took English 11 under Plath's instruction
  • August 1978. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice; the second time still soliciting for recollections. 
  • November 1978. Mentioned: In article. 
  • February 1979. Mentioned: "In the News" regarding The Bell Jar film and in regards to recollections. Most interesting this one.
  • April 1979. Mentioned: In an article "The William Allan Neilson Library"
  • November 1979. Mentioned: Listing and brief reviews of Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and in Jon Rosenblatt's Sylvia Plath:The Poetry of Initiation
  • Fall 1981. Mentioned: "Sylvia Plath" on the acquisition of Plath's papers
  • Spring 1982. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of The Collected Poems
  • Summer 1982. Mentioned: In notice for future article regarding Pulitzer Prize and in Judith Kroll's alumnae notes.
  • Fall 1982. Mentioned. Listing and brief review for The Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • Winter 1983. Mentioned: In alumnae notes regarding Marcia Brown Stern's donation of the letters she received from Plath
  • Fall 1984. Mentioned: In article "Posture Picture On the Wall, Who's the Straightest Of Us All?"
  • Winter 1986. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of Above the Oxbow: Selected Writings by Sylvia Plath
  • Spring 1987. Mentioned: In article and in alumnae notes (Jane Anderson and Cindy Stodola Pomerleau)
  • Summer 1987. Mentioned: In articles under collective title, "Mary Ellen Chase in Review" and in Memorial Gifts section
  • Winter 1989. Mentioned: As subject of Susan Van Dyne talk titled "Revising Woman: Uncovering the Creative Process in Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poems" at a conference
  • Summer 1989. Mentioned: In article and in Memorial Gifts
  • Fall 1989. Mentioned: In article
  • Fall/Winter 1990. Mentioned. In alumnae notes
  • Spring 1990. Mentioned. In article on the book Smith Voices: Selected Works by Smith College Women
  • Summer 1990. Mentioned: In Memorial Gifts
  • Spring 1992. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Summer 1992. Mentioned: In article "Between Two Worlds"
  • Fall 1992. Mentioned: In article and in alumnae notes
  • Winter 1992-1993. Mentioned: In alumnae notes regarding Jacqueline Rose's The Haunting of Sylvia Plath
  • Summer 1993. Mentioned: Listing and brief review of Susan Van Dyne's Revising Life: Sylvia Plath's Ariel Poems
  • Fall 1993. Mentioned: In article
  • Winter 1995-1996. Mentioned in article on alumnae Tanya Metaksa and review of a Mary Ellen Chase biography
  • Fall 1996. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Enid Mark)
  • Winter 1997-1998. Mention: In article "A place for poets" and twice in alumnae notes 
  • Summer 1998. Mentioned: In articles, particularly "Primarily Plath" 
  • Fall 1998. Mentioned: On cover and in feature article "" by Susan Van Dyne on Birthday Letters, and in alumnae notes (Enid Mark)
  • Winter 1998-1999. Mentioned: In letters and alumnae notes (Judith Kroll)
  • Summer 1999. Mentioned. In alumnae notes
  • Spring 2000. Mentioned. In article "Smith Myths"
  • Winter 2000-2001. Mentioned: In alumnae notes regarding The Journals of Sylvia Plath
  • Spring 2001. Mentioned. Feature article "True to her words" by Karen V. Kukil
  • Summer 2001. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Fall 2001. Mentioned: Letter to editor and in alumnae notes
  • Winter 2001-2002. Mentioned: In article "Clothes with a past" 
  • Spring 2002. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Summer 2002. Mentioned: In article "A Palette of Words" by Karen D. Brown about Plath's classmate Enid Epstein Mark
  • Spring 2003. Mentioned: In article "The Storm in My Brain" by Mary Seymour
  • Fall 2003. Mentioned: In article "A Collection of Our Own" by Karen V. Kukil
  • Winter 2005-2006. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice
  • Winter 2006-2007. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Spring 2007. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Judith Kroll)
  • Summer 2007. Mentioned: In article "Baskin 101" and in alumnae notes
  • Fall 2007. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice
  • Summer 2008. Mentioned: In brief article "Plath at 75", in a section on poetry, and in alumnae notes (Marcia Brown Stern)
  • Fall 2008. Mentioned: In alumnae profile
  • Winter 2008-2009. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice (Elinor Friedman Klein)
  • Summer 2009. Mentioned: In profile on her professor Elizabeth von Klemperer and in alumnae notes twice (Marcia Brown Stern)
  • Winter 2009-2010. Mentioned: In article on Gloria Steinem, a review of Smith in the 1950s and in 1963
  • Summer 2010. Mentioned: In alumnae notes
  • Fall 2010. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (obituary for Jane Anderson)
  • Winter 2010-2011. Mentioned: In article "The Poet's Room"
  • Spring 2011. Mentioned: In letter to the editor "Sylvia's Other Rooms" by Marcia Brown Stern
  • Summer 2011. Mentioned: In notice about Plath's induction to Poet's Corner in New York City and in alumnae notes twice
  • Winter 2011-2012. Mentioned: In brief article
  • Fall 2012. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Judith Raymo and Amanda Ferrara)
  • Winter 2012-2013. Mentioned: In alumnae notes twice (Judith Snow Denison and an obituary for Marcia Brown Stern)
  • Spring 2013. Mentioned: In brief articles "Plath in Pink" and "Poet in a Tree" and in alumnae notes twice
  • Summer 2013. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Judith Snow Denison)
  • Fall 2013. Mentioned: In article "If these dresses could talk", in alumnae notes three times
  • Winter 2013-2014. Mentioned: In alumnae notes (Judith Raymo) and in a classified ad to stay in the Dordogne
  • Spring 2014. Mentioned: In alumnae notes and an obituary (Joanne Michelini Piggot)
  • Fall 2014. Mentioned: In alumnae profile
  • Winter 2014-2015. Mentioned: In Editor's Note and in alumnae notes (Elinor Friedman Klein)
  • Summer 2015. Mentioned: In solicitation by Heather Clark for people to talk about Plath for her forthcoming biography
  • Winter 2015-2016. Mentioned: In "Campus Notebook" about the 2017 "One Life" exhibit and in alumnae notes twice
  • Summer 2016. Mentioned: In article "Voices of Her Ancestors" 
  • Winter 2016. Mentioned: In letter to the editor and and article on Smith Alumnae Quarterly digital archive
This is an amazing resource. Not just for Plath material, but to get an idea of what Smith looked like back in the day, its buildings, students and student life, fashion, the design of the periodical, and the topics that were covered. A real rich history of education, women, and more. I am really grateful for this access to the SAQ archive but that will not stop me from stating my regret that a universal search is not available. I understand there must be limits to what repositories can do. My being gratefully ungrateful notwithstanding: thank you Smith College and all involved in this project.

All links accessed 21 December 2016

15 December 2016

Sylvia Plath Year in Review 2016

2016 saw the passing of Ted Hughes' two siblings: Olwyn Hughes in January and Gerald Hughes in August. May they both rest in peace.

I would like to issue a very special thank you to R. M. for his very generous monetary gift to me this year. It was the first time anyone has sent me money via PayPal for the work I do on Sylvia Plath and meant so incredibly much. Thank you R.

I always wonder which posts on this blog readers found the most interesting during the course of any year. This year, the Sylvia Plath Info Blog turned 9 which means next year will be the 10th anniversary. Seems hardly possible! But, I would love to know from you, the readers of the blog, which posts in particular you liked the best -- from 2007 to the present. Are there particular areas of focus that you miss from the early days? Or are there things you feel are being ignored outright? Are you tired of the blog? The blog archive is all available so please do click through each month and leave a comment. It might help me to write/research for new content! The Year in Review is always Sylvia Plath from my perspective and experiences and culls through the months to refresh what went on for me. But we have different lenses through which we read, journey, research, and write about Plath, so I apologize if your particular leaning is not a part of the following.

There were two bigger stories this year. The first I think was the British Library publishing a website that features a slew of Sylvia Plath archival documents in their Discovery Literature: 20th Century micro-site along with all the very good metadata such things require and some contextual essays. Here's a list of them:

British Library holdings:
Smith College holdings:
Contextual articles:
I never blogged about these documents or what the British Library did but instead used Twitter to broadcast the availability of them. This is an interesting way to spread news but I find it a lot more difficult to use as a resource than, say, putting things on this blog or over on my website A celebration, this is. It feels more "placed" in the blog. On the concept of digitization, though, this sort of cooperation between Plath's estate and the repositories that hold her archives is a wonderful step forward for Plath scholarship. I hope there will be more of this kind of thing in the future. It should also be stated, of course, that the British Library also digitized many Ted Hughes papers as well.

Speaking of digitized materials... Washington University at St. Louis also has a small digital presentation celebrating their "Modern Literature Collection : The First 50 Years". They have a page for Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. On the right hand side, scroll down, you will see separate links for Correspondence and Poetry Collections. In the former, there are one letter each from Ted Hughes to Graham Ackroyd and Ian Hamilton; as well as four letters from Sylvia Plath to her late sister-in-law Olwyn Hughes. The poetry collection features "Typescript and autograph drafts with corrections of Adam and the Sacred Nine by Ted Hughes". The exhibit features, also, "May Swenson's recollection of meeting Sylvia Plath at Yaddo in 1959".

The other big news story this year dropped in July when Kirsten Dunst and Dakota Fanning announced they will direct and star and produce a new adaptation of Plath's novel The Bell Jar. We can only hope and pray it is a far better attempt than the 1979 version. I have high expectations for this film, as do many of you I am sure. In August I was honored to give Dunst and Fanning, as well as Lizzie Friedman and Brittany Kahan, two of the film's producers, a tour of the Plath sites in the Boston area that are important to the novel. This was truly one of the most amazing experiences in my 22 years of Plathing. I found all four engaging, inquisitive, and very fun to be around. Casting is ongoing and filming is anticipated to begin in the first months of 2017.

Archives feature, as usual, on this blog. Get ready for a blitzkrieg of links! The year started with a post about the guest book Plath signed at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. A neat find, for sure. And in October I posted on some of the police records held by the Wellesley Police Department that show the then "live" tracking of Plath's disappearance in August 1953. Puts things into perspective. In February I posted what might be the last on the topic of Plath's work for the Press Board at Smith College. The culmination of six years of off-and-on research yielded 55 articles we can more than likely attribute to Plath based on archival evidence. This added voluminously to our understanding of her extracurricular work while an undergraduate, as well as to her practicing the craft of writing in many different genres. Other archival themed posts involved Plath's work on a Smith College publication, Campus Cat, and Smith's recently acquired Letters to Marion Freeman, which I assisted in them acquiring by befriending Ruth Geissler, Plath's great childhood friend.

Photographs of Plath in Venice, Italy, held by the Lilly Library were the topic of an April post and I used Google StreetView to approximately place Plath on the Grand Canal where the snaps were taken. In July I highlight all the old copies of The Bradford that Sylvia Plath would have read and many of which she contributed to when she was a high school student from 1947 to 1950. Like the press releases, this post brought to our attention several new Plath publications that were previously not recorded in any bibliography. I broke the posts up into thirds, one for each academic year: 1947-1948; 1948-1949; and 1949-1950. Photographs and movies of 1950s Benidorm were the topic of a post in August – thanks again need to go out to Gail Crowther for finding them. And also in August I made available PDF's or JPG's of all the articles I found on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt (website). In fact, after reviewing most of the posts this year, it seems like the gross majority of them are listed here. I know I post far less frequently than I used to, but at the same time I hope that these are of higher quality and content.

There were a couple of major auctions this year. Bonhams held sales on 16 March (results) and 15 June (results). Additionally, a rare proof of The Colossus (Heinemann) sold for well above the estimate in a Freeman's auction on 30 September.


This next sale tickles me… In July I found out about an extra special copy of The Bell Jar (Heinemann, 1963, reprint) and tweeted about it. The book was given by Ted Hughes to Nicholas Hughes, and upon his death Frieda Hughes inherited it. It was damaged, so artist that she is, Frieda drew in clever sketches attempting to metaphorically repair them. That tweet led to the University of Victoria in British Columbia acquiring the copy and I was able to see the book in person in October. As part of their announcing the acquisition and celebrating the special collections 50 year anniversary, I was invited out by Christine Walde and Lara Wilson to give a talk. I wrote a 45 minute talk entitled "'She wants to be everything': Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Letters, and Archives". I gave approximately 15 minutes to each subject in their sold-out basketball gym stadium that seats 2,100. Just kidding. To this day I am still surprised at the turnout, which I wrote about in a post on 1 November.

We had a guest post this year from Annika Lindskog (Sweden) of her visit in June to Heptonstall to see Sylvia Plath's grave. Thanks, Annika!

As mentioned above, I added PDF's to my main Sylvia Plath website, A celebration, this is, of all the articles I have acquired on Plath's first suicide attempt. That was the only major update to the website this year, but I am working on something additional for the first suicide attempt page and will unleash that on you shortly. From 1 December 2015 to 30 November 2016, the more popular pages on the website were: Biography, Poetry Works, The Bell Jar, Johnny Panic Synopses, and Prose Works. I thought I would also look at a different metric this year and that metric is duration. The pages that visitors to the website spent the most time on are: Biography, Johnny Panic Synopses, The Bell Jar, Publications, and Works Index. Between the website and the blog there were more than 90,000 hits. That's just incredible: Thank you!

2016 was rather skinny on monographs about Plath. In January and February, two academic press books were published: Sylvia Plath and the Language of Affective States: Written Discourse and the Experience of Depression by Dr. Zsofia Demjen (Bloomsbury Academic) and Mirrors of Entrapment and Emancipation: Forugh Farrokhzad and Sylvia Plath by Leila Rahimi Bahmany (Leiden University Press). In April we learned that Tracy Brain is set to edit a collection of essays called Sylvia Plath in Context to be published by the Cambridge University Press. This is exciting and should provide a variety of essays on wonderful topics. I am working at the moment on two pieces for the book: fingers crossed they are accepted! Gail Crowther's second book, The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath, was supposed to come out in August but there were delays and as of today I am still impatiently waiting for this work. As are you, I am certain. In early December, a book edited by Amanda Golden was published by the University of Florida Press. It is not about Plath, per se, but Plath features in some of the essays in This Business of Words: Reassessing Anne Sexton. The essay "'Two Sweet Ladies': Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath's Friendship and Mutual Influence" by David Trinidad is wonderful: it's my favorite. But also find essays by poets Kathleen Ossip and Jeanne Marie Beaumont and academics Jo Gill, Anita Helle, and Amanda Golden. With so few books coming out recently I feel that Plath scholars are anxiously waiting for something big to happen...

But there were two books that I was involved in that came to their fulfillment, of sorts. In late May, The Letters of Sylvia Plath was submitted to Faber & Faber. The book has been edited by myself and Karen V. Kukil and we hope to see it out in 2017. We submitted a beast of a book that included all the known letters that we could get our hands on and the manuscript swelled to nearly 3,400 double-spaced pages. This book had been in the works for more years than I can remember so it was wonderful to bring it to completion. I cannot wait for you to read it. At this point in time I am still unable to answer any questions about the book, so please do not ask!

Then in August, on the heels of the Letters book, Gail Crowther and I submitted a book of essays entitled These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. We heavily revised our original essays which were published from 2009 to 2013, and wrote much new content detailing our Sylvia Plath archival research. We present a lot of new information. We hope to see this book out in 2017, too.

Speaking of 2017: this should be an interesting and busy year. If the Letters are published I would expect this to be big news. Also, look for a long-term exhibit to open at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., in June. Dorothy Moss and Karen V. Kukil will bring off One Life: Sylvia Plath and will feature many items from the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College, the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, Emory University, and private collections. It is going to be amazing. Another, smaller Sylvia Plath exhibit will be on view at the Grolier Club in New York City from 21 September for a month or two. As part of this, Karen V. Kukil, Heather Clark, and I will be panelists on a small symposium at the Grolier in October. More details on these as I learn about them. And, speaking of Heather Clark, she is still hard at work on her literary biography of Sylvia Plath (Knopf). More information on this when I have it, too. Lots to look forward to in 2017, for sure.

Thank you all again for reading the blog and for commenting. Thank you to all the librarians and archivists I have bothered ceaselessly this year asking for information, copies, scans, etc. Be safe this holiday season, be happy and healthy, and read Plath. And look forward to the next post on 1 January 2017!

All links accessed 18 and 22 October, 15 November, 11-14 December 2016.

PS: I see it written a lot, on the internet, that Plath's poem "November Graveyard" was about the cemetery at Heptonstall where she is buried. This information likely has come from Ted Hughes' note in the back of the Collected Poems in which he states that the poem was set in Heptonstall. This may be incorrect. A note in Plath's pocket calendar indicates she began this poem on 9 September 1956. This was three days after a walk to a "green lichengrown graveyard" where she read and "pondered" the old stones. In her pocket calendar, Plath did not an indicate where this graveyard was that she visited.

"November Graveyard" was first published in Chequer in the winter of 1956-1957 under the title of ... "November Graveyard". A typescript copy held at Smith indicates she sold it to Mademoiselle in 1958 -- but the poem was not published in that magazine, seemingly, until November 1965! On 18 April 1958, Plath recorded the poem as just "November Graveyard" for Lee Anderson in Springfield, Mass. A short time after this Plath added in the ", Haworth" to the title as when she read the poem for the Woodberry Poetry Room on 13 June 1958, she recited the title as "November Graveyard, Haworth". When Plath made her recording at Harvard, she even wrote the titles out on the reel-to-reel case (below), which is held by the Woodberry Poetry Room. "The scene stands stubborn", indeed.

01 December 2016

Sylvia Plath's "A Winter's Tale" Illustrated

Sylvia Plath's "A Winter's Tale" (the poem) was a New Yorker poem, appearing in their 12 December 1959 issue. While she marketed it to the magazine in mid-1959, Plath was encouraged by Howard Moss to resubmit it later in the year after revising a line.

"A Winter's Tale" is a poem of place, and that place is Boston, Massachusetts. Plath and Ted Hughes had been living in Beacon Hill at 9 Willow Street since September 1958, so she got to experience the Christmas season in the city in 1958 like never before. Plath worked briefly that autumn in the psychiatric ward at the Massachusetts General Hospital, likely in the same building and ward where she was a patient five years earlier in the late summer of 1953. She and Hughes familiarized themselves with their city by foot, often going on long walks along the wharves and through Scollay Square. They also took in museums and galleries and frequented the Boston Public Library at Copley Square.

The composition date of "A Winter's Tale" is unknown, but it was certainly after 28 November 1958, when Boston held its Ninth annual tree lighting ceremony, as was reported in the Boston Globe the following day. Joseph A. Keblinsky wrote about it in his 29 November article, "Christmas Festival Opens In Burst of Light, Carols". A read through of his piece contextualizes some of the scenes Plath witnessed. I found, too, a photograph depicting part of the nativity scene printed in the Boston Globe the following year on 30 November 1959. I imagine the scene would largely have been the same from year to year.

I was reading "A Winter's Tale" recently and was struck by the number of places, buildings, and companies that Plath captured. Some of these sites are still around; some are "long gone darlings", to quote another Plath poem, "All the Dead Dears" (which coincidentally, like "A Winter's Tale" was both the title of a poem title and the title of a short story).

Due to copyright, I cannot post the entire poem here, but what I have done is to reference the stanza and then the word or words from the poem which place the verse in Boston. Then I have included a link to a photograph found on Flickr from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, or inserted my own photograph to help to illustrate "A Winter's Tale". Also there are some annotated Google maps. My hope is that the poem will be visually contextualized in a way that makes it new and modern yet also historically rendered.

To set the scene, though, how about a photograph of Acorn Street from April 1958 taken from directly in front of 9 Willow Street. And here, too, is one from February 1959 -- a snowy scene quite possibly taken with Plath and Hughes six floors up in the apartment looking out their windows.

View of Acorn Street from Sylvia & Ted Hughes' apartment
9 Willow Street, Boston (October 2012)
This map relates to stanza one and stanza seven
In stanza one, Plath begins the poem in her own backyard, as it were, at Boston Common (May 1958). The trees are labeled in the Common and Public Garden; which is something Plath herself referred to in her later poem, "Two Campers in Cloud Country". In "A Winter's Tale", Plath specifically mentioned the "Ulmus / Americana", otherwise known as the American Elm.


Plath's adolescent home was on Elmwood Road, Wellesley, and she lived on Elm Street twice in Northampton (at Haven House and at 337 Elm Street). The elm likely held particular significance to her. Later, Plath's writing desk in North Tawton was a large plank of elm that was originally cut for a coffin. The desk is now held by Smith College. Peaking Beacon Hill is the "domed State House" (March 1958). The Common and State house are identified on the map above by the number 1.

Here are two photographs. The first is of Boston Common, taken from inside 9 Willow Street in what was Plath and Hughes' bedroom. The second is of the State House, taken from the roof deck.

View of Boston Common from Sylvia & Ted Hughes' apartment
9 Willow Street, Boston (October 2012)
View of State House from roof deck,
9 Willow Street, Boston (October 2012)
This map relates to stanza three and stanza four
In stanzas three and four, Plath compares the angels in the nativity scene to the models in several of Boston's department stores. She mentions Bonwit's (then at 234 Berkeley Street), Jay's (on Temple Place), and S. S. Pierce (144 Tremont Street). In the image of S. S. Pierce, the building is next to "Central" truck.

This map relates to stanza five
In stanza five, we are now with the speaker of the poem in Downtown Crossing, then the heart of Boston's pedestrianized shopping area, listening to carolers on Winter Street, Temple Place, and outside of Filene's (February 1959). Winter Street and what was then Filene's and Temple Place are circled in the map above. Filene's is now gone, replaced in part by a Primark and an in-construction office and residential tower.

In stanza seven (see first map image above), eight and nine, Plath's speaker is back in Beacon Hill. She name-drops many of its most famous, exclusive streets and listens to the carolers filling the air with their songs. Pinckney Street (March 1959), Mt Vernon Street (April 1958), and Chestnut Street (1958).

There are still "odd violet panes" on the windows, too: a fantastic, idiosyncratic detail to record. The image below is from just around the corner from 9 Willow Street.

"Of  windows with odd violet panes"
29A Chestnut Street, Boston, Mass.
Is it the best photograph? Oh, no. Certainly not. But if you are interested in this violet phenomenon, please see "Why Some Boston Brownstones Have Purple Windows", Boston Magazine, 23 September 2015. It is sometimes a wonderful thing to know that my own eyes --and yours too-- can still look upon the very exact same thing that Plath's did.


This map relates to stanza nine
The last stanza and a half addresses the Little City on a hill (See also). There is some interesting imagery here. If the the final four place names were looked at from above and lines drawn connecting the points, they would form a close approximation of a Cross, the symbolism for which hardly needs explaining.

Charles Street (February 1959) (West) and Customs House (August 1959) (East).
North Station (September 1959) (North) and South Station (April 1957) (South).

All links accessed 21 May 2016, and 1 and 17 November 2016.
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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.
  • 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, 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. 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.

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