30 July 2010

A further sneak peak at Plath Profiles 3

In June, I posted that if any of the contributors were interested in publishing a guest post/abstract of their paper on this blog, to send something my way. This after detailing one of my papers that will be in Plath Profiles 3. One brave soul did!

The following was sent to me by Julia Gordon-Bramer, who contributes "Sylvia Plath's Spell on Ariel: Conjuring the Perfect Book of Poems Through Mysticism and the Tarot" to Plath Profiles 3. Julia says,

I first fell in love with the work of Sylvia Plath reading The Bell Jar, about twenty-two years ago. At that time, I hadn’t read any of her poetry, save for “Mad Girl’s Love Song,” which was printed in the back of my novel’s edition. I was strangely attracted to this poem, and I Xeroxed it at my work, carrying this little villanelle around in my wallet for many years, alongside pictures of my children and other important keepsakes. It meant that much to me, and I wasn’t even sure that I could explain why. Years later, I read more of her work, knowing little about form, theory, or how Plath’s poetry compared to other greats. All I knew was the sounds, the rhythms, and how her writing made me feel. I was caught in the spell.

Which leads me to my work today. As those at Plath Profiles know, I have been working diligently over the last three years, ultimately proving what began first as an observation: that Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes both constructed all of their work—poetry and prose—based upon the Tarot and other mystical systems. It has been the greatest work of my life and has taught me so much, as a person, as a scholar, and as a spiritual being. Better still, it has given me the blessing of being able to understand that so much of Plath’s work is not depressive, not crazy, but rather, full of hope and inspiration. This is the reason her work has so much staying power and readership; why plays and films and songs continue to be made about her almost fifty years after her death.

It feels a bit cruel for me to keep this blogs' readers hanging, announcing a complete reinterpretation for the greatest poetry and prose of our time without including the proof to back it up here. I do want to say that I am truly honored to be able to introduce an overview of my findings, balanced with a sample chapter of my book in-progress, first in Plath Profiles 3, due out this summer. I hope that you readers will enjoy the work as much as I have enjoyed the experience of discovery.

Oh, and despite my children growing up, and many (sometimes traumatic) changes in jobs, purses, wallets and husbands, I still have that same (well-taped) copy of “Mad Girl’s Love Song” with me. Sylvia Plath has always helped me to find beauty, even in the pain.

Julia Gordon-Bramer

Hi, it's me (Peter) again. Any thoughts?

28 July 2010

It is all about the details

Plath Profiles 3 is still in production. We’re hopeful to have everything wrapped up shortly. But to feed your Plathetite (Plath + appetite)...I’ve posted a detail from the cover on Plath Profiles website.

As you know, each issue features an image and on the website we have a detail. This time around, the cover image comes courtesy of the Lilly Library. It is a swatch (or section) of the wallpaper that Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes had in their bedroom. The swatch was sent by Plath to her mother in February 1960. For those who have worth with this letter and the swatch in Plath mss. II, it will be familiar. For those who haven’t, it’s just one small example of the wonders of Plath’s archives (and, all archives in general for that matter). To help contextualize, I’ve contributed a small “Note” on the wallpaper to the issue. But you have to wait a few days for that...

So, what are you waiting for, go check out the detail swatch.

26 July 2010

Books about Sylvia Plath: Update

Congratulations are in order to Luke Ferretter for the recent publication of his long-awaited Sylvia Plath’s Fiction: A Critical Study (University of Edinburgh Press). Copies are available from Amazon and other sellers.

In addition to Heather Clark’s forthcoming The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes in January 2011, we now have An Essential Self: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, a Memoir to look forward to shortly from Five Leaves Publications. Publication in the US and the UK is 7 January 2011 (ISBN: 978-1907869013) (Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk)

21 July 2010

The Internet

It is well-known that Sylvia Plath died at the age of 31 (do the math: 63 - 32 = 31, right?). Her death came about, in part, because of unrealized feelings for her father, who was a member of the Nazi party and ardent supporter of Aldof Hilter. In fact, Otto Plath's "death" in 1940 was just simply a ruse to trick his children and family so that he could go train an army of bees for the Fuhrer back in his homeland.

Wait a minute. Seriously, what am I smokin'?

Reading the internet can be bad for your mind. (I can just imagine the Google searches now "Did Otto Plath train killer bees for Adolf Hilter?" NO! Wouldn't it be great if Google knew the answers to stupid questions and just came up with a page that said "No" or "As if"!) Doesn't it bother you when the facts are wrong? Ted Hughes argued that each of us owns the facts of our lives. But what about when you're gone? I certainly don't own the facts of Plath's life but I own a library of books that can be checked and re-checked to ensure that I present them to the best of my ability and knowledge. Unchecked or left in the hands of the sloppy researcher, the facts can be grossly mistaken and perpetuated like the "merciless churn" of "the hooves of the horses."

This post addresses a few instances which are running rampant on the Internet.

First. There is this quote, “For me, poetry is an evasion of the real job of writing prose.” 10 times out of 10 there is never any citation/source but yet it is attributed to Plath. The source for this quote is Ted Hughes' introduction to the short story and prose collection Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams.

This quote, in actuality, is one of those he said she said things as if Hughes is remembering a conversation. It appears on the following pages (mind you, these are just the editions I've been able to check in local libraries).

Faber 1977: page 13
Faber 1979 (and subsequent editions): not in it; introduction much shorter and revised....
Harper's editions: page 3

Cite it! If anyone out there knows if this was in a letter or in some other documented source by Plath please let me/us know. It does not appear in her published Journals. There is always the possibility it was said either in conversation or in the missing journal (I just checked and it's not in there) or destroyed journal.

Second. The Plath recording made on 30 October 1962 with Peter Orr was for the British Council (and Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard). It was not made for the BBC. Some of the poems aired on the BBC after Plath's death, but the recording was not made for the Beeb. Now to be honest I'm guilty of thinking it was for the BBC, but I know better now. And this is why those poems read on 30 October, 1962, are not on the British Library/BBC Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath CD that I will never tire of plugging. Have I mentioned you can save 10% off your order by clicking the link on this blog? See top right of the sidebar.

Third. In one of the most wonderful, optimistic scenes in The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood readies herself for her exit interview from the hospital where she was "patched, retreaded, and approved for the road." (The Bell Jar, 1971:275) The quote in question as it appears on the Interweb (and probably dozens or hundreds of papers) is this, "I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am." No no no no no no no no no. The quote is actually "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am." (The Bell Jar, 1971: 274)

Thanks to Arlaina Tibensky, author of the forthcoming Bell Jar Summer (title may change) http://arlainatibensky.blogspot.com/ for bringing this bray/brag quoting discrepancy to my attention. She now has bragging rights, whilst those who have perpetuated the misquote can bray your heart out (and seriously, if your heart sounds like that, go see a doctor).

This post is of Annika, who wanted the snark.

19 July 2010

... in July

"Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?

You flicker. I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.

And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth."

- from "Poppies in July" by Sylvia Plath

16 July 2010

Update on Julia Stiles on Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

In a New York Times article "Next Big Thing for the Last Big Thing" by Matthew Healey, Julia Stiles provides an update and insight into her forthcoming screen adaptation of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.

14 July 2010

W. S. Merwin and Sylvia Plath

Recently it was announced that poet W. S. Merwin was made Poet Laureate. While they met in Massachusetts, Merwin and his then wife Dido, of course, were influential in helping Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes get settled in London in 1960. And, Plath used their flat in 1961 to write poems, and more notably The Bell Jar.

Merwin is a terrifically prolific poet, publishing poems, translations, plays and so much more. In 1961, he published his third book of translations, Some Spanish Ballads (London: Abelard). What’s so special about his title is that it is dedicated to Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

Beside Hughes’ The Hawk in the Rain and Lupercal, this is the only other book I know of dedicated to Plath during her lifetime.

10 July 2010

Huws & Ariel

I received recently and read even more recently a copy of Daniel Huws' Memories of Ted Hughes, 1952-1963. In length it is Beckeresque. In content, it is a wholly unremarkable - substanceless. Sylvia Plath figures very minorly as one might expect, although the dates associated with the book in the title are quite inclusive of the years in which Plath was very much a part of the picture.

The book is in two parts, with an afterword. I've no doubt his memories, and the memories of Hughes' other friends, is and are far different from the Ted Hughes portrayed in Plath's biographies and in articles about the pair. The book basically says, "He was my friend and you [i.e. Plathies] got him all wrong." Well, we are all many different people to many different people. Thanks. Huws suggests that they had a lot of fun at Plath's expense in 1956, and likely beyond. Huws did seem to feel friendly and kindlier to Plath after 1960, after she brought Ted back to London as it were. Huws' wife Helga, also appears to have gotten on admirably with Plath, too.

Accompanying Huws' printed memories in the little parcel was the new Faber hardback Ariel. In person it is far more attractive than what I though having seen it only in the interweb, and the endpapers are lovely too. It is the "original" 1965 Ariel, beginning with "Love" and ending with "life." The Hughes edition. No doubt we can recognize many images from the poems contained in the collection on the cover & endpapers. Ariel, in this format, forms part of the Poetry Firsts series; the cover and endpaper designs are by Sarah Young.

But, this confuses me some. Ariel. Two versions. One published forty-five years ago the other just six years ago. Why reprint the older version when I, like some, wish to forget it (to a degree)? I think the reason for this publication is printed on the back of this new Faber book, "It is it the volume on which her reputation as one of the most original, daring and gifted poets of the twentieth century rests." Perhaps it is that some (Faber, The Estate, etc.) rely too heavily on this version of Ariel and its messages, the order of the poems, the somber conclusion, etc. But, so much has changed since 1965 and the perception and reception of Plath is in a far better place, I think.

07 July 2010

Three Women & Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath & more

A few links to pass on this Wednesday...

Kate Taylor of the
New York Times announced on Monday 5 July that the fall 2010 production of Sylvia Plath’s “Three Women” by Robert Shaw’s Inside Intelligence will be paired with Edward Anthony’s “Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath” this fall at 59E59. A version of Taylor’s article appeared in print on July 6, 2010, on page C2 of the New York edition. BrodwayWorld.com, Playbill.com, and TheaterMania.com also report.

Elisabeth Gray is interviewed here by Wendy Loomis at

Look for Tony Mann’s “From Sylvia Plath's
The Bell Jar to the Bad Sex Award: A Partial Account of the Uses of Mathematics in Fiction” in BSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History# of Mathematics, Volume 25, Issue 2, 01 July 2010, Pages 58 - 66.

Someone’s created a
Plath mural in Portland, Oregon.

05 July 2010

The 501st

The back of Sylvia Plath's headstone.

What, can't I have a little fun? And, did you really think I wouldn't have a photograph of the back of Plath's grave?

Ok, seriously, if you want to see a couple of photographs that you might not have seen before, head over to A celebration, this is to see some pictures contributed by Gail Crowther of Berck-Plage. There are three pictures that should be readily recognizable based on Plath's descriptions from this wonderful poem. And, 501 thanks to Gail for sharing them with us! And, to hear Plath reading "Berck-Plage" buy the British Library's recent CD The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. Plath recorded the poem for the BBC on 29 October 1962.

01 July 2010

Plathtona 500

This is the 500th post on the Sylvia Plath Info blog. It is hard to believe that:

1) I have this much to say, and
2) so many keep visiting and - as a consequence - encouraging. So thank you! I hope going forward that this blog can continue to present relevant, interesting Plath related content. As always I appreicate those who follow and those who contribute via comments and guest posts.

This blog loves archives. Over the last three plus years I have tried to highlight many institutions which hold Plath archival materials. I find very few things in life so enjoyable as being in an archive. This post will highlight an online archive.

Sotheby's Sold Lot Archive

Sylvia Plath books, and even her personal papers, appear from time to time at Auction. Sotheby's, which has held a number of auctions with Plath materials over the years, has online a sold lot archive, and if you click here, you can see their auctions of Plath items. By clicking on any auction with an image you are able to zoom in to see in pretty good detail the drawing, writing, what have you. Some of the drawings here I think have never been reproduced (either as published by Plath during her lifetime or in a posthumous publication, such as those that accompany the "Biographical Note" by Lois Ames in the American edition of The Bell Jar or those that were reproduced in Plath's Journals, particularly the 2000, unabridged edition). The year 2006 seemed to have been the most active. Wish I knew about it then as some went pretty "cheap".

Bloomsbury, another major auction house, has just one interesting Plath item in their sales archive. It is for "Aunt Rennie and the Elves" which sold in July 2008. The image, as well as the item, is lovely.

To celebrate hitting such a milestone, my next post -barring any huge breaking news or something - will be feature a never-before seen photograph of a Sylvia Plath related place. This is one I have intentionally withheld from my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is. Later on in July or August I'll have another post about another exciting archive.

Also, some company called Kultur is releasing on DVD Owen Sheer's series A Poet's Guide to Britain on 27 July 2010. This means US & Canadian people can see what the British saw in 2009.
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