01 March 2017

Sylvia Plath's Circus Three Rings

One of the most fascinating aspects of studying Sylvia Plath's poems, particularly the late poems, is considering them through the lens of their creation date. That is one way to read them, and in doing so you can sometimes see her using words and images in a consistent fashion, but also seeing how she progresses through her subjects. For example, if you read the October 1962 poems in chronological order you can see Plath reshaping her self, if you will, in her "Bee" poems written from 3 to 9 October. After reestablishing that self (a poetic selfie?), she turns to shed external, familial subjects (burdens) like her father and mother "Daddy" and "Medusa" respectively, written back-to-back as it were on 12 and 16 October. (Plath had spent the weekend after writing "Daddy" out of town in Cornwall.) But yet the poems read quite differently when done so in the published book format. Though written second, "Medusa" appears first in Ariel: The Restored Edition, separated from "Daddy" by six poems: "Purdah" (29 October 1962), "The Moon and the Yew Tree" (22 October 1961), "A Birthday Present" (30 September 1962), "Letter in November" (11 November 1962), "Amnesiac" (21 October 1962) and "The Rival" (July 1961).

The unbelievably awesome Lilly Library at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, holds, among other treasures in Plath mss II, Sylvia Plath's manuscript book collection that she titled Circus and Three Rings and assembled towards the end of her senior year at Smith College in May/June 1955. Most of the poems were written in the final semester, January-April 1955 when Plath was taking a special studies course in poetic composition with Alfred Young Fisher. But, like her later books, Plath mined her older writing too, selecting those poems she felt held up with her more recent work.

Below is a list of the table of contents of the poems in Plath's Circus in Three Rings. The title of the poem is followed by a common and then the date of creation, if known.

I "Green as a melon our sweet world was"
Song of Eve, March 9, 1955
Wayfaring at the Whitney: A Study in Sculptural Dimensions, February 28, 1955
Black Pine Tree in an Orange Light, March 8, 1955
"Go Get the Goodly Squab", April 5-6, 1952
Winter Words, February 1, 1955
Prologue to Spring, February 9, 1955
Apparel for April, February 2, 1955
April Aubade, February 14, 1955

II "My extravagant heart blows up again"
Circus in Three Rings, September 8, 1954; revised 23 April 1955
On Looking Into the Eyes of My Demon Lover, March 6, 1955
The Dream, February 7, 1955
Trio of Love Songs, April 16-17, 1953
Love is a Parallax, 1954-1955
Moonsong at Morning, March 6, 1955
Rondeau Redoublé, January 30, 1955
Second Winter, March 9, 1955
Apotheosis, March 9, 1955
Mad Girl's Love Song, February 21, 1953
Desert Song, April 19, 1955

III "Circling zodiac compels the year"
To Eva Descending the Stair, February 20, 1953
Metamorphoses of the Moon, November 14, 1954
The Princess and the Goblins, February 19, 1955
Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea, March 22, 1955
Temper of Time, February 1, 1955
Epitaph in Three Parts, February 11, 1955
Ice Age II (All, all is freezing over:... [First Line]), March 2, 1955
Elegy, February 6, 1955
Lament, February 5, 1955
Danse Macabre, January 30, 1955
Doomsday, February 21, 1953

Plath divided the book into three sections. Section I, "Green as a melon our sweet world was" takes its title from Plath's poem "Song of Eve". Section II, "My extravagant heart blows up again" takes its title from Plath's poem "Circus in Three Rings". Section III, "Circling zodiac compels the year" takes its title from Plath's poem "To Eva Descending the Stair".

In creation date order, though, the poems are:

"Go Get the Goodly Squab", April 5-6, 1952

To Eva Descending the Stair, February 20, 1953
Doomsday, February 21, 1953
Mad Girl's Love Song, February 21, 1953

Trio of Love Songs, April 16-17, 1953

Metamorphoses of the Moon, November 14, 1954

Love is a Parallax, 1954-1955

Danse Macabre, January 30, 1955
Rondeau Redoublé, January 30, 1955

Temper of Time, February 1, 1955
Winter Words, February 1, 1955
Apparel for April, February 2, 1955
Lament, February 5, 1955
Elegy, February 6, 1955
The Dream, February 7, 1955
Prologue to Spring, February 9, 1955
Epitaph in Three Parts, February 11, 1955
April Aubade, February 14, 1955
The Princess and the Goblins, February 19, 1955
Wayfaring at the Whitney: A Study in Sculptural Dimensions, February 28, 1955

Ice Age (II) (All, all is freezing over:... [first line]), March 2, 1955
Moonsong at Morning, March 6, 1955
On Looking Into the Eyes of My Demon Lover, March 6, 1955
Black Pine Tree in an Orange Light, March 8, 1955
Apotheosis, March 9, 1955
Second Winter, March 9, 1955
Song of Eve, March 9, 1955
Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea, March 22, 1955

Desert Song, April 19, 1955
Circus in Three Rings, September 8, 1954; revised 23 April 1955

So, maybe you want to read Sylvia Plath's Circus in Three Rings? There are two ways to do it. However, though it may a challenge because, of course, not all of the poems are published.

No comments :

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

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.

Interviews