21 July 2017

The Letters of Sylvia Plath: An Update

It seems to have been going on for ages, but The Letters of Sylvia Plath really took off sometime in 2011. Work began before this, by several years, but the daily grind of locating, transcribing and all the rest started about then. I think...

It has been the most immense privilege to get to work so closely with Plath's letters and archives, with Karen V. Kukil (the co-editor), with Frieda Hughes, and the very good people at Faber and HarperCollins on this project. Not to mention the archivists and librarians and private citizens who have offered tireless help and information.

After living with the manuscript in various states and sizes for so many years, it is with the utmost pleasure that I am publishing this blog post to let you know that the hundreds of letters comprising Volume 1 (1940-1956) is off my hands and has passed now the point of no return.

THANK YOU ALL for your support and patience during this project. You will never really know, and nor can I express in words, just how you each sustained me for the duration of this project. Every letter located, read, transcribed, annotated, edited, and proofed was done all for you and on the support of your shoulders. I am so thrilled to have this volume of the book at the publishers. To kind of quote Plath, "We have come so far, it is [nearly] over."

From Amazon.co.uk:
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was one of the writers that defined the course of twentieth-century poetry. Her vivid, daring and complex poetry continues to captivate new generations of readers and writers.

In the Letters, we discover the art of Plath's correspondence. Most has never before been published and is here presented unabridged, without revision, so that she speaks directly in her own words. Refreshingly candid and offering intimate details of her personal life, Plath is playful, too, entertaining a wide range of addressees, including family, friends and professional contacts, with inimitable wit and verve.

The letters document Plath's extraordinary literary development: the genesis of many poems, short and long fiction, and journalism. Her endeavour to publish in a variety of genres had mixed receptions, but she was never dissuaded. Through acceptance of her work, and rejection, Plath strove to stay true to her creative vision. Well-read and curious, she offers a fascinating commentary on contemporary culture.

Leading Plath scholar Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, editor of The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962, provide comprehensive footnotes and an extensive index informed by their meticulous research. Alongside a selection of photographs and Plath's own line-drawings, they masterfully contextualise what the pages disclose.

This selection of early correspondence marks the key moments of Plath's adolescence, including childhood hobbies and high school boyfriends; her successful but turbulent undergraduate years at Smith College; the move to England and Cambridge University; and her meeting and marrying Ted Hughes, including unseen letters post-honeymoon, revealing their extraordinary creative partnership.
Look for publication on 5 October (UK) and 17 October (US)!  At 1,424 pages (per Amazon), this volume of Plath's letters will be about fifty pages fatter than Faber's own Collected Poems of Ted Hughes. So, start lifting weights. I will have much more to say about the work that went into The Letters of Sylvia Plath project at the Sylvia Plath: Letters, Words, and Fragments Conference being organized by Plath scholar Maeve O'Brien. The conference will be hosted by the Ulster University, Belfast, on 10-11 November. The call for papers closes on 31 July, so please send your proposals in soon.

I guess I have to start thinking about Volume 2 now!

All links accessed 20 July 2017; blurb accessed 20 July 2017.


Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Congrats! I can't wait to get my copy!

rdalpay said...

I can't wait to read this book. Thank you for all of your hard work.

An Honest Cook said...

Thank you for your dedication to this project; you're doing important work. I've been reading Plath for 42 years and have witnessed the very slow unfolding of Plath uncensored and unabridged. I know this volume will be worth the wait. Question: Did you manage to do any work simultaneously on volume 2 while putting volume 1 together, or are you and Karen basically starting from scratch? Is there an projected date for publishing volume 2?

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you all!! Believe me I'm just as impatient and excited for you to read this book as you are to have it.

Honest Cook: We prepared both volumes at the same time...Rather we prepared everything at once and then had it split into two volumes. This is part of the reason it took so long to prepare. Hope that's understandable and ok!!! This fall I am going to re-proof all the letters, revise and add and subtract footnotes if necessary (always learning new things that can help provide context), and go from there. Also hope the first volume will somehow lead to the locating of more new letters. Even if they date to the first volume, we'll try to fit them into the second volume.


A Piece of Plathery said...


Peter K Steinberg said...

Plathery! A more perfect comment has never been left!


An Honest Cook said...

Peter: Thanks for the information. I assumed you were preparing both volumes simultaneously. As a copy editor by profession, I understand the intensive kind of work such an endeavor entails. I admire and appreciate you for your diligence in this vital project!

Project Plath said...

I anticipate these volumes will be, at the very least, a wonderful new source for SP quips and quotes. It will be an incredible read. Thank you, PKS! (and KK)

Anna said...

I am so thrilled, Peter! Have been waiting and bugging you about this for sooo many years now! ;) This will be a wonderful fall! The conference and the letters! And a perfect read for these ugly fall and winter days! :)

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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.