28 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 ladylazarus.tv 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. This was fun and the discussion of the poems was very lively. Around the same time, Laurie started her Sylvia and Ted Collection blog. The photographs and stories are wonderful, as is the blogger!

May brought with it Owen Sheers' Poets Guide to Britain which had an episode on Sylvia Plath and "Wuthering Heights". The documentary focused on her Yorkshire poems and was well received. Visible primarily to residents in the United Kindgom, it left the rest of us green as the countryside with envy. (Though I was lucky enough to see the episode due to contributing images to it.) This series was so wonderful in part as the episodes were so focused and it brought poetry alive in many respects. Sheila Hamilton and I both reviewed "Wuthering Heights" for the blog. Hamilton | Me.

There were three exhibits this year; one at the University of North Carolina which featured a couple of Plath books - and two in Massachusetts. Karen Kukil's unconquerable "Unconquered by Flames: The Literary Lights at Yaddo" focused on Plath's pivotal time at Yaddo in 1959. The exhibit was larger than Plath, but I only had time to see the Plath cases (see my review here). My small exhibit on Plath holdings by the Woodberry Poetry Room coincided a reading by Catherine Bowman in November.

The year in books was a mix of good and bad, and, thankfully in small measures, the atrocious. For those with the means, some rare Plath books and manuscripts sold at auction in July. The manuscripts went to the Lilly Library where they continue to add to their formidable Plath holdings. The rare book, a signed & inscribed first edition of The Colossus went to Peter Harrington, a rare book dealer in London. What recession? Peter Harrington brought this book with them to the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair in November. It was ironic that it was brought back to the city where Plath was born and close-by to Wellesley, where she was taught by Crockett.

Faber brought out new editions of The Bell Jar and Selected Poems in May in part to celebrate their 80th anniversary. Harper's brought out their limited Olive Edition of The Bell Jar in November.

Of the books that were about Plath, there were six. There were Harold Bloom's unmemorable Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (New York: Chelsea House Publishers) and Connie Ann Kirk's reprinted biography Sylvia Plath: A Biography. (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books). Elena Ciobanu's very good and original Sylvia Plath's Poetry: The Metamorphosis of the Poetic Self (Iasi, Romania: Casa Edtoriala Demiurg) came out later in the year. Ellen Miller's Releasing Philosophy, Thinking Art: A Phenomenological Study of Sylvia Plath's Poetry (Aurora, Colo: Davies Group, Publishers) came out in the spring. I wasn't able to read it; the writing being so intelligent as to soar completely over my level of comprehension. However, Luke Ferretter did review it in Plath Profiles 2, which came out to favorable sentiments in August. Too recent to be reviewed is Lisa Narbeshuber's Confessing Cultures: Politics and the Self in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath (Victoria, B.C.: ELS Editions). I look forward to getting this shortly and reviewing it in 2010. In other genre's, Catherine Bowman's poetry collection The Plath Cabinet was published in March and Grace Medlar's novel The Lost Papers of Sylvia Plath came out in June. Frieda Hughes released her new collected The Book of Mirrors, too.

Plath was the subject as usual in numerous articles, the best - naturally my bias shines through - printed in Plath Profiles 2. And, Plath scholarship received atrocious attention in Alix Strauss' Death Becomes Them. I don't want to give her book too much attention, but it must be pointed out again for its overall, inspired awfulness.


This blog had close to 40,000 visits in the last year. Wow! Thank you! For those keeping track that is 15,000 more than in 2008. My other website for Sylvia Plath grew this year with the introduction of a thumbnail page for the covers of periodicals that printed works by Sylvia Plath. I'm still looking for more of these and more book covers, so if you have any that aren't on the site, please send me jpgs! Other changes were made, mostly small ones here at there to improve the text and/or its thoroughness.

The article Gail Crowther and I wrote, These Ghostly Archives, was certainly a highlight for me. Collaboration can be tricky and complicated, but this experience was truly a fine one and one in which she and I hope will advance certain aspects of Plath scholarship in the months and years to come.

A look ahead

In November, I was awarded a Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship by Indiana University to assist me in working on two or three Plath projects: continuing work on an updated bibliography, an article for Plath Profiles 3, continuing to re-build Plath's library on LibraryThing, and something else. Sorry, must be a little vague. Time permitting, I hope to update the blog each evening discussing the materials with which I worked that day and passing on anything that might be either interesting or fun or both, and things that might lead to discussion. From previous visits to the archive, I know that, for example, Letters Home was pretty heavily edited. Much stink was raise at the heavily edited Journals, but not as much seems to have been raised about the letters. They hold most, if not all, of the original letters as well as the original manuscript, which according to the finding aid, "Differs substantially from printed version." Working in the archives never produces the same the same finds because each visit we bring a different focus and different knowledge. Bring it on.

Thanks must be given to all of the readers of this blog, as well as to those who have commented or sent me emails. I continue to learn new things, in part, because of the support each of you gives me. I'll stop there because I don't want to tear up...I have a reputation to protect...

Happy Old Year/Happy New Year.


panther said...

Was it really only in May that I wrote that review ? It seems several years ago already !

Your upcoming projects sound promising-and how nice to have been awarded a grant to pursue them !

Happy New Year

Peter K Steinberg said...


I can't believe how much happens in a year! Damn am I wordy! Makes me really appreciate the guest posts. Going through each entry was like time travel. I hope the trip to Indiana will be productive and informative.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Happy new year my friend - thanks for all you've given us in the way of the blog. Best to you and Courtney in 2010 and I hope I will be able to see you again soon


Peter K Steinberg said...

Thanks Kim, Happy New Year to you as well. Keep on Plathing!

Rick Dale, author of The Beat Handbook said...

An excellent upstate New York poet, Charlie James, was influenced by Sylvia Plath. If you're interested in his new book, visit http://tinyurl.com/CharlieJames.

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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. Forthcoming.
  • 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.