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Showing posts from September, 2009

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

Second Serving: Sylvia Plath by Connie Ann Kirk

Connie Ann Kirk's 2004, Sylvia Plath: A Biography , was recently reissued by Prometheus Books. Unlike it's first appearance, this title is available at bookstores, making it one of the few introductory biographies available to a more commercial market (the 2004 Greenwood biography series edition being primarily a 'library' book). On the back of the book, in big letters is "The blood jet is poetry and there is no stopping it." Those who know "Kindness" quite well will notice the addition of "and", which is not in the poem. This is sloppy. The blurb on the back of the book claims that by the time Plath died, she left behind a "popular novel, The Bell Jar ", but we know this wasn't the case. There is an over reliance on other biographies, and throughout the work, Plath and Hughes and the other players are referred to by their first names, as "Sylvia," "Ted," etc. Addressing Plath and the others in the famili

Plath, Bowen & Sarton

Sylvia Plath began working for Mademoiselle prior to the June 1, 1953 start of her guest editorship. On May 26, Plath went to the Cambridge, Massachusetts home of the writer May Sarton. It was there, at 14 Wright Street (pictured), that she interviewed Elizabeth Bowen for a profile in the August issue. For the profile, Plath was photographed with Bowen. The article ran on page 282. The Sylvia Plath Collection at the Mortimer Rare Book Room holds a contact sheet with 11 images of the Plath/Bowen interview (SP-11), as well as one larger print of the image published in Mademoiselle (SP-12). Additionally, the Sylvia Plath Materials at Indiana University contain many of Plath's letters and instructions from Mademoiselle , prior to and during her Guest Editorship. Included with these is a 2 page document of instructions from Jane Mayberry for the interview (Box 12, Folder 7). In the summer of 1954, Plath lived just five-minutes (walking casually but with determination, in sensible s

Leonie Cohn obituary (Plath, Ocean 1212-W, and the BBC)

The Telepgraph and Daniel Snowman at The Guardian are both printing obituaries for Leonie Cohn, a former talks department producer at the BBC. Leonie Cohn, for those who have read mine and Gail Crowther's paper " These Ghostly Archives ", will now be a familiar name in regards to Sylvia Plath, "Ocean 1212-W", and the BBC. The Telegraph 's article even discusses, with startling familiarity, Cohn's relationship to Plath: "One figure who eluded Leonie Cohn in the early 1960s was the American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath, whose lengthy prose piece about her upbringing was being planned as the centrepiece for a radio documentary, to be produced by Leonie Cohn, called Landscape on Childhood . "Leonie Cohn had suggested a title for these reminiscences – Ocean 1212-W – but arrangements for the recording were abruptly terminated when Plath, the estranged wife of the poet Ted Hughes, committed suicide in February 1963. Leonie

Sylvia Plath: Did you know...

Most of Sylvia Plath's letters are available in archives at Smith College, Indiana University and Emory University. And of course, many were printed in Letters Home . Did you know that in the book Dear Editor: A History of Poetry in Letters: The First Fifty Years, 1912-1962 , they reprint a letter from Sylvia Plath to Poetry editor Henry Rago? The letter was sent on 7 May 1957 from Cambridge, England, and in it, Plath thanks Rago for accepting the following poems, "The Snowman on the Moor", "Sow", Ella Mason and Her Eleven Cats", and "On the Difficulty of Conjuring Up a Dryad". These poems, her second batch of acceptances by this magazine, appeared in the July 1957 issue of Poetry (pictured here). The editors of Dear Editor (Joseph Parisi and Stephen Young) also published Between the Lines: A History of Poetry in Letters, Part II: 1962-2002 . Plath is referenced many times. In a letter from John Berryman to Henry Rago, dated 22 July 1963, Be