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Showing posts from December, 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 ."