05 December 2019

The Sylvia Plath Society is being formed

For more than a decade---and possibly longer---there has been interest in the formation of a Sylvia Plath Society.

For the past few months, I have been in contact with Kitty Shaw (Twitter) and Dorka Tamás (Twitter) and they have been really making astounding progress contacting people, institutions, and the like the get this thing off the ground. We have the support of many people, including the scholar Tim Kendall. In addition, we have reached out to both the Estate of Sylvia Plath and Faber and Faber.

Earlier this week, the Society got a Twitter handle which is one of the first steps. The Society looking to create a newsletter, a website, and eventually a journal, too.

If you have an interest in following the Society, please do so via Twitter. We are looking to start getting members, volunteers, and the like to fill other roles in the running of it. So please feel free to email (plathsoc AT gmail DOT com) if you have any interest at all in Sylvia Plath.

All links accessed 3 December 2019.

03 December 2019

New book of essays on Sylvia Plath published in Hungary

A new book of essays was recently published in Hungarian out of Budepast. A képzelet kockázata: Sylvia Plath életműve, élettörténete és betegsége---which translates to The risk of imagination: The oeuvre, life history and illness of Sylvia Plath---and it is edited by József Gerevich. The ISBN is 978-963-51-7050-0 and it is published by Kossuth Kiadó.

Here is the table of contents. I am grateful to Dóra Ocsovai for letting me know about the title and, as well, providing English translations of the titles.

József Gerevich: Psychiatric aspects of confessional poetry

Oeuvre

Enikő Bollobás: Mask and Self—and the Illness: Injuries of the Soul in Sylvia Plath's Poetry

Antal Bókay: Failure in the construction of the ego in confessional poetry – Sylvia Plath and Attila József

Zsófia Demjén: "Drowning in negativism, self-hate, doubt, madness": Linguistic insights into Sylvia Plath's experience of depression

Júlia Lázár: What Is This Face So Murderous?

Dóra Ocsovai: From womb to 'wave-yard': The poetics of Water in Sylvia Plath's oeuvre

Life history

Balázs Matuszka: From the experience to anger: The elaboration of the feelings against the parents in the art of Sylvia Plath

Dóra Ocsovai: Devil and God – The double role of Ted Hughes in Sylvia Plath's life and death

Kinga Fabó: On Sylvia Plath's Personality

Krisztina Zsédel: The "price" of creativity? Predictive and protective factors in the suicide of Sylvia Plath

Illness

Attila Németh: Psychiatric disorder of Sylvia Plath

Magdolna Moretti: "The grasses unload their griefs on my feet": The psychiatric therapy of Sylvia Plath

József Gerevich: The Broken-necked Deer. Trying to reconstruct and understand the Sylvia Plath-phenomenon

All links accessed 3 December 2019.

01 December 2019

Sylvia Plath Collections: University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Whoever says that you cannot learn something on Twitter is wrong?

So, Chris Caldwell is a Sylvia Plath influencer.

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has a several precious Sylvia Plath items in its Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives.

The first two items mentioned here are a part of the Patricia Cornwell Collection. The first item they have is a manuscript copy of Plath's poem "King of the Ice" written on 10 January 1945. Plath wrote about the poem in her diary that day saying that once she got home from school and a music lesson, she set to work on a letter, story, or poem for the Phillipian, her junior high school newspaper. The assignment required writing about a "star" with a "right good will". "King of the Ice" was that poem. (Plath also started on writing another poem, "The Snowflake Star" the same day, which, according to her diary, she finalized on 21 February 1945. "The Snowflake Star" was published in February 1946.)

"King of the Ice" was first offered for sale at London Olympia's Antiquarian Book Fair in 2003 and made headline news in "Sylvia Plath's schoolgirl love poem goes on sale for £4,500" from The Telegraph and, as well, on the BBC. As you can see from the articles, two other Plath poems and a lock of her hair were also offered. The other two poems were "Hear the crickets chirping" and "I saw a little birdie" held by the Beinecke Library, Yale.

The other Plath-related item from the Cornwell collection is Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath by Jillian Becker. It is signed by the author.

I met Cornwell at one point when I was working at the hallowed Woodberry Poetry Room. She was at Harvard doing some research. While the subjects of conversation escape me now---I vaguely remember asking her not have have balding archivist murdered---we must have talked about Plath based on this inscription to me in this book she sent afterward.


But that is not all. The Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections has three limited editions from the 1970s: Child, Wreath for a Bridal, and Million Dollar Month. These are lovely books for any fan or collector of Sylvia Plath.

 

You can see all the known Sylvia Plath archival collections on my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is.

All links accessed 13 November and 1 December 2019.

20 November 2019

Sylvia Plath's Excerpted Reviews



You might think that because The Letters of Sylvia Plath has more than 4,300 footnotes it would be hard to pick a favorite. But you would be wrong. One of my favorite footnotes falls in Volume 2, late in the book.

In her 20 November 1962 letter to Olive Higgins Prouty, Plath writes still not knowing if she would be getting the flat at 23 Fitzroy Road, London. The letter breathlessly recaps, among other things, her 5-7 November visit to London when she found the flat and talks about all its advantages: "right round the corner from my old panel of wonderful doctors & the park & minutes by bus from the BBC" (910).

But the part that had me most allured when I transcribed, proofed, edited, and annotated came somewhat towards the end of the letter when Plath talks about her reviews of children's books. She enclosed a clipping of one from the New Statesman which the periodical titled "Oregonian Original" (9 November 1962, p.660).


"Oregonian Original" discusses nine books in total: E. S. Bradburne, Opal Whiteley; Evan Hunter [Ed McBain], The Wonderful Button; Leo Lionni, Little Blue and Little Yellow; and Elizabeth Rose and Gerald Rose, Punch and Judy Carry On; Tomi Ungerer, The Mellops Go Flying; H. E. Bates, Achilles the Donkey; Dr Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg; Gaby Baldner, The Penguins of Penguin Town; and Reinhard Herrman, The Creation. Plath provided the stars at the top left and bottom right; Prouty annotated the clipping in pencil: "Would like to know more about the introduction". Prouty also underlined in pencil the words "splendid" and "curious" in the first paragraph. There is a pencil doodle beside the review of Punch and Judy Carry On and underlining, in pen, next to Horton Hatches the Egg.

This is nifty information, but still not what I want to highlight. No, it is just after this when in the letter Plath types, "My children's reviews are beginning to 'take'---Faber & Faber quoted one in an advertisement & I opened one book to find a former review of mine of an earlier one in the series on the back jacket" (912).

They were rewarding days when I found both the advertisement Plath mentioned seeing as well as landing on the book in which her review was blurbed.

I knew that Plath read The Observer and The Guardian but honestly who has the time to look through all those issues? I have free time. But not that much free time! Plath had been reviewing books for about a year at that point... 365 issues? No thanks.

This is where modern technology rocks. Some geniuses used Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software on digitized microfilm and it (the OCR) was cleaned up enough so that when I searched a database holding these two newspapers I got a hit for "Sylvia Plath" 17 June 1962, page 27.

I was familiar enough with Plath's periodical publications that I knew it was not a hit for a poem published. As well, based on the date it would not be for The Colossus. But it might very well have been that she or her work was mentioned in an article. In this case I hit the nail on the head, though, and it was the excerpt from her review of Elizabeth & Gerald Rose's The Big River which was quoted in The Observer: "A clear, poetic account of a river's genesis and progress to the sea, with superb illustrations—Sylvia Plath, New Statesman."

Here it is:


The other one proved to be trickier as Plath had reviewed a dozen or so children's books. So it meant making a list of all the books she reviewed as well as both those books that may have been reprinted as well as subsequent books by these authors and illustrators. As luck would have it, the way I approached this was the very long way around so that it was literally the last author and book I went after that was the one to which Plath referred: Plath's review of Wanda Gág's The Funny Thing (published on 18 May 1962 when the Wevills were visiting Court Green) quotes on the rear jacket flap of Plath's review of Gág's The ABC Bunny (London: Faber & Faber, 1962): "'An excellent read-aloud adventure for very young children . . . all the finality of a good fable.' New Statesman".



Frankly, I should have guessed it would be a Faber publication as the gesture may have been one of respect for the quality of Plath's review but also because of the publishing house's relationship with her husband.

17 November 2019

Books about Sylvia Plath for sale

I have extra copies of the following books about Sylvia Plath that I would like to see in new homes. Proceeds will go directly into my Sylvia Plath work (including renewing the domain for my A celebration, this is website for Plath www.sylviaplath.info).

Prices include shipping. 

The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath. 2 copies available. $15 each. (Retails for $28.99)

The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath. 2 copies available. $15 each. (Retails for $37.99)

Critical Insights: Sylvia Plath. 1 copy available. $30. (Retails for $105)

Representing Sylvia Plath. 1 copy available. $35.  (Retails for $113)




Thank you!  US only.

15 November 2019

Elizabeth Sigmund's Copy of Sylvia Plath's Copy of Dylan Thomas

Back in late June, Bonhams had a small series Sylvia Plath lots in their auction.

Lot 238 was Plath's copy of the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas. It sold for a handsome £11,312 (roughly US$ 14,519) including the buyer's premium.

That copy is now for sale through the awesome Peter Harrington Rare Books in London for the even more handsome £27,500 (roughly US$ 36,409.61).




Peter Harrington also has Elizabeth's copy of Last Encounters by Trevor Thomas. That is listed for £1,250. It is featured in their Christmas 2019 catalogue (image below).




All links accessed 12 and 13 November 2019. All images shamelessly pilfered from Peter Harrington's  ABE page and Christmas catalogue.

12 November 2019

Auction Results: Sylvia Plath's membership cards

On 14 May, via Heritage Auctions, Sylvia Plath's membership card to the Poetry Society of America sold for $1,875. This was originally part of Lot 330 in the massive Bonhams auction of the Property of Frieda Hughes, held in London on 21 March 2018.



More recently, on 26 October 2019, Heritage offered Plath's Massachusetts driver's license for sale and that went for $3,000. I learned of this auction from my friends at the great Fine Books & Collections magazine.



Some of the other cards from Plath's wallet are presently on eBay. (Well, presently on eBay being in August when I drafted this post)...

Mutual of Omaha


Social Security card


Plath's Boston Public Library card was also up, but that auction ended on 22 September 2019 and the card sold for $7,500.

All links accessed 13 August and 12 November 2019.

06 November 2019

Sylvia Plath's Mary Ventura in Other Languages

Sylvia Plath's Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom was published in October in a Catalan language edition. Mary Ventura i el Novè Regne is the title and was brought out by Edicions del Periscopi. The book was tranlated by Marta Pera Cucurell.

Germany is getting onto the Mary Ventura train, too, and will publish Mary Ventura und das neunte Königreich on 8 March 2020 (Surkampf Insel Verlag). The book was translated by Eike Schönfeld.



Oh, that Catalan cover is righteous.

All links accessed 6 November 2019.

01 November 2019

Footnoting the Letters of Sylvia Plath

One of the things I loved most about my work on The Letters of Sylvia Plath was the footnotes. A friend wrote to me in an email and said that she could "hear" me in them, which was the highest compliment. Periodically, I intend on showing some of the materials I acquired in the research process of annotating Sylvia Plath's experiences. For me, it adds so much contextual information about how Plath lived. What she read and saw and what made an impression on her life.

Today I am showing the article Plath read on Sunday, 23 September 1962, which she wrote about in the letter to her mother the next day. She typed, "I would love to go on a skiing holiday in the Tyrol with them someday. I just read about it in the paper" (836).

The article Plath referred to must have been, I think, published in The Observer, her Sunday paper of choice. The article appeared on page 37 of the Travel section. The quality below is wanting, please accept my apologies.

Full Page

The article on Austria
I cannot think of this letter, or the article, without then thinking about "Daddy" written a couple of weeks later with the lines: "The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna / Are not very pure or true."

What do you think? Is this something you would like to see more of?

27 October 2019

The Site of Sylvia Plath's "Ariel"

This is a blog post I started several years ago (in 2013!!!) but never posted for a variety of reasons. Today seems like a good day to publish it…

In the morning before a Sylvia Plath archives talk Gail Crowther and I gave at Plymouth University in England---please see the March 2013 Blog archive for a bit about that presentation.---Gail and I did a bit of Plathing in the villages of Belstone and Corscombe in Devon. Belstone is were Susan O'Neil-Roe lived at "Pear Trees" cottage. (For more on Belstone and "Pear Trees" please click here.) It took two trips to the village to find the house, but thanks to the marvel that is Google we were able to locate the house.

From there, we went onto to nearby Corscombe, where was Plath took horse riding lessons on an older, docile horse called Ariel. Being there, the poems "Ariel" and "Sheep in Fog" take on a whole new meaning, as does her December 1962 introductions that she wrote about the poems. (The broadcast was never-realized her then new work.) These introductions are reprinted in Ariel: The Restored Edition (both) and in The Collected Poems (just "Sheep in Fog"). Tellingly, the order in which Plath introduced the poems had "Sheep in Fog" first, followed by "Ariel". For "Sheep in Fog" Plath wrote: "In this poem, the speaker's horse is proceeding at a slow, cold walk down a hill of macadam to the stable at the bottom. It is December. It is foggy. In the fog there are sheep." For "Ariel", she said, "Another horseback riding poem, this one called 'Ariel', after a horse I'm especially fond of."



Plath's visited Miss Redwood, her riding "mistress", regularly in the autumn of 1962. Miss Redwood lived at a farm called Lower Corscombe (top left). From Lower Corscombe one can go up that hill of macadam (top right -- the camera's point of view looks downhill towards Lower Corscombe) where the road makes a sharp right turn and then goes higher still before plateauing and continuing further on with one or so turns, directly to North Tawton. From the plateau here you can see several Dartmoor tors including Cawsand Beacon and Yes Tor (lower left), as well as the valley below. The Dartmoor rail line runs quite close to these farms though when we were there, there were no trains running (lower right).


In the map above the red line is the train line, the white arrow points approximately to Lower Corscombe farm; and the yellow arrow is the hill of macadam. That is the train line that rain through North Tawton.

Among other things on her 30th birthday, 27 October 1962, Sylvia Plath had her charwoman Nancy Axworthy over from 10:15 to 12:15. From 11 to 12 that morning, Plath was at Miss Redwood's for her horse riding lesson. That morning, also, Plath wrote "Poppies in October" and "Ariel". Later on she picked apples, baked bread. She also ironed and washed a sweater.

As you should know by now, I find being in or at a place Plath wrote about enhances the experience of reading the poem. This is a different form of interpretation than a biographical reading which is a sound approach, but which has come under intense scrutiny and criticism over the years. Plath was influenced by a place or a thing almost as much as she was by the events of her life and both undergo a beautiful transformations from the lived-experience to the art of the creative work. This is, in part, the living archive, a concept Gail and I developed in our papers and subsequent book, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath.


All links accessed 21 March 2013, 19 June 2019, and 26 October 2019.
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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.
  • 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.
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, 1956-1963. London: Faber, 2018.
  • 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.

Interviews