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Showing posts from 2009

Sylvia Plath 2009 - Year in Review

By and large, the biggest - and saddest - news this year was the death of Nicholas Hughes by suicide in March. Plath said it best, "A smile fell in the grass." In January , London was treated to Robert Shaw's production of Plath's "Three Women". The play was on at Edinburgh in August and I'm still hopeful the company can come west to Boston or New York. While the play received mostly positive reviews, from the standpoint of bring Plath's words to a greater audience it was a huge success. Also in January, the website was launched by Florian and Sonja Flur. The website has been updated so please check back to it! The Flur's visited Boston in March and we met up so that I could show them the Plath sites. It was a very memorable day - certainly one of the best of the year - and they were very gracious guests. In April we voted "Three Women" to be our favorite poem in the 2009 Sylvia Plath Poetry tournament.


I've been making Otto Plath cookies for years now. It started by accident several years ago with some friends. This is my 2009 Otto Plath cookie sugar cookie. Notice the amputated left leg, with residual evidence of gangrene, represented by green sugar sprinkles. (It was at this point my wife stopped talking to me.) The surgeon (at 2 a.m.) was a little sloppy and didn't clean up all the blood (red sprinkles). Notice the cleft in the chin instead of the foot. Notice, too, the doubling here by the cookie and its shadow. The sun makes a model of him, "A man in black with a Meinkampf look / And a love of the rack and the screw." The cookie is on the cooling rack and it is screwed because I ate it just afterwards. And I loved it. Don't you give me that Meinkampf look! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate.

Links, reviews, etc. - week ending 19 December 2009

Oh the weather outside is frightful, But Plathing is so delightful, And since we've no place to go, Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! For In Other Words , the blog of the Toronto Globe and Mail , Judith Fitzgerald writes about " News of Hughes ", a story about a recent Sotheby's auction of correspondence between Ted Hughes and scholar Nick Gammage (editor of The Epic Poise: A Celebration of Ted Hughes ), as well as almost 400 rare and first editions. The little collection sold for £39,650 ($68,400). It should be pointed out that Olivia Cole at the Evening Standard wrote about this first in " How Ted Hughes let his imagination sparkle through letters to a fan ." Whilst randomly searching "Sylvia Plath" on Google, I found this reading guide to The Bell Jar published by Faber. Whilst randomly searching "Sylvia Plath" on blogs, I found this post by Amica Carmilla about an artist called Justin Fitzpatrick .

Writing and Reading Life

Having read so much drivel about Plath this year, I decided to turn back the clock a bit... Linda Wagner Martin's Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life (Macmillan Press, 1999; 2nd. ed. rev. and expanded, 2003) is a gem. What struck me in 1999 when it first came out was the fact that it discussed unpublished materials, be they letters, poems, prose, or other. Discouraged by the number of mediocre books I've read recently about Plath (particularly poems about Plath), I thought I'd give a critical work a read, just to reestablish a connection with good writing about Plath. A good critic can convince the reader that their approach to the subject is the right way, despite any amount of knowledge one may possess about the said subject. Wagner-Martin does this. In the Preface, she states that Plath's life was "genuinely a literary life. There was no other aim for Sylvia Plath..." It is with this in mind that Wagner-Martin writes one of the best critical books on Plath.

Sylvia Plath's Passport and Travel Documents

or, Liar Liar Pants on Fire Sylvia Plath arrived in Southampton, England on the Queen Elizabeth on 20 September 1955 from New York via Cherbourg, France. After her marriage to Ted Hughes on 16 June 1956, she traveled to Spain via France for a long honeymoon before returning to England in late August 1956. She spent the month of September 1956 in Heptonstall and Yorkshire. While getting to know her in-laws, she played host to her college friend Elinor Friedman Klein. At the end of September she returned to Cambridge. This is the exceedingly short version of Plath's biography from 1955-1957. This post will address a couple of details printed in Paul Alexander's biography Rough Magic . The first is that of Kenneth Pitchford's claim that he met Plath on board the Queen Elizabeth in September 1956. The second, related to this, is Pitchford's (and Alexander's) conclusion that Plath was on that ship returning to England after having had an abortion. Neither of these

Sylvia Plath &

Many people are interested in genealogy. is the place for this. They have an amazing amount of archival "stuff" available either to those that subscribe or have access through school or work or sign up for a trial. In October, announced via their blog , among other things, the availability of "Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad,1963-1974". This time period would include Sylvia Plath. And, to boot, they made it so easy as to include a link to Plath's report ! No wait... come back... Before you click away, I just wanted to let you know that this post is a set-up! Unless something major happens between now and Sunday, check back late in that day for my next post, a long one, aided immensely by's archive, the good people at the Lilly Library and Emory University, and money ("For money, Lord, the crowds are fierce!"). There are a couple of interesting anomalies with the information on the report. Su

Update on Narbeshuber's Confessing Cultures

Out just in time for the holidays is Lisa Narbeshuber's Confessing Cultures: Politics and the Self in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath (E L S Monograph Series). Whilst Amazon says they are out of stock, and the book is not listed on ELS's website , I've heard the title has been published. You can order through Amazon above or through the publisher at . For more information, please see my previous post from 21 August .

Frieda Hughes' space

In today's Observer is " My Space: Frieda Hughes, poet and painter ." The article subtitle is "The daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes on the Welsh home she shares with three dogs and an owl." This must be ironic as as in the article Hughes writes, " I hate forever being known as Sylvia Plath's daughter – I'm my own person."

Ted Hughes in the News

This seems to be a week for Ted Hughes. In today's Times , Ben Macintyre writes " Ted Hughes was a prophet of climate change ". Also, someone put two readings of Sylvia Plath poems by Ted Hughes on YouTube. The clip features Hughes reading "Wuthering Heights" and "Crossing the Water". "Wuthering Heights" is likely from the British Library CD Ted Hughes: Poetry in the Making - The Spoken Word . Haven't yet sorted out the origin of "Crossing the Water". Thanks to Gail Crowther for pointing out the availability of this. There is no stopping people from doing this kind of thing, but I'd encourage people to buy the CD or borrow it from the library.

Two articles

Two articles to bring to your attention today. The first is " Icons Among Us " by Caleb Daniloff in BU Today (or, yesterday, or 30th November 2009, depending on when you view). This is about Room 222 at Boston University, where Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, among others, attended Robert Lowell's poetry courses. Please note, I've found the link to be nomadic and slightly problematic. If it doesn't work please accept my apologies. The second is from today's Evening Standard . Geordie Greig gives us " Time to give Ted Hughes his rightful place in Poets' Corner, say laureates ." A third article appeared in the 2 December 2009 issue of The Times : Fiona Hamilton's " Put Ted Hughes in Poets' Corner, writers urge Westminster Abbey ."

Ariel Mug

Now that the holiday season is upon us... Do you have 10 quid hanging around. If so, you might think about getting yourself a Sylvia Plath Ariel coffee mug . The mug reproduces Faber's 2001 publication and woud likely make drinking coffee, tea, hot chocolate (with Bailey's) a more intense experience. This also seems an appropriate time to give notice that according to, look for a new hardback edition of Ariel on 6 May 2010 . See Plath's pages on Faber's website here .

A Queen is Crowned: August 24, 1953

In October, my review of Alix Strauss' Death Becomes Them , led to some temporary uncertainly over Aurelia Plath's whereabouts on 24 August 1953 - the afternoon of Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt. Was she at the theater? Was she at a friends? In Wellesley? Or in some other town? Thanks to BrigetAnna, ~VC, and Jim Long for pointing out that this is something Strauss got right (see the comments section). I recently had occasion to review the Boston Daily Globe for August 24, 1953. I learned that the film Aurelia Plath saw was called A Queen is Crowned . ( ) A Queen is Crowned was playing at the Exeter Street Theater , at 26 Exeter Street, at the corner of Exeter and Newbury Streets in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. That day, Aurelia Plath likely saw the 2:10 p.m. showing. (Sylvia Plath was born at ... wait for it ... 2:10 p.m. She was 20 years old (or, 2 x 10). Plath signed the contract for The Colossus in London on 2/10 (1960). And, 2/10 (1963) was

Elena Ciobanu's Sylvia Plath's Poetry: The Metamorphoses of the Poetic Self

Elena Ciobanu, Lecturer at Vasile Alecsandri, University of Bacau, Romania, recently had her book Sylvia Plath's Poetry: The Metamorphoses of the Poetic Self published by Casa Editoriala Demiurg in Romania. Elena's book is an excellent study of Sylvia Plath's poetry. She builds upon previous critical works and theoretical approaches whilst infusing it with her own original reading. Ciobanu's Sylvia Plath's Poetry: The Metamorphoses of the Poetic Self is a serious work. I'll be honest, much of it was over my own limited intellect. But be that as it may, I found her writing clear and her approach fresh. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the third chapter, "The Phenomenological Unfolding of Sylvia Plath's Poetic Existence", on pages 132-135, which deal with Plath's "Empty Ectasy". Here Elena details "the five poems in which we can find Plath's most famous trademark images of so-called transcendence". She takes us

Sylvia Plath: Did you know...

Sylvia Plath has been the subject of numerous interpretations. Plath's life and works have been adapted and performed both in dramatic and cinematic fashions, as well as in other ways. Some are remembered, some are not... Did you know that in 1976 and 1978, the dancer/actress Margaret Beals put on "Stings" in New York? "Stings" co-starred Lee Nagrin and Brooke Myers, and first appeared at the Kauffmann Concert Hall at the 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Avenue). The first performance was on 23 May 1976. It was revived briefly in 1978 for 16 performances beginning on 9 May, this time at Beals' own Theater in the Loft.

Sylvia Plath: The Disquieting Muse

At 5 p.m. on 13 November 2009, Catherine Bowman will be at the Woodberry Poetry Room. She will be both reading from her collection of poems The Plath Cabinet and playing recordings of poems by Plath (and possibly Ted Hughes and Anne Sexton, too). If you are in the area, please come to the informal event, it is free and open to the public. The Woodberry Poetry Reading is in Room 330 of Lamont Library at Harvard. In conjunction with this event, I've created a little exhibit entitled "Sylvia Plath: The Disquieting Muse". Items featured in the exhibit include a first edition Heinemann The Colossus , a typescript of "The Disquieting Muses" with a typo, the reel tape boxes from Plath 1958 and 1959 Harvard recordings , and a few other items and photographs. The exhibit will be up for a while. The picture here is intentionally small... Also coming up next weekend, 13-15 November 2009, the 33rd Boston Antiquarian Book Fair is on at the Hynes Convention Center (T t

Links, reviews, etc. - week ending 7 November 2009

More items of interest to pass on in addition to the recently published articles I posted on yesterday... EvaClaire Albion Wright, at the Sophian , the weekly student press at Smith College, ran an article this week on the Mortimer Rare Book Room, " Rare Book Room allows student interaction with charming collection ". As someone who has worked a lot in the Mortimer Rare Book Room, I can't say enough how wonderful and accurate this article was to read. Thanks to Gail Crowther for sending on " Church featured in BBC's Jam and Jerusalem desecrated by vandals ", an article that ran in The Telegraph . This is the Church that Court Green faces ; and about which Plath wrote about in the poem "The Moon and the Yew Tree" and the short story "Mothers". On 25 November, Olivia Cole of The Spectator reports Frieda Hughes will read with Don Paterson, herself, and others at the The Spectator Boardroom, 22 Old Queen Street, London, SW1H 9HP betw

New Publications

Recently published is Jane Hedley's I Made You to Find Me: The Coming of Age of the Woman Poet and the Politics of Poetic Address (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2009). In this work is an essay titled, "Sylvia Plath's Ekphrastic Impulse" (pgs 71-102). Other poets examined in I Made You to Find Me are Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich and Gwendolyn Brooks. The chapter on Plath appears to have grown from Hedley's essay "Sylvia Plath's Ekphrastic Poetry" which appeared in the Spring 2001 issue of Raritan (Vol 20, No. 4), pages 37-73. Hedley's is a good article. While the original was written prior to Eye Rhymes , it doesn't seem to acknowledge this important work when it may have benefited from it. Also, out now is an essay by Arielle Greenberg and Becca Klaver in the Fall 2009 issue of College Literature (Vol 36, No 4). "Mad Girls’ Love Songs: Two Women Poets—a Professor and Graduate Student—Discuss Sylvia Plath, Angst, and

Published Today: Olive Edition of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Today, Harper Perennial publishes the Olive Edition of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The The's: The book format is trade paperback. The ISBN is 0061849901. The price is $10. The cover is purple. The addition of this edition to my collection is welcome. UPDATE: 4 November 2009: On the back cover of the book it says that this Olive Edition is a Limited Edition.

Sylvia Plath Collections: T. Thomas papers, mss

The good people at the Lilly Library quietly acquired some of Trevor Thomas' papers earlier this year. The T. Thomas mss, ca. 1976-1990, "consist of the correspondence, writings, legal depositions, poetry, typescript of his autobiography, and poetry of Trevor Thomas, b. South Wales, 1907. Appointed Keeper of the Department of Ethnology in the City of Liverpool Free Public museum, Thomas became a nationally known specialist in primitive art and for his innovative exhibition displays at the museum. Thomas was living in the apartment below Sylvia Path at the time of her death by suicide. "The collection includes correspondence between Thomas and Aurelia Plath following her daughter’s suicide; correspondence with Linda Wagner–Martin, a biographer of Plath, including a typescript copy of parts of her book and an inscribed hard copy of the published text, Sylvia Plath: A Biography. It also includes legal documents, news clippings and testimony regarding Ted Hughes suit against

Frieda Hughes' Book of Mirrors out now

Bloodaxe Books published The Book of Mirrors by Frieda Hughes earlier this month, on 10 October, in the UK. The Book of Mirrors , packaged with Hughes' Stonepicker , was published earlier this year in the US. There are many poems of interest in this collection to readers of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

Picture Post

At Starbucks this morning, I couldn't help but notice what the person in front of me was reading. I just had to take a picture of "Words Read, by accident, Over the iPhone"... H.B. S.P.

Mademoiselle August 1953 on eBay

Sylvia Plath was guest managing editor the August 1953 issue of Mademoiselle . Currently on eBay , someone is auctioning this issue. The auction ends tomorrow, October 27 (Plath's birthday no less)! P.S. - it should be noted that I am not the seller and that I do not personally know the seller.

Sylvia Plath: Double did you know...

Since October is, for us, unequivocally associated with Sylvia Plath, I thought I'd offer a special double did you know. I spoil you, I know. In 1994-1995, Tim Kendall founded the magazine Thumbscrew . His hope was that it would be an "antidote to a London poetry scene which appeared to outsiders as cosy, self-savouring, mediocre." Did you know that Thumbscrew 9, Winter 1997-1998, was a special issue on Sylvia Plath? The following is a list of citations for those articles which appeared in issue 9: Adcock, Fleur. "Why Plath is (Not) Very Important to Me." Thumbscrew 9. Winter 1997-1998: 2-3. Korelitz, Jean Hanff. "An Inexcusable Thing." Thumbscrew 9. Winter 1997-1998: 5-9. Quinn, Justin. "Plath as Exemplar." Thumbscrew 9. Winter 1997-1998: 11-12. Tyrrell, Patricia. "The Semtex Poet." Thumbscrew 9. Winter 1997-1998: 27-29. Kinsella, John and Tracy Ryan. "'Farther Off Than Australia': Some Australian Recept

Event of Plathian Interest at Columbia College Chicago

If you are in Chicago, or near Chicago, you may be interested in the following event sponsored by Columbia College, Chicago. If you have frequent flyer miles, I'd suggest redeeming them for this event. Karen Kukil will give a talk, “Sylvia Plath's Women and Poetry”, on Wednesday, October 21, 5:30 p.m. at the Music Center Concert Hall,1014 South Michigan Avenue. Click hither for more information . If anyone sees Eddie Cohen, can you please give him my number?

Yaddo at Smith

The exhibit " Unconquered by Flames: The Literary Light at Yaddo at Smith College " is one of 15 around the country celebrating the artist colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. The exhibit is all over the library, which I think is a wonderful use of their limited space. The Plath/Hughes experience is the largest of the exhibits, with the most "stuff" and the most cases. In addition to "Sylvia Plath '55 & Ted Hughes at Yaddo, 1959", which is in the Book Arts Gallery, Neilson level 3, there is the Exhibit Overview, Neilson Library, 1st floor entrance, Lola Ridge at Yaddo, 1929-1930, Sophia Smith Collection, Alumnae Gym, Newton Arvin at Yaddo, 1928-1960, Mortimer Rare Book Room, Neilson level 3, and Constance Carrier '29 at Yaddo, 1975 & 1978, Mortimer Rare Book Room, Neilson level 3. Each exhibit illustrates the subjects relationship with Yaddo as well as the results, or products, of the stay. Often a manuscript is side by side with the publ

American and British Poetry: A Guide to Criticism, 1925-1978

There is a book called American and British Poetry: A Guide to the Criticism, 1925-1978 , which was compiled by Harriet Semmes Alexander and published in 1984. It is a 2 volume book. Sylvia Plath is covered on pages 298-303. What this bibliography does is list works by Plath, and then gives citations of essays that discuss or mention the work. Of course, it only goes to 1978, so it is "older", but nevertheless I think it is an interesting reference tool. I don't think it's nearly complete either - based on what I've seen published before 1978, it seems skinny. But, it's a cool resources nonetheless. As the title indicates, it is only looking at Plath's poetry. Funnily enough, "Three Women" is not listed under "Three Women", but under "Poem for Three Voices." If your local town or college library doesn't have it - no worries. Google does !


If the article on "Sylvia Plath" in Alix Strauss' Death Becomes Them: Unearthing the Suicides of the Brilliant, the Famous, & the Notorious (Harper Collins, 2009) is typical of the others in the book, the general population that reads this work will, in the company of those who know something of the subject discussed, make fools of themselves. There are some truly heinous mistakes in the Plath piece. I forced myself not to jump right to Plath and read with interest about Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and Hunter S. Thompson. I looked forward to Anne Sexton after Plath. I admit I don't know much about the suicides of the other people in the book, but after the Plath chapter I was so completely turned off to the point that the book in my hand was replaced by chocolate. There are far too many errors for me to try to correct here, but I'll just list a few because I cannot help myself. Before I continue, however, I do have to say that the book I received, k

Teenage Plath writing & artwork acquired by the Lilly Library

On Tuesday 22 September, at a one day book conference entitled "Books in Hard Times" held at the Grolier Club in New York, I had the chance to speak briefly with Breon Mitchell, director of the Lilly Library. He mentioned during his talk - on libraries collecting during 'hard times' that they still add to their collections when possible. Acquiring is just more strict. Of their impressive holdings, he singled out their Plath materials as being a collection that is still growing, mentioning their recent acquisition of some Plath juvenalia. I asked him during a break what they acquired, and I am exceedingly happy to report that they are the holders of the Plath manuscripts that were just up at auction from Sotheby's in July . So, although that signed copy of The Colossus is now for sale - and will be presumably for a while - these "juvenalia" are available - right now - for researchers to use. One of the manuscripts Mr. Mitchell particularly mentioned

Alix Strauss' Death Becomes Them

I just received an email regarding the new book by Alix Strauss entitled Death Becomes Them: Unearthing the Suicides of the Brilliant, the Famous and the Notorious , published September 2009, by Harper Collins . Death Becomes Them is available in paperback and e-book for $14.99. The following post is excerpted from the press release for the book. The weather in Sussex, London is brisk; the sun shining. The large stones are smooth in her hands. Solid and heavy in her pockets. They bulge from her coat. Though she found herself in this exact position, standing by the river, ready to end her life days ago, she failed. She returned home drenched, body shivering from the cold. But today she knows more. Today she has the rocks. Virginia Woolf spent most of her life in one of two states: writing or fighting a bipolar/manic depressiveness which went undiagnosed until after she’d drowned herself on March 28th, 1941. Three weeks later her body was discovered by a group of children playing

Sylvia Plath at the Morgan Library

On Monday, 21 September, I was able to spend a couple of hours at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. Of the vast holdings at the Morgan is a smallish collection of Sylvia Plath books and a rare manuscripts. The books form part of the Carter Burden Collection of American Literature. The manuscripts, on which I have posted a couple of times on this blog ( here and here ), are of 40 or so "juvenile" poems, written between 1937 and the mid-1940s. Previously, I have seen only a black and white photocopy, from microfilm, but on this research visit I was given permission to see the original. Plath illustrated her early journals, which are housed at the Lilly Library (more on Plath and the Lilly later this week!) at Indiana University, but I don't recall seeing many illustrated poems. What a treat this turned out to be. The books I looked at were: The 1972 proof of Winter Trees published by Harper & Row; the 1976 proof of The Bed Book published by Faber

New Sylvia Plath article

Just a little post today to say that Sally Bayley has a new article published in Women's History Review , Volume 18, Issue 4. The date on this issue is September 2009, and it appears on pages 547-558. Here is the title and abstract: "'Is it for this you widen your eye rings?' Looking, Overlooking and Cold War Paranoia: the art of the voyeur in the poetry of Sylvia Plath and the films of Alfred Hitchcock" This exploration of the shared culture of suspicion of Cold War America centres on the poetry of Sylvia Plath and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. A cinema enthusiast, American poet Sylvia Plath was invested in the dominant cultural conceit of domestic surveillance. Her late poems, the posthumous Ariel collection (1964), share much in common with Hitchcock's films, Suspicion , Rear Window and Marnie —films in which the culturally rarefied experience of the home life is open to scrutiny—and found lacking. Both Plath and Hitchcock employ the figure of the voyeu

Crockett's Colossus

On 17 July, 2009 , I posted the results of some Sylvia Plath materials at Sotheby's in London. In this auction, Plath's The Colossus went on the block; this copy being quite special as it was the copy she signed and inscribed to her English teacher Wilbury Crockett. A Christmas card was included. The selling price was £17,500. Well, the buyer of the was Peter Harrington, of London . I've seen his books at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair for the last few years - he's got great stuff and he's a high end dealer. Those interested now in owning Wilbury Crockett's former copy of The Colossus will have to shell out £37,500. The other items that sold have not yet surfaced in bookseller inventories so it it possible these went to private owners or other places. Ian MacKay also wrote about this in the September 2007 issue of Fine Books Notes . See "A Colossal Colossus" here . Crockett lived, at the time, at 9 Summit Road in Wellesley, according to Plath&#

Links, reviews, etc. - Week ending 12 September 2009

There is an article in The Times by Ben Hoyle today on Ted Hughes and his recently discovered children's story, Timmy the Tug , written in 1956. The article, " Ted Hughes’s first children’s story has emerged after 50 years " is online here. This is the first time I remember reading about Jim Downer - and that Plath visited down in the winter of 1963 shortly before she died. Downer, and his wife Wendy, lived, according to Plath's addressbook (housed at Smith), at 214 Old Brompton Road in London. The article includes some of Downer's illustrations. Look for Timmy the Tug on 21 September. There is a companion article to the one above, entitled " Jim Downer and Ted Hughes's excellent adventure " by Alan Franks. An article that ran in the Marin Independent Journal mentions one of the most unique uses of Plath's poetry I can remember. In Jane Scurich's " Master Gardener: Garden Show focues on climate change, drought and sustainability &qu