21 October 2009

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 Receptions of Plath." Thumbscrew 9. Winter 1997-1998: 43-49.

  • Gammage, Nick. "Reading Sylvia Plath: An Unrecorded Publication of 'The Rabbit Catcher'." Thumbscrew 9. Winter 1997-1998: 55-56.

  • Phillips, Ivan. "A Mixed Marriage: The Strange Affair of Sylvia Plath and Paul Muldoon." Thumbscrew 9. Winter 1997-1998: 58-65.
The next issue, 10, featured two letters in response to issue 9, and a new essay by Rosemarie Rowley. Here are the citations for Thumbscrew 10.

  • Scammell, William. "Letters." Thumscrew 10. Spring 1998: 31.

  • Adcock, Fleur. "Letters ." Thumscrew 10. Spring 1998: 32.

  • Rowley, Rosemarie. "Electro-convulsive Treatment in Sylvia Plath's Life and Work." Thumbscrew 10. Spring 1998: 87-99.

The tone of these essays in
Thumbscrew 9, taken as a whole, is completely mixed, leaning towards the negative.

Little did you know that I hinted at the second "Did you know..." in the first group of citations from
Thumbscrew 9. Did you know that "The Rabbit Catcher" was published in The Observer on February 7, 1965? It was! On page 26. Gammage's revelation, not in Stephen Tabor's authoritative bibliography, could change the way some look at this poems supposed omission from the Plath's works prior to its appearance in Winter Trees in 1971/1972. Of course, it isn't likely Hughes sent/gave it to The Observer - more likely it was held over by a submission of Plath's from 1962. The history on that is as follows...

According to Plath's submission list (held by the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College), she did send to Alvarez "Event", "The Rabbit Catcher", "Elm", "Crossing the Water", "An Appearance", and "Little Fugue" on June 30, 1962. Plath's practice was to underline those works which were accepted (sometimes she starred them as well). For this submission, "Crossing the Water", "Event" and "The Rabbit Catcher" were underlined. "Elm" was as well, but the underline was struck out. "Crossing the Water" appeared on September 23, 1962 on page 25. "Event" appeared on December 16, 1962, on page 21. It's a good bet that "The Rabbit Catcher" appearing in
The Observer prior to Ariel's publication in on March 11, 1965, was a surprise to Ted Hughes. Did The Observer print "The Rabbit Catcher" in anticipation of its (presumed) appearance it was going to be in the forthcoming Ariel?

The "Elm" strike through is interesting. Plath sent "Elm" to the
New Yorker on June 8, 1962 (along with "Three Women", "The Rabbit Catcher", and "Event"). By July 10, they were returned as rejected. Plath re-sent "Elm" on August 31, 1962 (along with five additional poems). This time it was accepted, on September 26. It would be interesting to look at the poems in the two batches to try to determine what made "Elm" stick out the second time around. Anyway, the New Yorker wanted to change the title. On October 10, 1962, Plath sent a letter to Howard Moss at the New Yorker accepting the title change from "Elm" to "The Elm Speaks". With this in mind, Plath probably crossed out the "Elm" acceptance from the Observer shortly after September 26; she did have a first reading contract them, after all. "The Elm Speaks", along with 6 other poems, were published in the New Yorker on August 3, 1963. One of these six poems had been held since being accepted in July 1960 (before Plath had her first reading contract with them)!


panther said...

Am not surprised that Paul Muldoon got a mention in that list of articles-THUMBSCREW was not, as I remember, in existence for a long time but its salient feature was an obsession with PM. It got quite annoying, frankly.

Some of these articles sound interesting. I highly recommend the one in Issue 10 about Plath and how her poetry is influenced/may have been influenced by electroconvulsive therapy.

panther said...

Sorry, forgot to add-I am NOT the author of that article, I just came across it somewhere and found it really interesting and thought-provoking. One could argue that quite a lot of mid-20th century American poetry (not just Plath's) was influenced by shock therapy, for good or ill.

Peter K Steinberg said...

The articles were interesting. That Rowley article was among the best of all those listed. Hughes himself published something in the second number of Thumbscrew, which I neglected to mention. It was "Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Ariel." I haven't checked to see if there were any further articles in the other numbers, but will next time I'm in Widener.

Anonymous said...

this is howwrrendowus why did noe one consult me on tahis issues i would havbe provided invauleable insight of thie kinds no ever befreo seen

thubmscrew is boring, ask me twice and i will give you the same answer, just differently

Anonymous said...

Your research is such a pleasure to read. Thank you Peter S.!

Amy in Texas

Peter K Steinberg said...

Amy in Texas,

Thank you for that comment, I appreciate it very much.


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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017.
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, 1956-1963. London: Faber, 2018.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.