Helen Broderick has just posted that the Ted Hughes archive is now open for research and consultation at the British Library. This means that drafts of Birthday Letters and so much more can be scrutinized; which should allow for further assessment of Hughes' poetic relationship with Plath. Following the progress of the processing of this collection has been very rewarding, no? I do hope more archives do this (and not just the Plath or Hughes ones...I'm an equal-opportunity archivist/archives enthusiast). Thank you Helen!
In October 1961, Sylvia Plath wrote the poem "The Babysitters." In it, she recalls her summer experience from 1951, being a live-in nanny for a well-to-do family in Swampscott, Massachusetts. Swampscott is a short drive from Winthrop. She did this with her great friend Marcia Brown, who nannied for a family a few houses away. Plath's journals from the summer of 1951 are wonderful reading, you can see Plath's identity developing, the creation of her self, the creation of an author. I have a few pictures of relevant Swampscott locales on my website (though not numbered, please see the 13th-17th photographs). The poem and some of the journal entries work together. For example, in the poem Plath writes, "I remember you playing 'Ja-Da' in a pink piqué dress / On the game-room piano, when the 'big people' were out, / And the maid smoked and shot pool under a green shaded lamp" ( Collected Poems 175). In the Journals, entry 96 read
Sylvia Plath wrote "Wreath of a Bridal" over two days, 17-18 May 1956, about a month before her marriage to Hughes. Undated in her Collected Poems , it is placed near some of her honeymoon poems such as "Alicante Lullaby" and "Fiesta Melons." Aside from it being referenced in "The Couriers," "Daddy," and a few other poems, "Wreath for a Bridal" is, I think, one of the only poems Plath wrote on her wedding. A companion piece would be Ted Hughes' "A Pink Wool Knitted Dress" from his 1998 Birthday Letters , which begins, "In your pink wool knitted dress / Before anything had smudged anything / You stood at the altar. Bloomsday." Today is Bloomsday, it was on this day 54 years ago that Plath and Hughes spoke the promise and were wed. The altar is pictured here. Which poem is "better"? I don't know. Do I/we have to pick one? I think Hughes' is more approachable and certain
For those in the Asheville, North Carolina area look for Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath at the Asheville Community Theatre's 35below, located at 35 E. Walnut St. Show time is 7:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, July 1-17, Tickets are $15. Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath stars Elisabeth Gray and is "a multimedia tragicomedy about suicide, with talking ovens, cooking shows and poetry." ( source ) It was performed at the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Oxford back in October 2007 ( review ). I've heard that Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath is going to be Off Broadway in New York City later this year. More details as they become available. In May, I posted that the book collector's magazine Firsts featured articles on Plath and Olive Higgins Prouty. I received a copy pretty quickly. It contains a long biography of Plath under the title "What's the Deal About Sylvia Plath." It's heavily indebted to the likes of Paul Alexander and a few others. I u
Thing the First: Recently I found on eBay a book titled The Ghosts of Anne & Sylvia by Amber LaParne and Jasmine Paul published way back in 2008. It appears to be in that shady genre of poetry inspired by... I do like the cover and the association it has with their drinking time at the Ritz in Boston. Copies are also on sale via Amazon . Thing the Second: A student from North Carolina is blogging his way through Boston & Smith College. Please* read Zack Rearick's adventures from the archives. Day 1 . Day 2 . Port City Poets Blog Home page . *Disclaimer: He says nice things about this blog.
This blog post kind of got away from me. If it's as nasty outside where you live as it is where I live, then maybe that's ok... Val Hennessey at the Daily Mail reviews Lesley McDowell's Between the Sheets in " Clever Girls with Terrible Taste in Men ." I read the book over the winter and found it lacking. Plath didn't belong in with the rest of the women for one reason: she didn't put up with Ted Hughes's infidelity. All the other relationships in the book were sadly portrayed and I kept screaming at the book "Leave the bastard!" These men, whether they or I knew it or not, taught me everything I need to know about relationships. The stories were repetitive and far too similar, and did not do much to make me interested in the lives or the writings of those featured. It was too the point that I dreaded reading the Plath chapter, which is the last chapter. But it read far better than I expected. This disappointment with the book in general
Among other wonders, the Schlesinger Library holds the Papers of Mary Ellen S. Capek, 1963-1972 (call number: Schlesinger A/C2379; T-356). The collection consists of one folder and contains Capek's correspondence with Ted Hughes, James Merrill and others about her research on Plath. Also included is an audiotape of an interview with Plath and her reading of a selection of her poems, mostly from Ariel , probably recorded on October 30, 1962; the original is held by the British Council. The letters date from 1968, when Capek (then Mary Ellen Stagg) was working on her thesis. Most of the correspondence surrounds her attempts to find out if there were access to unpublished poems and manuscripts. With the release in 1971 of The Bell Jar , Crossing the Water and Winter Trees (in 1972), the correspondence increased as Capek (as Capek) attempted to find out how the 1965/1966 Ariel differed from Plath's original intentions (based on Hughes' "Note" in Winter Trees