20 January 2020

Sylvia Plath Collections: First Impressions of Rosentein's archive

It really feels like this has been a long time in coming. I first learned of the Harriet Rosenstein materials in January 2016, within days of Olwyn Hughes' passing. The full extent was not made clear for quiet awhile, but it was evident the most important materials were those letter to Ruth Beuscher, which are now at Smith College.

But what of the rest of the collection? Ken Lopez's inventory was tantalizing, though flawed. And in August 2019, I learned the collection had been sold. Shortly there after, I learned it was at Emory but it was their news to break, not mine, so I sat on it until they told me it was alright to publicize, which was a blog post published earlier this month.

In that post, it was mentioned that a few select items from Rosenstein's papers were not included in what Emory acquired, and that it was for sale by Peter Grogan. A number of items, I noticed, have been removed from his storefront on ABE Books. So naturally my mind is wondering where these items are going. For a few months, I have been hemming and hawing about one item. I wrote Grogan to see if it was still available and it turned up a few days ago. It was the specimen page of the limited edition of Crystal Gazer and Other Poems which featured, on the back, one of the poems in that collection: "The Dream of the Hearse-Driver". You can view the table of contents to this book on A celebration, this is. Included with the specimen was prospectus for it, complete with order form, and a letter from Olwyn Hughes to Rosenstein. (A copy of the letter is included in the Olwyn Hughes folder in Box 2, Folder 5.)

In the last few days, I have started seeing some of the Rosenstein collection of research files on Sylvia Plath. These files include Plath's McLean record. It is not the complete record, I do not imagine, but it is an interesting glimpse into Plath's time at McLean, her diagnoses, her treatments, etc. My initial take-away from it is that Rosenstein was looking for corroboration with The Bell Jar and some of Plath's other creative writing. There is more to it than that, obviously, but that was stood out on my initial read; my mind-abuzz with the novelty and weirdness of seeing the records. Additionally, the files for John Horder, Elinor Klein, Aurelia Plath, various Hughes family members, and a few others. The overwhelming feeling I get from reviewing these papers are that Sylvia Plath was a different person to different people. Which is brilliant, as it complicates the impressions I hold on Plath after 25+ years research.

Time permitting I hope to highlight additional resources as I gain access to them. There are particular folders I think I am really excited to see, but I am trying to temper my eagerness in hopes of not being disappointed (some of the materials have been which is natural, I think).

Is anyone out there as eager to work with this collection? I looked into flying down to work with the materials immediately but it would be, in a word, irresponsible, financially. Therefore, I am grateful beyond expression to the few people who sent me some "tip" money in December as these funds are enabling me to hire a research proxy to photograph parts of the collection. Thank you so much for your generosity.

All links accessed 19 January 2020.

15 January 2020

The Indefatigable Sylvia Plath

On Thursday, 9 January 2020, I had the privilege to share the stage with a panel of Sylvia Plath scholars--Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick (organizer and presenter), Heather Clark (presenter), and Janet Badia (respondent)---at the MLA conference in Seattle. Our topic was "New Developments in Sylvia Plath Studies: Archives, Biography, and Feminism". The audience was small, but that did not have any bearing on our passion for our respective pieces.

After my talk, entitled "The Indefatigable Sylvia Plath", Heather presented "P(l)athography: Sylvia Plath and Her Biographers" which provided an overview of the role Plath biographies have played in pathologizing their subject. This was followed by Julie's "'Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children': Sylvia Plath's Representations of Assia Wevill", an investigation on Wevill's role as a muse in Sylvia Plath's poetry. Janet responded with an eloquent summation of our talks asking the question "Who is Sylvia Plath?". This was poignant, because the more we think we know, the more we must realize that we have not yet come close to pining down who Sylvia Plath is. (I follow Janet's use of the present tense here).

The below is the text of my talk which was vastly different from my proposal. Sorry. Not sorry. I planned originally to discuss my role in editing The Letters of Sylvia Plath but I struggled to effectively get a more-or-less, tried and true, 30-45 minute talk down to about 12 minutes and have it hold together.

The bold font is an indication to me to advance the PowerPoint slides. I have included, in most instances, very small jpgs of the slides. They are so small for copyright reasons, but I hope give a flavor what the audience and panelists saw. Some quoted text has also been redacted, also due to copyright. Thank you for your understanding. Some slides are full-size, though likely not the ones you really want to see. I have placed these slides in the text as close as possible to their relevance. And, I have decided to enhance it in parts to links that you may find useful and/or helpful.

The Indefatigable Sylvia Plath

Peter K. Steinberg, MLA Seattle, 9 January 2020

In working on the two-volumes of Sylvia Plath's letters, I had the privilege of full access to her archival papers which are dispersed among more than 50 libraries, archives, and private collections around the world. I was permitted to have photocopies and scans made of the materials, as well as to take photographs. Acquiring thousands of pages of paper and digital files enabled me to have at my fingertips unparalleled access to documents Plath created. This talk seeks to illustrate just how industrious Plath was.

Sylvia Plath was born on the 27th of October 1932 in Boston and died on the 11th of February 1963 in London. That is 11,064 days. At six weeks old, she began imitating vowel sounds; at six months, she could say "gully-gully" when offered a bottle. Mrs. Plath thought it was an attempt to say "goody-goody", which is what she typically said to her daughter at feeding time. At 15 months Plath recognized the mailman – a practice she would continue for all of her days waiting on acceptances, rejections, and payments for her work, as well as letters from the various people with whom she interacted.

 Plath started writing at an early age. Her first dated and saved poem that we know of is titled "Thoughts" and was written in 1937 when she was five years old. It reads: "[redacted]". It is a simple poem of two unrelated lines and it is certainly deeper in meaning, I am sure, than anything I can come with, even at my advanced age. The themes of her earliest finished poems were predominantly nature, the weather, fairies, friends, and her family. Her first published poem appeared in August 1941. She was nearly nine years old.

By 1945, Plath was making final, fair copies of her poems in a notebook and illustrating them. In her diary that year, Plath wrote on the 17th of August: "[redacted]". That notebook is held by the Morgan Library.

From 1937 to 1963, poetry was a constant endeavor for Plath. In her lifetime, she saw her poems appear more than 200 times in newspapers, journals, magazines, and books. Her 1955 poem "Prologue to Spring" was printed and reprinted seven times in newspapers, journals, and pamphlets. Her Collected Poems—which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1982—did not even print all of the poems Plath wrote in her lifetime. It published 226 poems written between early 1956 and February 1963 with an additional 50 written from before 1956. There are two full poems, pieces of five poems, and a translation tucked away in the Notes section at the back. That is a total of about 284 poems. The volume failed to include many previously published pieces. Did you know she wrote at least 600 poems? Doing the math, 47% were in Collected Poems. This means that 53% of Plath's poems remain either uncollected or unpublished to general readers who do not have ready access to archives.

Plath's prose is even more interesting. In 1979 Plath's estate published Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams which assembled 23 pieces of short fiction, 4 works of nonfiction, and some journal entries. Removing the journal entries, that's 27 prose works. Dozens of works she published were left out of that book, including the majority of stories she published in Seventeen magazine such as "And Summer Will Not Come Again", "Den of Lions", and "The Perfect Setup". "Den of Lions" won third prize in the magazine's short story contest, earning Plath a $100 prize. "The Perfect Setup" received honorable mention the following year.

Here is a breakdown of Plath's prose.

She wrote at least 76 short stories; at least 50 pieces of nonfiction; more than 50 press releases during her time at Smith College; as well as 8 book reviews. That's a total of at least 184 works of prose in various genres. Also, there are almost 30 extant prose fragments—works she created and probably completed but for which there are only smatterings of pages remaining. There are many works she wrote that simply do not appear to survive. Compared to what was in Johnny Panic, and including the recently published short story Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, just 15% of Plath's prose is widely available in bookstores and libraries.

Plath was a dedicated diarist who began keeping a log of her life in 1944, initially and dutifully recording her days with the greeting, "Dear Diary". However, once she was nearing the end of junior high school, she said "When the big moments come, one page is not enough." So until she got her first undated journal for Christmas 1946, Plath often had to shrink her handwriting down to get double the text on her ruled pages. Her published journals cover 1950 to 1962, but the period covering 1944 to 1949 is only to visitors to the Lilly Library.

Plath took an early interest in art and the visual representation of the things of this world. She studied art in school and even received private instruction in the summer of 1949. At Smith College she took courses in basic design, medieval art, and drawing and painting. In addition to her journals and letters, Plath graffitied her college notebooks and books in her personal library with scores of uncatalogued pieces. In all, Plath created hundreds of line drawings and sketches with pen and pencil, collages, and watercolors, pastels, woodcuts, charcoal, and paints.

I could easily talk for forty-five minutes on Plath's letters but I am compassionate and will spare you that grief. The two volumes of The Letters of Sylvia Plath publish more than 1,400 letters to about 150 recipients. But based on the references in her letters, diaries, and archives, Plath likely wrote at least 700 more letters to dozens of other people that are either lost, or destroyed, or being cruelly, nefariously, hoarded by private owners. In tracing her letters, I found them in archives between Jerusalem and Seattle. In transcribing them I sought to be as faithful as possible to get you—the readers—as close to the original letters as I could. In researching and writing the majority of the 4,300 or so footnotes, I endeavored to provide contextual and relevant information to further bring Plath's vigorous experiences to life. But all that work came with a cost.

Plath read or worked with more than 1,200 books which I have compiled and made accessible on LibrayThing.

Plath was the subject of more than 300 photographs.

There have been nearly 200 books about Plath published and more than 2500 articles written about her. She is regularly on Jeopardy! Her work has been translated into nearly 50 languages, as well as Braille.

Sylvia Plath wrote poems. A lot of them. She wrote prose persistently, experimenting in several different genres. She wrote letters incessantly. She kept diaries for about twenty years, and created several personal and publication-related scrapbooks. For the majority of the last 12 years of her life, Plath kept detailed wall, desk, and pocket calendars which record a tornadic A to Z of events in her life including: acceptances, assignments, auditions, baking, baths, books, cities visited, clothes bought, childbirth, concerts, conversations, courses, daffodils picked and sold, dances, dates, deadlines, doctor and dentist appointments, earnings, employments, encounters, exams, exercise, finances, gardening, hair washings, heartbreaks and a kaleidoscope of other emotions, hospitalizations, illnesses, instructions, interviews, laundry, lectures, letters written, marriage, martinis, meals, meteorological observations, movies, naps, papers, people, phone calls, piano playing, planes, plays, radio programs, rejections, reminders, schedules, scrapbooking, sex, showers (alone), showers (not alone), sightseeing, singing, submissions, sunbathing, therapy, tears, trains, visitors, and works created, to name but a few. Sylvia Plath was a sunrise, always. Sylvia Plath was indefatigable.

Thank you.

It is a really brief overview of Plath's personal and creative writing life. But I feel it very well represents an energy, a drive, that is often overlooked, or even ignored, in considerations of her life.

A post panel drink and conversation was very nice. I bailed early but heard later that Julie, Heather, and Janet closed the joint down.

07 January 2020

Harriet Rosentstein's Sylvia Plath Collection

Harriet Rosenstein's Sylvia Plath collection (Update) (More Info) has started to appear on the market nearly two and a half years after it appeared briefly for sale, en masse, online. Originally offered for $875,000, the collection was the subject of a lawsuit between Smith College, Rosenstein, and the bookseller, Ken Lopez.

Famously the fourteen letters from Plath to Dr. Ruth Beuscher are now held by Smith College, and the letters themselves were included at almost the last moment to Volume II.

However, the bulk of Rosenstein's collection was purchased by Emory University where it is now open for research. See the finding aid here, and please not it is also linked on the Sylvia Plath Archival Materials page on A celebration, this is. I am grateful to Carrie Hintz for the notice of the collections availability.

Pieces of the Rosenstein Plath collection are for sale from Peter Grogan Rare Books (ABE page), a fantastic bookseller, based in England. One item, Grogan's Item #20198, does not appear to have any relevance to her research on Plath.

Winter Trees

Published by Faber & Faber, London (1971)

US$ 93.17

About this Item: Faber & Faber, London, 1971. First edition. Plath's putative first biographer Harriet Rosenstein's copy, with her note laid-in. An excellent copy in very slightly rubbed and nicked dustwrapper. Seller Inventory # 20194

Crossing the Water

Published by Faber & Faber, London (1971)

US$ 310.56

About this Item: Faber & Faber, London, 1971. First edition. Plath's putative first biographer Harriet Rosenstein's copy, with her occasional markings and one or two notes to text. A very good copy in somewhat soiled and rubbed dustwrapper chipped at head and base of spine. Seller Inventory # 20195

Wreath for a Bridal

Published by Sceptre Press, Fransham, Surrey (1970)

US$ 242.23

About this Item: Sceptre Press, Fransham, Surrey, 1970. First edition - one of 100 copies on Glastonbury paper, this copy out-of-series (Tabor A7). An excellent copy with one or two tiny spots of soiling. Seller Inventory # 20197

Elsa's Housebook: A Woman's Photojournal

Published by David R. Godine, Boston (1974)

US$ 155.28

About this Item: David R. Godine, Boston, 1974. First edition. Laid-in are two autograph postcards signed by the author to academic and Sylvia Plath scholar Harriet Rosenstein of whom there is a photgraph in the book, with an accompanying note. Wrappers faded around spine but a very good copy. Seller Inventory # 20198

Specimen page and publisher's prospectus for Crystal Gazer and Other Poems

Published by Rainbow Press, London (1971)

US$ 186.33

About this Item: Rainbow Press, London, 1971. Promotional materials for the first publication from Olwyn and Ted Hughes's private press venture. Together with an a.l.s. from Olwyn to Harriet Rosenstein. Small area of foxing to specimen page else in excellent condition. Seller Inventory # 20199

Tri-Quarterly: The Art of Sylvia Plath

Published by Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, Fall (1966)

US$ 62.11

About this Item: Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, Fall, 1966. First edition. Plath's putative first biographer Harriet Rosenstein's copy, with her ownership signature and a few notes on a 5 x 3 card laid-in. Includes a selection of eighteen poems by Sylvia Plath - still little-known in her own country, despite the publication of Aerial and with the first USA edition of The Bell Jar still five years distant - plus critical essays by Ted Hughes, A.Alvarez, Anne Sexton and a biographical essay by Lois Ames. A very good copy in somewhat soiled and rubbed wrappers. Seller Inventory # 20200

15 original photographs of Plath and her children taken in December 1962

Published by 5 x 3 inches, North Tawton, Devon (1962)

US$ 5,590.03

About this Item: 5 x 3 inches, North Tawton, Devon, 1962. Sylvia Plath poses with her children for a poignant series of snapshots taken in the sitting room at Court Green by Susan O'Neill Roe (nanny and dedicatee of "Cut") shortly before the final flight back to London. In excellent condition. Sample images available upon request. Seller Inventory # 20201

Seven early poems to `The Harvard Advocate'

Published by Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, May (1967)

US$ 62.11

About this Item: Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, May, 1967. First edition. Includes a series of seven early poems (including `Danse Macabre' and `Mad Girl's Love Song') by Sylvia Plath. A near fine copy in stapled wrappers and quite scarce. Seller Inventory # 20202

Four early poems to `Cambridge Review'

Published by Cambridge, 7 February (1969)

US$ 93.17

About this Item: Cambridge, 7 February, 1969. First edition, edited by Simon Schama. Includes four early poems (written at Cambridge and including `Street Song' and `Natural History') by Sylvia Plath and a piece about them by Al Alvarez. A near fine copy in stapled wrappers and distinctly scarce. Seller Inventory # 20206

Sylvia Plath's Growing Popularity with College Students" to `University - a Princeton Quarterly'

Published by Princeton University, New Jersey, Fall (1973)

US$ 31.06

About this Item: Princeton University, New Jersey, Fall, 1973. First edition. An extended `Inquiry into a Literary Phenomon' with two illustrations and a potted biography of Sylvia Plath. A near fine copy in stapled wrappers and quite scarce. Seller Inventory # 20207

Two reel-to-reel tapes of a reading by Sylvia Plath and an interview with her by Peter Orr

Published by The British Council - Recorded Sound Section, [London] (1962)

US$ 1,552.79

About this Item: The British Council - Recorded Sound Section, [London], 1962. Later dubbings made in 1969-70 by Peter Orr of The British Council of two tapes: i) Plath's reading of 15 poems as part of the "Contemporary Poets" series (31 minutes and 55 seconds); and ii) her interview with Orr for the series entitled "The Poet Speaks" (14 minutes and 30 seconds) both recorded in London on 30 October1962. In original British Council boxes with internal labels. [Together with] Copies of various BBC records of Plath and Hughes's work for them comprising lists of broadcasts and repeats, scripts, transcriptions of broadcasts etc. All in very good condition. Seller Inventory # 20212

Original negative of a photograph of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

Published by image size 3.5 x 3.5 cms c.1958-9, [Yorkshire] (1958)

US$ 931.67

About this Item: image size 3.5 x 3.5 cms c.1958-9, [Yorkshire], 1958. Original negative of an unknown photograph of Plath and Hughes taken in Yorkshire, most likely before their departure for the USA in June 1957. A double-exposed image showing Edith Hughes hovering above the apparently happy couple. It would be foolish to speculate whether this image may have been influential in Plath's choice of Double Exposure as the working-title of her final, lost novel. In excellent condition, together with a modern b&w print (somewhat creased). Seller Inventory # 20218

Original photograph with signature of Otto Plath

Published by image 4 x 3 inches c.1920?? (1920)

US$ 1,180.12

About this Item: image 4 x 3 inches c.1920??, 1920. Original print of a black-and-white photograph of Otto Plath with his autograph signature "Otto E. Plath" attached alongside. A little-known fact is that Sivvy's wannabe-Fascist daddy was once described by a senior colleague as "the most dedicated and bitter misogynist whom I have known" [and that Otto repeatedly said] "all women are evil." Go figure. Image and signature taped to card backing but in very good condition. Seller Inventory # 20219

A small collection of photographs of North Tawton

Published by various sizes c. 1948-1962, v.p., v.d. (1948)

US$ 310.56

About this Item: various sizes c. 1948-1962, v.p., v.d., 1948. Seven small original b&w prints of North Tawton (and distant views of the beehives at Court Green) taken by John Avery. MORE. Seller Inventory # 20220

All links accessed 14 August 2019 and 7 January 2020.
All items prices listed were obtained on 14 August 2019.

01 January 2020

Who's Who at Sylvia Plath's Smith College

Sylvia Plath mentions a lot of people in letters and journals that she studied under and worked with at Smith College. Our friend Tim, known on Twitter as @ProjectPlath, sent me a 1957 Smith College Hamper, their yearbook. This is the year before Plath began teaching there. As I was looking through it, a new world opened; faces attaching themselves to names familiar.

So, here are some close-ups of people Plath knew. I do not have the Hamper's for the years Plath was a student there, so undoubtedly there are more people that could be shown. But I hope this is a good start. The names identified are those Plath had as teachers or advisers (or otherwise knew) and mentioned in letters, journals, calendars, etc. either when she was a student or a teacher, or both!

Alice N. Davis (standing, I think), Director of the Vocational Office

Benjamin Wright, President

Charles Jarvis Hill, English Department and Assistant to the President

Dr. Marion Booth (standing, center), College Physician and Professor of Bacteriology and Public Health

Eleanor Terry Lincoln (seated, hands together), Class Dean (1959) and English Department

Helen Whitcomb Randall, English Department, Dean of the college, and director of Honor Board

Mary Mensell, Director of Scholarships

William Bodden, Treasurer and Controller -- Plath liked him because he paid her award and prize money.

Here are the departments for the 1956-1957 year.

Art: Priscilla Paine Van der Poel (seated, second from left), Mervin M. Jules (standing third from left), and Mr. H. George Cohen (not pictured)

Botany (left image): Kenneth E. Wright (left image, man in the middle), also her adviser Freshman year.
Psychology (right image): Elsa Margareeta Siipola (seated, by window).

Chemistry: Kenneth Wayne Sherk (seated, hand on paper).

Classics: Edward Washburn Spofford
Not in 1956-1957 yearbook

English: Plath had and mentioned a ton of them. She replaced Betty Isobelle Bandeen as English 11 and shared an office with Katherine Gee Hornbeak. Anthony Hecht is rocking that beard.

French: Madeleine Guilleton (standing, far left).

German: Marie Schnieders (seated, left) and Marion Sonnenfeld (standing, right).

History: Elisabeth Ahlgrimm Koffka (seated, third from right) and Klemens Van Klemperer (standing, second from left, just his head is visible), Sidney Monas (standing, second from right).

Physics William Taussig Scott (standing second from left, with bow tie)

Religion: Virginia Corwin (seated, middle) and Stephen Trowbridge Crary (standing, second from left).

Russian: George Gibian (seated, left)

Sociology: Neal Breaule DeNood (bottom right photo, seated second from left, with mustache)

Spanish: Manuel E. Durán (seated, left, with pipe)

All links accessed 18 December 2019.

18 December 2019

Sylvia Plath Year in Review 2019

So what did you think of Sylvia Plath in 2019?

It seemed to be a year dominated by Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, the short story published in the UK and the US in January and then which started appearing in translations. It is wonderful a newly published short story could kind of captivate its readers across the globe, which I think is a great sign that Plath--and her work--is in demand. As in the past, this is a look back at the year as I lived it.

It seems I spent most of January publicizing the story on the blog, as well as the real Mary Ventura, who was a friend of Plath's in Wellesley in the mid-to-late 1940s. I spent most of the month of January, too, packing up my belongings and changing jobs and states. Sadly I still do not feel settled but, well, I will get there eventually. It is weird not being in Plath's backyard any longer after twenty years… But, you probably do not want to read my moaning, you want to read about Plath.

At any rate, I think Mary Ventura stole the year for the most part and already a number of translations have been published or are forthcoming (French, Catalan, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and Dutch. The Dutch edition is included in a reissue of The Bell Jar.). This was the first new creative writing (prose, short fiction) published by Plath since 1979. That is a forty year famine.

February was a slim month in many regards. The only blog post worth re-mentioning is the one on Plath and Forster which I loved writing. I loved Howards End, too. I spent February adjusting to my new life and reading the manuscript of Carl Rollyson's forthcoming The Last Days of Sylvia Plath.

In March, HarperCollins kept the Mary Ventura train rolling (see what I did there?) by issuing a hardback edition. I like that they flipped the normal publication cycle by issuing a paperback first. I was also asked to meet with Carla Zanoni, then of the Wall Street Journal, to discuss the book in NYC. What a privilege that was. This was followed in early April by a Letters of Sylvia Plath talk at Stockton University, coordinated by my good friend Emily Van Duyne. She and her school completely spoiled me and I had a really wonderful time attending classes, giving the talk, meeting new people, and seeing Carl Rollyson (a true glutton of punishment who was also at the Mary Ventura event in March).

In April I received a letter from Plath herself via David Trinidad's ouija board. Following that I did a post on a postcard that I hope will become a series. I have not let that slip! I have others drafted but just have not found the right time to put them online. So, look for more in 2020! Somewhere along in there from the late winter to early Spring I was at work on the paperback editions of The Letters of Sylvia Plath. In addition to updating some mistakes and providing some new information, I found nine new letters and got them squeezed into the volumes in an Appendix, which were published in England only in September. It was awesome to again find, transcribe, proof, annotate, and index these letters for you. Like the rest of the project I completed the majority of this work. Oh! I also did a phone interview/chat with Claire Nichols, in Perth, Australia, which aired in June. That was a lot of fun.

May was a varied month with a guest post on Aurelia Plath's shorthand notations as well as news breaking about a forthcoming Bonhams auctions of things belonging to Plath's late friend Elizabeth Sigmund. I am sure the auction winners love their items but feel the same as me: I would much rather have Elizabeth.

In June, I did a fun post on some of Plath's journals that are held by the Lilly Library. This was a sort of continuation on some Journals related posts trying to date undated entries by using Plath's letters and a host of other resources. Additionally, the Plath related bits of Elizabeth's estate were sold.

Now I am sure it is not right to pick favorites, but in July my birthday-twin Amy C. Rea did a guest blog post on Cornucopia, Wisconsin and it has to be one of the best ever. I let that one stay up on the blog for more than half the month---which allowed me to take a breather. Also, I dusted off a very old blog post on Plath's appearance on the BBC's "The Living Poet" series back in 1961.

August was wicked busy with some publications as well as what has become an annual post on Plath's first suicide attempt. Though I found just one new article, it brings the total to 253. I need better hobbies. I think the publication of a book of essays called Sylvia Plath in Context, edited by Tracy Brain (and reviewed exclusively on the blog by Amy C Rea) is August's highlight though. I attended an awful conference in an awful city, and took advantage of being miserable for that week to draft nearly two dozen blog posts. Most of which still have not been posted. I like having a backlog. Some of these blog posts contain some new information which is really tough to sit on. But some of the information is not mine to break first.

A book of essays was published in Hungary, too! The title is 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. My thanks to Dora Ocsovai for letting me know about the volume.

Gail Crowther and I co-wrote a joint blog post on her experience with the Philip Hobsbaum papers in Glasgow. This was a collection I found out about and since she is closer to Scotland than I am, she graciously offered to go. It was a reprise of our series "These Ghostly Archives" and was a super-happy-fun time. Faber & Faber issued the paperbacks of The Letters of Sylvia Plath in September. They also put out a fine Liberty edition of The Bell Jar and a new edition of Ariel (1965 contents) as part of the company's 90th anniversary. All handsome editions. Al Alvarez passed away on 23 September. Elaine Feinstein, who wrote the first biography of Ted Hughes, passed away on the same day.

What can one say about October. This was a momentous month. Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick had her book Reclaiming Assia Wevill published by LSU Press early in the month. In mid-October I gave--perhaps for the last time--a talk on my role in working on The Letters of Sylvia Plath in New York City at the Grand Central branch of the NYPL. I took the opportunity while being there to do some archiving too, which included a Living Archive experience of staying in the Roosevelt Hotel, which is where Plath saw a fashion show in June 1953. Speaking of which. I find it really annoying when people refer to her month at Mademoiselle as her "summer" as a guest editor. It was only a month. Not the summer. Sorry.

The month closed down with Plath being honored with a Google Doodle (above), and a blog post on the actual site where Plath rode the horse Ariel that inspired two poems. Another example of the Living Archive, and another post I started working on years ago but which got lost in several shuffles. Gail Crowther, Heather Clark, and Tracy Brain joined Sarah Corbett and many others for a Plath party in Hebden Bridge. I got texts and saw tweets about it and was filled with envy.

Throughout October and into November I read the manuscript of Heather Clark's forthcoming biography of Sylvia Plath, Red Comet (Knopf, 2020). It is a monumental work which took me about five weeks. Also, I am at work with Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick on our forthcoming book, The Selected Writings of Assia Wevill. The manuscript we thought was in fine shape until we learned of more than a dozen new letters which we feverishly transcribed, annotated, and mixed into the book. (We learned of 13 other new letters but we may not gain access to them in time. Hope springs eternal though so please cross your fingers, toes, and eyes (if you can).)

In November I launched what I hope will be a new series showing off the supporting documentation that went into writing the footnotes of The Letters of Sylvia Plath. As much as I want to put that project to rest (forever!)--because I just feel like I talk about it too much--there is a lot of stuff I want to get out there because I believe in sharing information. And I believe this information is interesting. I would like to make some of these posts timely, to coincide with a particular anniversary on which Plath wrote the letter. That will not always be the case but the timing in this instance was intentional so that I could post this one on some of the information Plath mentioned to Olive Higgins Prouty on 20 November 1962.

And now it is December. It was recently announced on Twitter and then on this blog that a Sylvia Plath Society is being formed. This has been something that many have wanted for many years to be established and it is happening. The year is winding down on a great note! Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and I will be submitting our manuscript for The Selected Writings of Assia Wevill to LSU Press by the end of the month.

In 2020 are you looking back at Plath, or are you looking ahead?

In early January I will be meeting Julie, Heather Clark, and Janet Badia in Seattle to talk Plath and Wevill (and maybe Hughes) at the MLA annual conference. I will post the text of my talk after the event, and maybe some tiny slide images so you can see generally what those look like. Amanda Golden and others are participating in a panel on Scholarly Editing that I am sure will include SP.

In 2020 we already look forward to seeing a couple of translations of Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom and a reissue of The Silent Woman in the UK. In the realm of new work about Plath there is Carl Rollyson's The Last Days of Sylvia Plath (March, the University of Mississippi Press). Later in the year we have Heather Clark's highly anticipated Red Comet: A Life of Sylvia Plath (Knopf/Penguin).

There are a couple of works that is in progress that are worth mentioning. First announced is Kicking at the Door of Fame: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton by Gail Crowther (Simon & Schuster) that looks at the social rebellion of Plath and Sexton. Look for this in Spring 2021. More recently, Emily Van Duyne announced she is under contract with W. W. Norton for her book Loving Sylvia Plath. A book of essays is in the works to be published by Bloomsbury and is co-edited by Anita Helle, Amanda Golden, and Maeve O'Brien. Essays were due at the beginning of the month. They are largely pooled from the 2018 Belfast Plath conference, I think. We wish Gail, Emily, and the Bloomsbury-book crew all the most wonderful thoughts and vibes as they tackle these works. It is nice to have something to look forward to in the new decade.

Recently I renewed the domain for my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is, for another two years. I have been working on this website since 1998 which rather hard to fathom sometimes. Between the website and the blog and Twitter it is safe to say Plath is always on my mind and I am constantly working to bring you new content. Metrics have changed over the last few years with how "hits" are measured. Nowadays it is all about "impressions". The website and blog had, respectively, 3.54 million and 655,000 "impressions" from 1 December 2018 to 30 November 2019. That is more than 4 million. Impressions just means how many times a user saw a link to my sites. The most popular pages on A celebration, this is, were the Biography, Poetry Works, Thumbnails 1960-1963, Prose Works, and Johnny Panic Synopses.

Thank you all so sincerely for visiting the website and the blog, for sending comments, and replying to posts via the blog itself, email, and Twitter. Thank you for your friendship and encouragement. I would like to ask that for any content which you may have enjoyed or benefited from, please consider sending me a tip via PayPal. There are expenses associated with the work I do on Plath and while it is something I love, it does take a financial toll. Thank you for at least considering! All funds will be put towards making the website, the Sylvia Plath Info Blog, and Twitter better.

This is the last year of the 2010s! It has been an incredible decade for me Plathfessionally with writing and publishing several essays and introductions, joyfully collaborating on a book with Gail Crowther, speaking at numerous events in Indiana, Vancouver, Chicago, New York City, London, Boston, Stockton, and Belfast, and editing Plath's letters. Believe me when I say the honor and joy I take in my work is due to the fact that you are out there. The work I do is for you. You inspire me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank. You.

Thank you also for your patience in this year of changing jobs and states in which I went about nine months without access to my files and books.

Whatever you celebrate do it well, with love and family and friends, do it safely and with as much happiness as you can. Happy New Year. See you on 1 January 2020.

All links accessed 4 and 5 November, and 3, 10, and 18 December 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.