30 December 2008

Sylvia Plath 2008: Year in review

Strides were made this year in continuing to shift the perception and reception of Sylvia Plath. Every few months, through a symposium, new book publications, or news worthy events, Sylvia Plath proved to remain fresh and vital. Two major events took place in 2008: the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Smith College in April and the publication of the online journal Plath Profiles in August.

The Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Oxford, held in October 2007, was reprodcued on a smaller scale for an American audience at Smith College on April 25 & 26, 2008. Organized in large part by Oxford participant and Smith student Aubrey Menard, the two day event highlighted Plath's continued prominence in academic scholarship, as well as her hold on the attention of the public. Julia Stiles and Tristine Skyler attended both days and proved dedicated to conducting research into their forthcoming film adaptation of The Bell Jar. The two-day event featured a community reading of Plath's restored Ariel in the Mortimer Rare Book Room, a presentation of papers selected among those given at Oxford, and a panel of a group of Sylvia Plath's friends from high school and college, which included Judith Kroll. Scholars from around the US and the world enjoyed a friendly and informative atmosphere. After the event, Julia Stiles submitted the first guest post to Sylvia Plath Info Blog in the form of a letter addressed to Smith College President Carol Christ regarding her film project.

Before and after the Symposium, buzz was building for Plath Profiles, the new online interdisciplinary journal for Sylvia Plath studies. Launched on 10 August 2008, the first volume has proven very popular. Editor W. K. Buckley assembled an international Editorial Board, and the contributions to the first volume were mostly adapted from papers given at Oxford. In addition to new, original essays, the first volume includes two book reviews by Luke Ferretter, five poems inspired by Plath, and artwork by two women (Kristina Zimbakova and Amanda Robins ) who have been inspired by Plath in their chosen mode of expression. On the whole, the freshness and vitality mentioned above is reflected in Volume 1. The journal, online and completely free, will be a valuable resource in the future to Plath scholarship. To date, both the entire volume and the individual essays have been downloaded thousands of times. If you've read an essay or poem or had a reaction to the artwork, consider sending in a response to Plath Profiles which may open an interesting discussion. We are accepting submissions for Volume 2, which should be out around the same time in 2009. It does not matter how old you are, Plath Profiles seeks to print good essays and does not intend to be academically driven or elitist.

2008 saw new editions of Plath's Collected Poems and Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams in the US. Both received face lifts. Both of the covers (CP, JPBD) feature concentric circles and thus remind me of Faber's editions of The Bell Jar from the 1960s and 1970s. Some of you may remember that just last year, I gave the previous cover of Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams the Lifetime Achievement in Ugly Plath Book Covers Award (the LAUPBCA).

In addition to these new editions, there were several new books on Plath. The following books appeared in print, all in the last three months of the year.

Jo Gill's Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath (Cambridge University Press)
Doris Kraler-Bergmann's Sylvia Plath Lyrical Responses to Works of Art: A Portrait of the Artist(s) (VDM Verlag) Raychel Haugrud Reiff's Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Marshall Cavendish Benchmark)

Sylvia Plath's library, scattered across America & possibly the world, came together in February as a part of LibraryThing's Legacy Libraries project. Legacy Libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers. The beauty of this site and project that members and non-members alike can see which books they share with these famous readers. The LibraryThing Legacy Library project and Sylvia Plath's Library were mentioned in articles that appeared in The Guardian, Fine Books & Collections, and Rare Book Review. More information on the project can be found on the I See Dead People's Books page and through posts on Jeremy's PhiloBiblos blog. Visitors to Smith College's Mortimer Rare Book Room will be treated to seeing Plath's library shelved next to their collection of first and rare editions of books authored by Plath.

In October, Ted Hughes posthumously made big news with the sale of more of his archive going to the British Library. While it is obviously a good thing that his papers remain in his home country, this segmentation of his archive will have scholars straddling the Atlantic to see these papers and the papers already held at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. 2008 was also the 10 year anniversary of both Hughes's Birthday Letters (the book that launch a thousand arguments) and his death.

In January, after 10 years of activity, the Sylvia Plath Forum closed shortly after the death of its founder, Elaine Connell. The Sylvia Plath Forum was a wonderful place to discuss, at first, Birthday Letters, and then so much more. Although it is closed to new submissions, the whole archive is still available online and is a valuable research tool and resource on the web. For many years it was the first website I visited each morning, and during high discussion periods, was a site I continually refreshed throughout the day.

My "other" site for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is, had a big year. A mid-fall site re-design went smoothly and received pretty good feedback. In May, The New York Times ran an article which, at the end, recommended the site. A true honor, indeed. In terms of content, much was added: especially in the bibliography pages, as well as the addition of many new book covers. The five most popular pages (in order of popularity) on A celebration, this is are: the biography, thumbs 1960-1963, poetry works, thumbs 1932-1942, and The Bell Jar. It is more difficult to gauge the least popular pages as some have been online for less than a full year or were removed/merged when I did the re-design. However, in terms of hits, the four least visited pages (in order) are: Works about Sylvia Plath, Works Reviews, Collections, and Johnny Panic synopses.

A Look Ahead

There will be a couple of new books on Plath published in 2009. Luke Ferretter's Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study will be published by Edinburgh University Press sometime in the spring or summer; and Connie Ann Kirk's 2004 biography Sylvia Plath is scheduled to be published in paperback in April. These books are listed on Amazon. Listed on Chelsea House's website is Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar by Harold Bloom, as part of his Bloom's Literary Criticism series. This appears to be a collection of essays on the topic of The Bell Jar, look for this sometime around February. Amazon.co.uk has a couple of titles planned as well. A re-issue of The Bell Jar in May, as well as a book entitled Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. This is likely a new edition of Plath's selected poems. These are both called 80th Anniversary editions (2009 is the 80th Anniversary of Faber). My dream is for a re-issue of The Bell Jar with the original Heinemann cover. A few years ago The Catcher in the Rye was reprinted using the same cover as the first edition published by Little, Brown, and Company in 1951.

The Jermyn Street Theatre in London is performing Plath's "Three Women" in January and February 2009. The Guardian's Alison Flood reported on 3 December 2008. The performance, stage directing, setting, actresses, directing, etc. will be pivotal, but it is Plath's words - her work - that will receive some much needed attention. Starring Elizabeth Dahl, Tilly Fortune, and Lara Lemon, "Three Women" will run from Monday 5 January through 7 February.

In 2008, this blog saw more than 25,000 visitors. Thank you, whoever you are and wherever you are for visiting. I especially thank those who have made comments. My wish for 2009 is for more comments on posts as well as having more guest contributions. If you hear of Plath-related events or want to write a review of a book, please consider Sylvia Plath Info Blog as a place for it to appear. I appreciate those who publicly "Follow" the blog (see list on the sidebar) and those that do so anonymously. Lastly, I am in the process of finishing a manuscript of new book on Plath and though I hoped for it to be done by now, I do have plans to finish it at some point in 2009! Details later.

25 December 2008

A Sylvia Plath Christmas miracle?

The server that "A celebration, this is" is hosted on crashed and needed to be rebuilt, which the host did quite quickly. I've been through the pages and all the content seems back online. If you notice any broken links or anything, please let me know.

A Sylvia Plath year in review will be forthcoming, sometime next week.

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, I hope it's a nice, happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

24 December 2008

Just in time for Christmas...

My website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is, is down for some strange reason. I will hopefully have it back online before too long. Until then... Be well and be warm.

20 December 2008

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 20 December 2008

Still very little going on out there...The weather outside is frightful, but writing about Plath is so delightful...

  • Rare Book Review, in their December/2008 January/2009 issue, reports on the British Library acquisition of archival papers of Ted Hughes. The three page story (pages 8-10) is beautifully illustrated with many high quality scans of these papers. This appears to be the last issue of Rare Book Review, too, which is quite disappointing.

  • A first edition Ariel (Faber, 1965) has been found among other books donated to an Oxfam in Glasgow, Scotland, the BBC reports. The Times also reports, with a different angle on the book and reader. The Herald is reporting, too. From the pictures, it looks like a mighty fine copy of this influential collection of poetry.

16 December 2008

Sylvia Plath: Did you know...

Did you know that Sylvia Plath wrote her famous poem "Daddy" on the 22nd anniversary of the day her father had his leg amputated?

In August 1940, Otto Plath stubbed a toe on his left foot. After some changes to his diet and medication with insulin, he developed pneumonia and spent about two weeks at the Winthrop Hospital. Eventually he developed gangrene and Otto Plath's left leg was amputated above the knee on 12 October 1940. Otto Plath died 24 days later on 5 November 1940.

On 12 October 1962, twenty-two years later to the day, Plath placed a stake in his fat black heart when she wrote "Daddy". 24 days later, on 5 November 1962, Plath was in London. It was on this day that she applied for the lease on the house at 23 Fitzroy Road.

Plath and Hughes visited San Francisco in the summer of 1959 while on a tour of the U.S. and Canada. It was here she likely saw the seals barking and basking in the sun off Pier 39. The image Plath uses in "Daddy" is "Ghastly statue with one gray toe / Big as a Frisco seal." For those curious (and I should add - with a strong stomach), compare the image of a seal like a "gray toe" with a image of gangrene. I wish I hadn't...

13 December 2008

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 13 December 2008

Very little going on of late...

  • Last week I posted about a live auction on eBay for a first edition The Colossus (Heinemann, 1960) by Sylvia Plath. The auction was on Thursday. The lucky high bidder won the book for a mere $508.40. Though the book shows evidence of soiling, if high bidder was a book store, chances are it'll reappear for sale shortly for double, and maybe triple the winning auction price.

  • If you're shopping for Plath items to give a loved one for Christmas, I still have a few books for sale. See my post from 1 December for more information. Nothing says "I love you, I care about you, you complete me", etc. like a limited edition.

09 December 2008

Review of The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath by Jo Gill

Since 2000, there have been a number of introductory books on Sylvia Plath. These come in two categories: biographies and critical overviews. The audience in each instance has been junior high (early teens) through high school and possibly early college. I've read each - including my own contribution to this genre - but most are written by a group of people whom I might term "serial" writers. Seemingly non-experts hired to write on Plath, or some other subject or person.

The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath (Cambridge University Press, 2008) by Jo Gill, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century Literature at the University of Exeter, is one of the most recent of these. In it, Gill discusses Plath's life and works in succinct chapters that are so packed with value it makes even the thickest Plath criticism redundant. You may know Gill's name in association with Plath's from the 2006 Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath, a wonderful volume which she edited and contributed an essay. The set-up of her Cambridge Introduction is similar, but this time the content all her own.

Gill's preface is clear: "to offer new readers an accessible, authoritative and comprehensive guide to Plath's writing...and to provide an incisive and insightful overview of key tendencies and developments in Plath criticism." (ix) This agenda is met immediately and consistently throughout the text. In each chapter, Gill breaks out major themes that she sees going on in the discussed text. These themes all present readers with questions, answers, and ideas for further study and inquiry. The books conciseness is valuable for new readers to Plath in that it sheds right off many of the layers to Plath scholarship. Although Plath has been dissected and examined, Gill encourages that us to re-examined previously held notions.

The first two chapters, as well as the last one, look at Plath's life and the contexts in which she has been read, interpreted, adopted, and discussed for more than four decades. Scholars are re-evaluating Sylvia Plath and reading her in new ways. Psychoanalysis, feminist, confessional and other readings of Sylvia Plath are a thing of the past. It is quite possible that some of those early ways of reading Plath did more harm than good. Currently, Plath is being read with an intense, dedicated focus to sociological and historical approaches. By connecting Plath's life and writing to events and other happenings at the time in which she lived, a new perspective on her accomplishments is possible. This offers, possibly, the most authentic approach to Sylvia Plath and allows for the continued re-appraisal of her works.

In Chapters 3 and 4, Gill turns her attention to the poetry. Generally her interpretations and connections of the writing and between the writing styles is accurate and authentically her own. While presenting her own analysis, she highlights the best of what's been said before her, as well as respectfully and successfully disagreeing with previous scholarship as well. Gill discusses out the controversy over Plath's Collected Poems, and the questionable chronology assigned the poems. While admitting some advantage to reading the poems chronologically, it "does not fully accomodate teh complexity of the work." (30). Her aim, therefore, is "to look at poems in detail in relation both to the collections in which they were first published, and the wider picture of Plath's ouevre." (30) This she does brilliantly. What I find particularly welcome is the amount of attention given to Plath's early poetry and juvenilia (Chapter 3). This is not surprising, given that Gill wrote on The Colossus and Crossing the Water in the Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath, the book she edited in 2006. The chapter looking at Ariel and the later poems is another fresh look at works well-criticized. In Ariel she highlights Plath's use of echoes, both the word and the sound, as well as her use of repeating words. Throughout the book, Gill refers to Plath's use of doubling or the double and thus shows a wonderful cohesiveness in all of Plath's writing.

Critical attention has shifted away from Plath's fiction for a while, the focus being on her poetry - as though Plath's identity as a poet and association with poetry makes her, in some obscene academic way, a more serious writer. The fictional writing is perhaps closer to Plath biographically, and this might be the reason for its shunning. A number of scholars are beginning to re-examine Plath's fiction, however, and Chapter 5, which looks The Bell Jar and Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, is a wonderful beginning. Gill brings some of the themes discussed in the poetry into full spotlight in the discussion of the fiction, and shows that there is continuity and connectivity between the two genres in Plath's creative works. In the discussion of The Bell Jar, we are given a separate section on Plath's narrative voice, the double, and subjectivity. The worth of the stories assembled in Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams is given some major, much needed attention. These highly under-valued works will shortly be given more attention in Luke Ferretter's forthcoming critical study of Plath's fiction.

Gill examines Letters Home and The Journals thoughtfully. Both of these works are somewhat contentious: they were not specifically written for publication. I think Gill's history and reading of Letters Home will go far in reassessing their worth (while at the same time highlighting a need for a larger, more complete edition of Plath's letters). The Journals have received more critical attention, especially since the publication of the Unabridged Journals, edited by Karen V. Kukil, in 2000. Gill's looks at the Letters and the Journals in a wonderful way, "If Letters Home represents an attempt to persuade the mother of the stability of Plath's position and of the validity of the decisions she has made, then the Journals arguably represent an attemp to persuade and reassure the self." (108) Gill links these two works in ways that future researchers will find useful.

The Notes and Further Reading that conclude the book are also useful; particularly the Further Reading as the works selected are followed by brief annotations. The summaries are an invaluable way to indicate to readers what certain articles or books are about in a way that the title of the thing might not necessarily convey.

As I read each chapter, I continually said to myself, "Yes, yes". People shied away from sitting next to me on the train and my wife wanted to call the doctor. There is no reason why young readers, new to Sylvia Plath and impressionable, shouldn't be given the absolute best. I feel that with The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath, readers finally have. Gill's reading of Sylvia Plath is wonderful, intelligent, and informative. Although written with a for those who are new to Sylvia Plath, this is a must read for even the most seasoned scholar. Beginning your own introduction to Sylvia Plath with Jo Gill's book, will leave the neophyte at an advantage. Although the back story to Plath scholarship is always interesting, starting your interest here is more than a little encouraging. It shows that Plath's reception is changing, and that this change is for the better. There is very little to complain about in The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath. In fact, my only criticism is that the book was not longer.

My advice: Read this book.

06 December 2008

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 6 December 2008

  • Amazon.com began listing Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study by Luke Ferretter (University of Edinburgh Press). Amazon.com lists the publication date to be on May 15, 2009. Edinburgh University Press lists publication date to be July 2009. Regardless, look for it. Based on what I know of Ferretter's work, and what I've read & heard, I think it is safe for me to give advanced, unseen praise for this book.

    The product description on Amazon.com reads:

    Sylvia Plath's poetry has generated tons of critical interest, yet there remains no full-length study of her fiction. In addition to her classic novel The Bell Jar, Plath wrote dozens of short stories, only about half of which have been published. Luke Ferretter launches the first comprehensive study of Plath as a writer of fiction. He encompasses both published and unpublished material, tracing Plath's influences, style, politics, and place in the history of postmodern fiction. Plath was very much concerned with gender ideologies of the 1950s, and Ferretter reads Plath's work against this cultural context. Building on recent studies of her multigeneric work, Ferretter defines a clear and comprehensive place for Plath's fiction in her richly complex body of work.

    Key features:
    • First full-length study of Plath's fiction
    • Comprehensive discussion of Plath's unpublished short fiction
    • Extensive discussion of Plath's short fiction as a whole.

    This is a very worthy and welcome subject, and Ferretter's book will undoubtedly bring much needed and wider recognition to Plath's fiction.

  • Ebay and Bloomsbury will have a live auction on 11 December for a first edition The Colossus by Sylvia Plath (Heinemann, 1960). Quite a rare book, and typically expensive, it might be possible to snatch this up at a bargain.

03 December 2008

Plath's "Three Women" on stage in London

Sylvia Plath's "Three Women" to be performed in January & February 2009.

Alison Flood at The Guardian writes about its revival. Tim Kendall and yours truly quoted in it, as well!

Elisabeth Dahl, Tilly Fortune, and Lara Lemon appear in the first revival of Sylvia Plath's only play. Three women's monologues recount their experiences of childbirth, remember the different routes that brought them there, and consider what the future has in store. Don't miss your chance to see this powerful piece on stage at the Jermyn Street Theatre from January 5 2009. Directed by Robert Shaw.

Jermyn Street Theatre
16b Jermyn Street, London

When: Monday 5 January - Saturday 7 February 2009
Mon-Sat 7:30pm
Sat matinees 4:00pm

How much: £18 (£12 concessions)
More info: Box Office: 0207 287 2875

28 November 2008

Sylvia Plath Collections: University of Liverpool

The Sydney Jones Library at the University of Liverpool holds several typescripts of poems by Sylvia Plath.

Typescripts held are: "Three Women" [MS.26.1(64)], "The Moon and the Yew Tree" [MS.26.1(65)], "The Rabbit Catcher" [MS.26.1(66)], and "Among the Narcissi" [MS.26.1(67)]. The reference number is: GB 141 Plath.

The typescript of "The Rabbit Catcher" is annotated; the word "CHEVREAU" is handwritten in next to the first line, "It was a place a force." The handwriting does appear to be Plath's. There are other small annotations (not in Plath's hand) and variations on the typescripts to those Ariel typescripts held at the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College. The typescript of "Three Women" appears to be a reading copy - or something similar - for a 1968 broadcast of the verse poem. The Special Collections also holds a respectible collection of books by Plath.

The Sydney Jones Library (Special Collections) at the University of Liverpool holds many Ted Hughes related items, as well as other contemporary poets such as Seamus Heaney. To search for items in their catalog, click here.

I would like to thank Edward Mendelson of Columbia University for directing me towards the Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters at the University of Reading (U.K.), which enabled me to locate these items. Last December, I posted a list of other Sylvia Plath items held by unknown or unlisted libraries. Many of these listings have been confirmed through the Location Register. I am in the process of confirming other holdings listed through this database and will report on each as I can.

25 November 2008

Pirated Plath

As mentioned in a previous post, there was one item at the 32nd annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair that I had never seen and did not know existed. This title, The Bell Jar, is familiar to us all as being a book written and published by Sylvia Plath. The true first edition was published in England under a pseudonym, and in 1966, under her own name. In 1971, the book made a huge splash when it was published in her birth country for the first time. The "hotness" of the book and the sensation it caused when it was published lead someone in Taipei, Taiwan to issue a pirated copy in that country. Obviously Plath's book wasn't the only book pirated in Taiwan, but it's the only one we care about here...

Aside from the copy offered for sale at the Boston Book Fair, WorldCat lists five other copies of The Bell Jar with the issuing city of publication being Taipei, Taiwan. These are purportedly held in the following libraries: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Lakeshores Library System in Waterford, Wisc.; Middle Georgia Regional Library in Macon, Geo.; Annie L Awbrey Public Library in Roanoke, Ala.; and the Harris County Public Library in Houston, Tex.

A search of UNC-Chapel Hill's catalog confirmed their holding this title in their Rare Book Collection. In corresponding with a librarian there, their copy has maroon cloth over the boards, but otherwise appears to be similar to the copy I saw at the fair. The Harris County Public Library no longer owns a copy of this, according to a librarian there. I have additional inquiry emails out at present and will report back what I learn but am not hopeful that these other libraries hold, in fact, this copy.

The dust jacket on this pirated edition of The Bell Jar replicates that of the first American edition, and it is clearly a very bad reproduction - likely a color photocopy. The copy I saw has green cloth over boards; and the cloth was so poorly adhered that it bubbled up in spots. On the spine of the book, the author and title are stamped in silver. Sylvia Plath is written in a cursive or italic script.

In thickness, the pirated edition is about a half inch slimmer than that of the first American edition. This is due to the poor quality and thinness of the paper used. A previous owners label was affixed inside the front board, at the top right. On the verso of the half-title page, where Plath's previous books are listed, is a block of text in Chinese. The text translates to:

Publisher (person): Pei-ran Chang
Address: Taipei, Chung-Shan North Rd., Section 2, No. 89-6
Publisher (company): Jinshan (Golden Gate) Books Publishing Company
Distribution: Jinshan Books and Stationary Company
Phone #: 555700, or 549977
Printer: Da-Xing Books Printing Company
Address: Sanchung City, San-he Rd. Section 4, No. 151
R.O.C. Year 60 (1971)
Registration # in Taiwan #1389

The copyright page states that the book is "First U.S. Edition". But, that just means obviously that they reproduced a first American edition. Normally pirated materials remain anonymous, which makes the presence of such detailed information about the publisher & printer quite odd.

It is not known when or how many copies of the book was published in this pirated edition, but the information given in WorldCat suggests possibly 1972 (drawn from UNC-Chapel Hill's wonderful cataloging). I was able to obtain scans of the book and hope that they are useful in illustrating this posting. A coworker's wife provided the translation of the Chinese.

Plath's poem "Three Women" was also pirated; though information found in Stephen Tabor's Sylvia Plath: An Analytical Bibliography suggests it was an "inside job" done in Oakland, California, in the early to mid 1970s. This book is oblong in size, and with a mustard yellow cover (to match Max Nix's suit!). "Three Women" was published in a beautiful limited edition in 1968 by Turret Books and includes an Introductory Note by Douglas Cleverdon; this preceeds its appearance in Winter Trees by three years.

22 November 2008

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 22 November 2008

Early next week I should have a posting ready about that one unique item I saw at the Boston Book Fair; just waiting on images & a translation.

17 November 2008

Plath at the Boston Book Fair

The 32nd annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair concluded Sunday, but sales figures and the success of the fair won't be known for some time. There were 139 dealers displaying their wonderful books: old, new, rare, signed, weird, etc. I kept my eye open for Plath titles, as you'd probably expect!

Jett W. Whitehead, of Bay City, Michigan, who specializes in Modern Poetry, First Editions, Chapbooks, and Broadsides, has two extremely lovely Plath items for sale at the moment. The first, a copy of the first Faber edition of Ariel signed and inscribed by Ted Hughes to the Hungarian poet Janos Csokits, stained of thatch drippings from Court Green. At $12,995 it's available for only the most serious collector. The letter that accompanied this gift to Janos Csokits is reprinted in the Letters of Ted Hughes, see page . The actual letter is held in the Ted Hughes papers at Emory Univeristy. The other unique item he has, at $17,500, is a handwritten manuscript of a poem entited "The Snowflake Star". "The Snowflake Star" was written about 1946, and was published on page 9 of the The Phillipian in February 1946, while Plath was a student at the Alice L. Phillips Junior High School in Wellesley. The school is now, plainly, the Wellesley Middle School. Autograph manuscripts of Plath on the market are rare. Jett even flattered me by having, on hand, a copy of my biography of Plath which he asked me to sign. It's all poetry all the time with Jett W. Whitehead Rare Books, and Plath's poem "Kindness" clearly speaks of him: "The blood jet is poetry, / There is no stopping it."

Royal Books, of Baltimore, Maryland, had a binders copy of Plath's Crystal Gazer, for a cool $4250. Royal recently acquired it, and based on the description on the sellers website, I believe it may be the same copy formerly for sale through Nigel Williams Rare Books of London, also present at the Boston Book Fair. Sales between dealers before the Fair is a common sort of thing. Crystal Gazer was one of a number of limited editions of Plath's work that Ted Hughes, Olwyn Hughes, the Rainbow Press, and others printed in the early 1970s. The timing coincides with the UK and US publications of Crossing the Water and Winter Trees, and the first US publication of The Bell Jar.

Between the Covers, of Gloucester City, New Jersey, has a very, very nice true first edition of The Bell Jar (Heinemann 1963) by Victoria Lucas ($10,000) They have dozens of other Plath titles for sale, all recently acquired and cataloged. Some of these were on hand including a first Faber Ariel, first Faber Winter Trees, and first Knopf Colossus. I was completely struck by Winter Trees - which a number of sellers had, on average for $200 - in a shockingly bright blue dust wrapper. Completely gorgeous.

Peter L Stern, of Boston, had the most expenive edition of a Victoria Lucas The Bell Jar at $12,500. Behind glass for a good reason, for as Yoda would say, "Not good for books drool is".

Thomas Goldwasser, of San Francisco, had the the most expensive Plath book at the show, the signed and inscribed copy of the first, Heinemann Colossus that Plath gave to Theodore Roethke ($65,000). Books inscribed by Plath are few and far between. Rick Gekoski talked about selling Ted Hughes's copy of The Colossus, given to him by Plath, in his wonderful book Nabokov's Butterfly (in the UK, this book is called Tolkien's Gown). Goldwasser also has two copies of Howls & Whispers, the limited edition that Hughes and Leonard Baskin published in 1998 of 11 poems not included in Birthday Letters. These poems were printed in The Collected Poems of Ted Hughes.

Charles Montieth's copy of The Colossus was also for sale at one point, I believe, but has since been snatched up. Likewise, in 2002, Wilbury Crockett's copy of The Colossus, signed and inscribed by Plath, was sold at auction. Other known inscribed copies went to W.S. and Dido Merwin and to her mother and father-in-law. Aurelia Plath and Warren Plath likely had a signed/inscribed copies, but there whereabouts are not known, and presumably are still in the family. Signed copies of The Bell Jar by Victoria Lucas would be even more rare, if they exist at all; and signed copies with Sylvia Plath as author would be improbable, and a forgery.

A number of dealers had fine, first edition copies of Winter Trees, Crossing the Water, and Ariel. Other works by Plath were not visibly represented at all. A couple of dealers had limited editions for sale, like Crystal Gazer and Lyonnesse, but overall I saw fewer of these than in years previous. And from one day to the next, I did notice that a copy of Lyonnesse was sold at some point. That certain titles are prohibitively expensive is a shame, but being able to walk around, look, and touch, these items is a good experience. If you're considering building a book collection of Plath titles - or books on another subject or author - never hesitate to contact a seller who has stock you are interested in or considering puchasing. They can give you advice and become a friend and ally. I wrote a post on Collecting Sylvia Plath in August 2007 and hope that if you've started a collection since that it was useful.

Many of the books mentioned in the posting I've been seeing at the fair for a number of years. It gives much pleasure to see and re-see them year after year. I'll probably miss them if they do sell. I'm doing a little further research on another title that I saw at the fair; a title familiar to me but in an edition I never knew existed. I should hopefully have something on this blog for you before too long.

15 November 2008

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 15 November 2008

  • A reminder that the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair is going on this weekend at the Hynes Convention Center. Fair hours today and tomorrow are 12-7 and 12-5 pm, respectively. Stimulate your economy!

  • We have all searched for "Sylvia Plath" using Google. A search yields millions of results, and those results are a combination of webpages, documents, and other media files. And a lot of junk, too, unfortunately.

    There is a way to search for, for example, only PDF's where Plath's name is mention. Type "sylvia plath" filetype:pdf into your Google search box and you'll see these. Narrow your search by adding other terms like The Bell Jar, The Colossus, echoes, short stories, feminist, Mademoiselle, etc. to provide more context to your search. The results should please. There are some really wonderful documents out there, completely free. A search like this separates - if you will - some of the wheat from the chaff.

  • David Orr at the The New York Times reviews Letters of Ted Hughes. This article appears in The New York Times Book Review, November 16, 2008, page BR15.

  • Jackson Taylor at the Brooklyn Rail also reviews the Letters of Ted Hughes.

  • Although it is extremely short notice, Ipswich Moving Company will perform "Tales of a Tub," inspired by the poetry of Sylvia Plath and a claw-foot bathtub and performed to live music by Michael Hamill and Sarah McManaway. It will also incorporate photographic images. For reservations, call the Firehouse box office at 978-462-7336. Visit www.firehouse.org or http://www.northshoredancealliance.org/.

12 November 2008

The rest is posthumous - A review of The Letters of Ted Hughes, selected and edited by Christopher Reid

Just as Sylvia Plath's journals and letters home construct an autobiography of her, The Letters of Ted Hughes form a partial autobiography of him. The poems in Crow changed the way I viewed him as a poet; and Nick Gammage's The Epic Poise changed the way I viewed him as a man. These letters continue to evolve the image of Ted Hughes, which frankly had nowhere to go but up. Occasionally I asked myself, "Should I be reading these?", just as I ask myself that same question when I regularly read Plath's journals and letters. But the answer is always, "Yes."

This book, the first of its kind for a man who was known to be a very private person, further opens Ted Hughes. Similarly, in some way, to those "raw and unguarded" Birthday Letters. When Hughes sold his archive to Atlanta, he allowed for the demolition of that private wall he had built up around him. His archives are open in Atlanta, and another will be in the coming year in London, allowing further access into his life and his mind. Perhaps these letters, selected and edited by Christopher Reid, are not as candid as his private journals are, but over the many decades of Hugheses writing life, these letters show many phases of this controversial man. They make for fascinating reading and remind me of what a good writer he was. Throughout the book, Hughes constantly looks back and what had had done - creatively - and talks about what he should (or could) have done. I wonder if his late confession that writing and publishing Birthday Letters really did free him? Being on this end of the creative process allows for a unique perspective into Hugheses writing habits, publishing habits, etc. We're on the outside looking in; while at the same time on the inside looking out. Hughes was always amenable to collaboration, most successfully with Fay Goodwin in The Remains of Elmet and Seamus Heaney in The Rattle Bag and The School Bag. But, one wonders if the collaboration was done as a distraction, or a way to avoid certain things, or if he hoped it would spawn poems. But, from all this wonderful correspondence, the one major selling point - to peanut crunchers like you and like me, is the life, death, and afterlife of his first wife, Sylvia Plath.

The love letters to Sylvia Plath are beautiful. It makes one wish their courtship was longer. In a world of short & staccato emails and incomprehensible & abbreviated text messages, it is reassuring to read actual love letters. However, from the height of this courtship, the letters reach their nadir in the late summer 1962 letter to his sister, Olwyn Hughes, where the discussion focuses on his need for cash, to "swell a private account." This is a far, far cry from the letters addressed to his "kish and puss and ponk." And the letter from September 1962, also to Olwyn, is one of those curious ones sent maybe from London by Alvarez or someone else, when he may have been in Spain already with Assia Wevill. From 1963 until the end of his life, the letters to Plath's family or friends, those regarding Plath publications, and Hughes' attitudes about Plath the poet and Plath the person make revelatory reading. For those whose only knowledge of their relationship was through biographies or even through the poems in Birthday Letters, the gains in understanding may be incalculable. Any letter included in this volume regarding Sylvia Plath should help to understand certain decisions and attitudes held and made by the Estate. If there are more letters out there, we can hope they too will be published or come to view, as well.

The letters to Assia Wevill never quite match the passion of those to Sylvia Plath, but the nature of the relationship was so different that comparing them seems unfair. These letter say to me that she was just the other woman. Fortunately there is material about her (A Lover of Unreason) that does give her more presence. The letters from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s are fascinating, and there are spikes of interest that where the topic is Plath publications, biographies, and controversies.

A huge change occurs in letters of 1997 and 1998. Hughes really begins to open up autobiographically. And, in particular, the letters just before and after the publication of Birthday Letters leading up to the last one are extraordinary. I found his surprise at the response and reaction to publishing Birthday Letters to be genuine; but that being said, I cannot fathom what would have happened had he published them sooner. The 1970s were marred by the rise of feminism; the "letters" just would not have been accepted. This carried into the 1980s when her Collected Poems & Journals were published. The later 1980s and early 1990s saw the rise of the Plath biography machine; making his own story seem defensive in a way; they could have been read as a corrective and would not have helped much. So, the timing being what it was, was just about perfect; it is unfortunate that he was declining in health. By 1998, things had quieted down enough to make the reception optimal. And, it worked.

The best letters selected show Hughes supporting other poets & collaborating with a variety of artists and those to Frieda and Nicholas. His love for fishing is evident in the many letters on this topic and make - to my surprise - probably the most interesting reading. They show his most natural talent for detail, description, communicating, and living. The photographs portray those closest to Hughes, and of particular interest were photographs of Frieda and Nicholas. Seeing them with their mother as babies, it was astonishing to see them as toddlers, children, and young adults. Frieda has been more of a public figure than Nicholas, and while I respect both of their rights to privacy, I could not help being moved in the photograph of Nicholas and the Pike. Afterall, he was "the one solid the spaces lean on, envious."

Though many letters are already held in archives, seeing them in a single volume makes for enlightening reading. However autobiographical they are, Christopher Reid is in the role of storyteller through his selecting and editing of these letters. The notes indicate many instances where text is missing, and one wonders what letters were not selected and what they may - or may not - add to this one-way life of the poet. Reid's notes, which follow many letters and introduce many "chapters" are informative and occasionally witty (I believe in text messaging this would be LOL & a smiley face). A nice touch. As someone who knew Hughes and worked with him, I wonder how much influence his image of Ted Hughes played in the selection? Regardless of any possible bias that may have gone into the selection, The Letters of Ted Hughes appears to me to be well-balanced.

To those who contributed to the volume: a big thank you. Perhaps one day another collected edition of letters will be published, allowing for a deeper understanding of this man and opening up new layers and connections to 20th century poetry. Throughout the book, letters mentioning Sylvia Plath of course piqued my interest. It was challenging not to jump to the index and read these first. But, the whole story is worth waiting for, so I recommend reading the book from start to finish. It is a moving experience. And then go back as necessary to re-read letters by person or by year or whatever. That being said, there is so much in this 756 page book that reading the letters straight through almost cheats the reader of absorbing everything. This book will be a valuable resource for those interested in the Plath/Hughes story and I hope that upon re-reading certain letters, more can be discerned & known about his side of the story.

08 November 2008

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 8 November 2008

In an interview, Ireland's Nick Laird, mentions Plath's "Tulips". Laird will be giving at reading at Boston University on 8 November 2008, at 5:30 p.m. at CGS's Jacob Sleeper Auditorium, Room 129, 871 Commonwealth Avenue.

The October/November2008 issue of Rare Book Review features an article on Sebastian Carter of the Rampant Lions Press. The Rampant Lions Press - in conjunction with the Rainbow Press - printed a number of limited editions of Plath's work. These titles include Lyonnesse, Pursuit, and Dialogue Over a Ouija Board. Copies are fairly expensive, but very lovely too. If these are beyond your means, libraries throughout the world do hold these titles in their special collections.

The Daily Mail ran the first article of a four-part series on Frieda Hughes on 5 November. Read it here!

Michael Dirda reviews Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell in The Washington Post. There are bound to be some Plath-references in this important new book.

From 14-16 November, at Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Mass., the 32nd Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair will take place. This is a wonderful opportunity to see and buy rare and antiquarian books. Many dealers bring their Plath items, not just because they know I'll be there, but for you, too! Now's the time to start or build to your collection.

There are a couple of new books out there worth mentioning.

Published in October 2008
The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath by Jo Gill
Cambridge University Press - $70.00 (hardcover)/$19.99 (paperback)
This title is forthcoming for the Amazon Kindle ebook reader device.

Sylvia Plath's Lyrical Responses to Works of Art: A Portrait of the Artist(s) by Doris Kraler-Bergmann
VDM Verlag - $67.28 (paperback)

Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works) by Raychel Haugrud Reiff
Marshall Cavendish Children's Books - $42.79

Forthcoming publications

Available December 23, 2008
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill
Knopf Books for Young Readers - $7.99 (paperback)

Available April 21, 2009
Sylvia Plath: A Biography by Connie Ann Kirk
Prometheus Books - $16.98 (paperback)

Available in 2009
Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar by Harold Bloom
Bloom's Literary Criticism - Price unknown

05 November 2008

68 & a maniacal "Did you know..."

Otto Plath died 68 years ago today.

Did you know that Ted Hughes died aged 68, 2 months, and 11 days?

Plath died on 2/11/63.

Did you know that 63 days before Plath died, she moved to London?

Did you know that in Diane Middlebrook's Her Husband: Hughes and Plath - a marriage, the pagination coincides so that on page 211, the author discusses Plath's death? Middlebrook, who passed away last December, was 68. This was 123 days before her next birthday. To recap some numbers, this is 68 x 2 - 11 -2.

01 November 2008

Frieda Hughes at the Ted Hughes Festival

The following is a contribution to the blog by Gail Crowther, Research Student, Department of Sociology at Lancaster University. Gail attended the Freida Hughes reading during the Ted Hughes Festival on 24 October, 2008, in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, and was kind enough to write this review of the reading for Sylvia Plath Info Blog readers. Thank you, Gail!

I’ll paint my life in abstracts now,
These poems as the key
To the incidents that shaped me,
And celebrate my journey through
The thickets and hedges,
The maze of thorny edges
Thrown up by family and circumstance
From which I am now free.

(Frieda Hughes, 2006: 96-97)

In the dark and ragged valley of Calderdale on a winter’s evening, we gathered in a small theatre to hear Frieda Hughes read a selection of her published, and soon to be published work.

Starting from a chronological point of view, Frieda began reading from her first book Wooroloo beginning with "Three Women", a poem about an unsavoury stay in a London hospital and the attempts at dignity of the elderly women sharing the ward. This was followed by Frances, a lyrical portrayal of one of these women, poignant in its description of illness and age. "Birds", came next a poem which Frieda said “I wrote about my father but my father thought I’d written about me. May be he was right”. This was followed by "Stonepicker", a sort of mythical creation who encapsulates all the qualities that are unpleasant in certain people. Then came "Dr Shipman" and a discussion about the power such people can have over us. Frieda ponders that the answer we want most is to the question ‘why’, and yet through asking this question we sustain the power of the person. Therefore, the only power you can gain back from them is to not want to know the answer in the first place. "The Bird Cage", Frieda tells us refers to a toy of a childhood friend which created much jealousy. Land mines, crowded with imagery of dismembered limbs was introduced with a anecdote about a reading at Oxford University years earlier where a member of the audience claimed it was a response to a poem from Birthday Letters, "You Hated Spain". “No,” Hughes smiled wryly, “it’s just a poem about land mines”.

"The Writer’s Leg", a poem about a friend in Australia came with the humorous introduction that the friend was no longer speaking to Hughes as he took the poem the wrong way. "Breasts", was a light hearted look at cosmetic surgery with a cracking final line and the humour of this was countered by "The Signature" a sobering poem about Plath’s books being divided between her children by their father before his death, one book of which had the signature snipped out by a prying visitor.

Waxworks was introduced as a book that drew on biblical characters and mythology and classical characters all updated with Hughes’ own stories and experiences. This began with "Rasputin" – "I think we have all known a Rasputin con man". "Vlad the Impaler" followed, a wonderfully gruesome splash of colour poem that Hughes claimed "wrote itself". "The Four Horseman" finished the readings from Waxworks, the character in this poem representing how people can turn against each other.

The final readings came from Frieda Hughes book which will be published in the US in Spring and in the autumn in the UK called The Book of Mirrors. She began with a poem on a subject which she said “I have never written about before” – "Puberty", a bittersweet reminiscence of the crippling insecurities of the developing female body. This was followed by "Flea", a wonderful poem about moving house and finding her new home infested with small inhabitants. With ankles full of blistering bites, this is a poem about how it felt to finally catch one of the fleas and hold it between finger and thumb. “It is,” said Hughes after the reading, “the small things that please us most.” "Letter Bomb" is a poem about the anxiety and immediacy of letters; the fact once something is written it can’t be undone, the sometimes awful physicality of a letter and its contents. "Woman Falling" described the feeling of having done something you really wish you hadn’t and "Stoncle’s Cousin" is a relative of "Stonepicker", the sort of person who rather than focusing on your brilliance, highlights your shortcomings in their own favour. "Message to a Habitual Martyr" is a poem about responsibility. Hughes stated she is a great believer in taking responsibility for your own actions – “If you trip over a paving stone is it really the fault of the council or were you just not looking where you were going?” "Poet with Thesaurus" is about Hughes’ father giving her the gift of her mother’s thesaurus thinking this would help with her own writing. "Things my Father Taught Me" was read with no commentary and followed by a beautifully melancholic poem Letters describing the loss of her father. The final reading was a poem called "Endgame" which is a poem about wars. Hughes introduced this poem saying “I wanted to end with a happy poem, but this is also a goodbye poem…actually it’s a cute poem.”

Following the reading, Frieda signed books and chatted to people. The night gone too quickly. We leave the theatre and enter the dark.

GC 29/10/08; photograph of Frieda Hughes, cropped, from http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/.

28 October 2008

10 & 47

10 years ago today... Ted Hughes passed away.

47 years ago today... Sylvia Plath published her short story "The Perfect Place" in the women's magazine My Weekly. The working title for this story was "The Lucky Stone", and typescripts are held by both the Moritmer Rare Book Room at Smith College and the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University.

This was the last short story that we know of that Plath published in her lifetime. Irralie Doel and I spoke about this story on 28 October 2007 at the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Oxford. To read more about the story, please see my paper "'I should be loving this': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar" in Volume 1 of Plath Profiles.

25 October 2008

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 25 October 2008

Below is a list of links and other newsworthy items from the week that was.
  • The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath by Jo Gill has had a somewhat roaming US publication date. Having moved from 30 September to 30 October to 30 November, Amazon.com now has the publication date set for Monday, 27 October. Also know as the birthday of Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas, and countless others. The book is listed as In Stock according to Cambridge University Presses US site; and it is also available as an eBook using the Adobe eBook Reader.
  • Blake Morrison remembers Ted Hughes in The week in books in The Guardian.
  • The Guardian also gives us a glimpse into A. Alvarez's writing room.
  • The Chronicle Herald (Canada) reports last Sunday on the sale of the Hughes papers.
  • The Whitman College Pioneer (Walla Walla, Wash) reports that the Citizens for Academic Responsibility wants Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar should be removed from school curriculum. [Go ahead: If you ban it, it will be read.]
  • Freida Hughes will publish a new collection of poetry in 2009. Be on the lookout for The Book of Mirrors in spring (USA) and in the autumn (UK).

20 October 2008

Sylvia Plath events

There are two events worthy of note in the next month.

On Monday October 27, 2008, Kate Moses will highlight a Sylvia Plath Symposium at Pacific. The other speakers will be Camille Norton, Diane Borden, and Xiaojing Zhou."Life Into Art: A Symposium on Sylvia Plath" will be from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom in the DeRosa University Center. Click here for more information...

The Ted Hughes Festival will be held from 22-28 October in Mytholmroyd. Anticipated participants include: Amanda Dalton, Ian Duhig, Frieda Hughes, Glyn Hughes, Mark Piggott, Keith Sagar, John Siddique, Lemm Sissay, Anne Stevenson and Anthony Thwaite. Visit the website for the Elmet Trust for more information and a complete schedule.

17 October 2008

The peanut-crunching crowd

As expected - probably - there has been some criticism that has sprung from the big news this week that the British Library had acquired some of Ted Hughes' papers. Heather McRobie's response "Can't we leave Hughes and Plath alone? We have their poems. We really don't need access to every corner of their lives" is one such example.

The short answer is "No". We cannot leave them alone. And it is arguable that by having access to every corner of their lives does add incredibly valuable insight to their poems. Archival materials allow for the assessment and the reassessment of the subject. Therefore, it is vital that saved materials be made available for use by the public.

There is, undeniably and unfortunately, a gossipy aspect to the story of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. The news of additional archival material being sold was picked up so widely because news about Plath and Hughes does sell papers, and will be clicked on by readers on the Internet. People are interested - and what does it matter why or in what fashion? Of course the media jumped right to the inclusion of materials relating to Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters. Having perused the finding aid available at Emory University, I often wondered if there were extent manuscripts of these poems.

The better attitude is that serious scholarship can and will - and has - benefited tremendously from these respective archives opening up for use. Every paper or book published on Plath and/or Hughes uses archival material; this is especially true of books published on these two poets in this century. Having worked with Plath's archives a good deal, I can say that in reading & researching poem drafts, short stories, early versions of The Bell Jar, as well as unpublished letters and other biographical materials - the end result is always a deeper understanding of her creative process and the product of that process. I am certain I am not alone in this. Plath scholarship has vastly improved because of this access to her papers. It enables a deeper reading and understanding of her work and her life.

The United States holds two major Plath archives, and with a massive amount of Hughes' papers (and some of Plath's too) available at Emory University, scholars are now seeing works created by Hughes during their brief lives together. Diane Middlebrook's Her Husband: Plath and Hughes - a marriage and Eilat Negev and Yehuda Korens biography of Assia Wevill, A Lover of Unreason, both owe much of their information to those papers in Atlanta. If biographical information assists in this quest for understanding the works, so be it.

Plath and Hughes have been labeled the literary couple of the 20th century. The first word of that phrase, literary, defines them more than anything else. It instructs, ultimately, that for which they are known. And, because events happened as they did, their lives, deaths, and afterlives as a result are "interesting." And because their lives are so interesting, Ms. McRobie even got to write about it! The research and interviews Kate Moses undertook to write Wintering was remarkable and extensive. Likewise, Koren and Negev's A Lover of Unreason attempts to give shape and meaning to lost lives that had, essentially, been forgotten, ignored, etc. For the record, Wintering does not just focus on the last months of Plath's life; "the Plath-word" does not guarantee financial success for the author or film-maker; and Assia Wevill was a poet - her translations of Yehuda Amichai (published in March 1969 by Harper & Row) could not have been done if didn't have poetic talents.

Perhaps Ms. McRobie will be surprised by what use the scholars make of Hughes' archive and what private details may or may not exist and come to light or stay hidden deep within the snares and hooks of Hughes' handwriting. Perhaps I might be as well. If the collection is available by the end of 2009, we still won't know for up to 14 months what is in these papers, and it will be longer still before scholars truly understand and publish what they learn. Ongoing research may get missing pieces filled in; previous research can potentially be further supported or perhaps refuted. I suspect Ted Hughes was private enough that anything he might not of want to have saved likely would not have been saved. Would Ms. McRobie prefer that librarians and archivists refuse to care for these documents because "the peanut-crunching crowd" wants an archival striptease? (As an archivist, well, nevermind...) Sometimes it is the private, biographical details than can inform and explain bits of the poetry. And I trust that most scholars will use the information they obtain in a responsible and ethical manner, no matter what form their research ultimately takes. If the output is something along the lines of what Emma Tennant or Susan Fromberg Schaeffer produced, it is easy enough to ignore it. Perhaps this biofictive micro-industry is what Ms. McRobie is really taking issue with? However, for the rest of us the materials that are now available and will become available will be crucial to the continually evolving examination of their work.

14 October 2008

Ted Hughes papers go to British Library

The following is a list of articles and links of the recent sale of Ted Hughes papers to the British Library...

Last updated: 17 October 2008

Rough-hewn genius of Ted Hughes laid bare in unfinished verses - The Times

British Library's £500,000 Ted Hughes catch
- The Guardian

Library acquires Hughes archives- BBC

Ted Hughes 'regretted not publishing Sylvia Plath Birthday Letters sooner' - The Daily Telegraph

Ted Hughes archive to remain in UK - The Times

Ted Hughes and the Birthday Letters - The First Post (Cheltenham)

Fishing for inspiration - Ted Hughes' journals - The Scotsman

British Library acquires Ted Hughes archive - The Peninsula (Qatar)

British Library buys $1-million archive of poet Ted Hughes - The Canadian Press

British Library acquires Ted Hughes archive for nation - The Herald

For more information, please see the Ted Hughes page at the British Library.

Call for Book Covers, Take 3

The kindness of the Flur's and their Swedish cover collection has prompted me to repost this Call for Sylvia Plath Book Covers!

On my website, A celebration, this is, the book cover galleries and photographs receive thousands of hits per month.

Do you have any Sylvia Plath book covers that I do not feature on my website? If so, please send me a scanned image of it at at least 200 dpi, and every few weeks I will add them to the web site.

I am looking for books by Plath and about Plath, in any language.

11 October 2008

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 11 October 2008

  • The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D. C., opens a new exhibition on 10 October called "Women of Our Time: Twentieth Century Photographs". The exhibit runs through February 1, 2009. The photograph of Plath by Rollie McKenna, taken in Boston in 1959, is included. And, there is an online gallery, with some contextual information on Plath. It is not the best piece of writing on her.

  • Along with the exhibit comes Women of Our Time: An Album of Twentieth-Century Photographs by Frederick S. Voss, with a preface by Cokie Roberts, 2002; 176 pages; hardcover, $35 (ISBN 1-85894-169-5). Anne Sexton is also one of the featured women. The National Portrait Gallery is located at Eighth and F Streets, NW, D.C., 20001. They are open daily 11:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m. daily - however they are closed on Christmas Day. Admission is free.

  • Published this month is Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works) by Raychel Haugrud Reiff. Published by Marshall Cavendish Benchmark Books (NY), the book is $42.79 (076142962X). If this is too much to spend, keep an eye out on WorldCat to see if the book is in a library near you. At 144 pages, the reading level suggested by Amazon is 9th-12th grade, so it is likely another introductory examination of Plath. Though, the title suggests it is less biographical than perhaps critical.

  • BBC Radio 3 will air a programme on Elegy on Sunday 12 October, 2008, at 22:15 (local time) - certainly an elegiac time of the day. They may be using a portion of Plath's poem "Daddy". Let's hope that they do; it's the 46th anniversary of that poems composition.

  • I recently received via email scans of five Non-English book covers by or about Sylvia Plath from Florian and Sonja Flur. The books, all Swedish editions, are Glaskupan (The Bell Jar), Johnny Panic och Drömbibeln (Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams), Sängboken (The Bed Book), Ett Diktarliv (Bitter Fame) by Anne Stevenson, and Övervintring (Wintering) by Kate Moses.

07 October 2008

Sylvia Plath collections: Woodberry Poetry Room

Sylvia Plath collections: Woodberry Poetry Room

Sylvia Plath gave two readings for the Woodberry Poetry Room ('WPR', or 'Poetry Room') in 1958 and 1959. The Poetry Room has one of the largest collections of recorded poetry in the world. As I work there, I am assisting in a project to digitize the recordings to make them available either to the Harvard community, or the whole world wide web.

In a routine visit to the stacks to select reel-to-reel tapes to digitize, I found the original cardboard box containers for the Plath recordings. Most of the containers feature minimal information, likely in either a curator's hand or the audio technician. However, when I pulled the Plath boxes off the shelf, I was amazed to see that she herself had written the track listings on the back.

The recording for Friday June 13, 1958 is written in a pink ink. It may have been red, but the color appears pink to me. There are two poems per available line. The recording for her February 22, 1959 is written in pencil, and includes a doodle. Each poem is written on the available line, and as Plath read 17 poems, she needed two columns. So, she drew a line dividing the two halves. At the top of this line is the doodle. The doodle is a head & face, and the line appear to be coming out of the doodle heads mouth area, like a tongue.

Along the side of the 1959 recording is "Titles listed by Sylvia Plath". This was written probably by Jack Sweeney, then curator of the room, but could have been by Stephen Fassett, whose recording studio was at 24 Chestnut Street in Beacon Hill, just a one minute walk from 9 Willow Street, where Plath and Hughes lived.

As of this time, the boxes are not catalogued but if you're in the Lamont Library area and want to see them, come on by - though setting an appointment is recommended. Though many libraries at Harvard are closed to the public, the Woodberry Poetry Room (Room 330 in Lamont Library) is open to the public. All one needs to do is present an ID at the entrance.
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