30 November 2010

Limited Edition Sylvia Plath Books on eBay

I'd like to call your attention to three limited editions of books by Sylvia Plath (posthumously published) that are on auction right now on eBay (ending Sunday). They are Two Uncollected Poems, Two Poems, and Million Dollar Month.

Tis the season for giving Plath! One of these, "Million Dollar Month", contains the single poem that remains uncollected and would thus be a poem very few people have ever read.

A disclaimer must be made that I am selling these for a friend.

UPDATE: Million Dollar Month has sold.

UPDATE: Two Poems has sold.

UPDATE: Two Uncollected Poems has sold.

25 November 2010

Read bits of Heather Clark's The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

For Thanksgiving...through Oxford University Press’ web page for Heather Clark’s relatively imminently forthcoming book, The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, you can read the “Introduction” in PDF format. Thank you OUP for giving us this preview of Clark’s eagerly anticipated book.

Also, the book is on Amazon.com too with a Look Inside! feature that is generous. Thank you Amazon.com.

(The cover on Amazon.com is not the same as that which appeared in the recent Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. I totally dig the whole library cover, very gorgeous, but I much prefer the book cover on the advertisement.)

Google Books has it, too. Thank you Google Books.

21 November 2010

Covering Ariel

I was browsing at the Brattle Book Shop on West Street in Boston in October and came across a book by Grant Uden entitled Understanding Book-Collecting. To my surprise on the back of the dust jacket was a line of books, all but one just showing the spines. The most recognizable being... that of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel in that distinctive Faber dust jacket. In the text, Plath is given mention just once, as being a writer who is collected but also of potentially questionable durability. We’ll prove him wrong yet! In the last dozen or so years since I’ve been paying attention, Plath books certainly have risen in value and desirability, particularly those books published during her lifetime. But this is another subject for another time perhaps.

This got me thinking where else I’d seen Ariel.

At some point in some other book store browsing experience, I had seen the Faber Ariel on the front cover of a book which, I recalled, was on book covers. It didn’t take long to find this title again: Front Cover: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design by Alan Powers (2001, 2006). Ariel does get a prominent spot towards the top right. The image and the dust jacket itself kind of yells at you. The text on inside flap begins, “From the arresting type on Sylvia Plath’s Ariel...readers remember the jackets and covers of the books they read.”

So true. I read Front Cover cover to cover and when it actually got to Ariel found the coverage it received a little disappointing; it weakly says, “Published two years after her suicide, this collection included five poems written in the last week of Plath’s life” (99). Front Cover runs the gamut giving details on how the cover can be either subtle or in-your-face as an interpretive device about the books contents or something completely abstract as well. The blurb on Ariel concluded, “The poetry list at Faber and Faber first achieved eminence when T.S. Eliot was the editor, and has continued to include many of the best British poets ever since.” I shut the book in frustration. My expectations were dashed. I wanted the blurb to say something about how jacket design looks like the letters had been displaced by an earthquake; that they read louder than the neon signs at Piccadilly Circus. In fact, the flap text about the “arresting type” is far more poignant. But that page on Poetry books wasn’t a total let down, what was interesting to learn was that the the designer of Ariel, Berthold Wolpe, was also the designer of a 1960 book of poems called Lupercal.

In Front Cover, the author Alan Powers says the following in his discussion of “Classic Novels”: “One of the pleasures of book-collecting is to come across a famous book in its original jacket, and to understand the relationship between the contents and the image. An original jacket still says something about the world into which the book was launched, and the publisher’s expectations of the kind of reader he was hoping to attract” (24). This is the way historicist's approach texts and the value inherent in this form of criticism cannot be understated. While it is often valuable to know a circumstance or the circumstances by which a Plath poem or story or novel came to be it is of crucial importance also to understand when a book - especially a book like Ariel - was published. We are where we are now because of it!

Powers’ thoughts on the book collecting of classic novels above is applicable not just to classic novels, but to books in any genre. For Sylvia Plath - for Ariel in this instance - what does the 1965 Faber jacket say about the author her reader and the “world into which the book was launched”? I’ve written my thoughts on the Faber Ariel above. But what about its cousin across the Atlantic, the 1966 Harper & Row edition?

By contrast, the first American edition of Ariel published by Harper & Row (1966) could not be more different. The vibrant primary colors have been replaced by a starkly designed book that graphically resembles a headstone. If you stare at the cover long enough; the letters appear three dimensional, they appear almost to be in motion; rising up, towards the left out of the off-white background.

There was one other place, recently, I had seen the Faber Ariel. And that was on the bookshelf of Anne Sexton. I re-read the excellent Her Husband by Diane Middlebrook earlier this year. One cannot speak highly enough of this book but this is not the post for that. No. But, page 128 is illustrated with a photograph of Sexton ca. 1966 and just behind her typewriter is the 1965 Faber Ariel.

Of course you can see more Plath book covers over at A celebration, this is.

16 November 2010

Plath at the Boston Book Fair

The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair was held this weekend at the Hynes Convention Center. As usual, I attended to drool over Sylvia Plath books and other very fine collectibles. Hot authors this year that were very well represented were Graham Greene, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain. Under represented was Sylvia Plath, IMHO.

Jett Whitehead was there again from Michigan. He has perhaps the greatest collection of Broadsides, Chapbooks, First Editions, Letters From Poets, Modern Poetry, and Poetry Manuscripts to be had in a single booth and under one roof on the planet. Jett in the past has exhibited a autograph manuscript copy of Plath’s poem “The Snowflake Star” (circa 1946). He used to have a first edition of Ariel with thatch drippings from Court Green signed by Ted Hughes to the poet Janos Csokits. Jett is particularly Plathian: “The blood jet is poetry...”

Between the Covers Rare Books out of Gloucester City, New Jersey was there. They have impressive holdings and stock if you’re interested in modern firsts and rare books. And to boot, they have a great website chock-full of color images, some which rotate. If you’re interested in beginning a collection on Plath (or another author), ask for their specialized author catalog.

James S. Jaffe Rare Books is another dealer with amazing quality stock, including the copy of The Colossus that Plath sent to Theodore Roethke (dated 13 April 1961, or five years to the day that she flew back from Rome to London and to Ted Hughes). He has also a copy of Howls & Whispers, Ariel (first Faber), “Sculptor”, and a rare copy of the appearance of “Dialogue en Route” from the Smith Review.

Of course, there is much, much more. Thomas Goldwasser has a proof copy of the ultra rare Trois Poemes Inedits, which were poems by Plath, uncollected and neither published or listed in her Collected Poems. (Of the books mentioned so far this was the only one that was at the fair that I saw.) Not to turn this post into a dissertation on Trois Poemes Inedits... but there were just 100 copies printed of Trois Poemes Inedits. While WorldCat lists only one copy in a library (UNC Chapel Hill); the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College has a very lovely copy of this with the manuscript handwritten poem tipped in. The manuscript poem is on a sheet of paper torn from a top-spiral notebook; the paper is something like five by eight inches or so. As mentioned, there were 100 copies printed, 97 are “normal”; while the three others are especial (so special indeed we add the e for emphasis). These three especial copies include the manuscript page of the poem (like the copy at Smith). I’m on the fence about this Trois Poems Inedits. The copy at Smith, with its ripped out manuscript sheet of notebook paper, had the air of something stolen. The Goldwasser copy is the editor's proofs and as one would thus expect they are marked up with layout and designed notes throughout. Quite unique. You can see a cover image of Trois Poemes Inedits on the Limited Editions page of my website.

Now to what I did see!

Boston’s Peter L Stern & Co had on display his $12,500 copy of a Victoria Lucas Bell Jar (pictured here). This is “The Most Expensive Bell Jar in the World”. This is one of the most glorious and gorgeous copies imaginable. Jeffrey H. Marks Rare Books of Rochester New York also has a copy for this price. While Marks was at the fair I did not see his copy of Bell Jar displayed (though I certainly may have missed it if it was). Also on had was Raptis’ $3,750 copy of the same title. This is “The Second Most Expensive Bell Jar in the World”. Both Jonkers Rare Books and Athena Rare Books had beautifully bright copies of the first Faber Ariel. The Jonkers copy is £750 ($1,200); the Athena $1,200. (More on Ariel later this week; maybe at the weekend...) I saw some Faber first editions of The Bell Jar, Crossing the Water, and Winter Trees. I saw one first Harper & Row Ariel, too. As for the limited editions, there was a reasonably priced copy of Three Women (1968, $700); as well as copies of Two Poems, The Green Rock, and Lyonnesse.

One of the many joys of this event is just walking around, looking at the pretty, fine books, judging them by their covers (in fact, many of the book covers in the Book Cover Galleries of my website have come from some of these dealers past or current stock.). And of course I don't solely look at Plath stuff... The older editions from centuries past looking more like museum artifact's than reading material, the prints and broadsides, autographs, ephemera, occasional artworks and the genuine goodness of the dealers. As 99.999% of the stuff there is outside of my means, it sure is fun to look and touch. To read more about the Boston Book Fair (and oh so much more), please head over to my friend Philobiblos’ blog.

Can’t wait for next year!

13 November 2010

Plath Profiles 3 Supplement update

It was necessary to make minor corrections to the following essays in Plath Profiles 3 Supplement:

"Reviving the Journals of Sylvia Plath" by Karen V. Kukil;
"This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath" by Peter K. Steinberg; and
"Hidden in Plain Sight: On Sylvia Plath's Missing Journals" by David Trinidad

If you downloaded the individual essays please re-download them to have the most up-to-date versions. If you downloaded the entire issue, please re-download this as well for the same reason.

Plath Profiles apologizes for any inconvenience. Also, the Editor's Note in Volume 3 (Summer 2010) was updated, too, so please re-download that essay and/or the full issue after the 20th of November.

11 November 2010

Seventeen November 1949

Please review October 2010’s Double Did you know... as this post was alluded to at the end of it...

Sylvia Plath amassed nearly 50 rejection slips from Seventeen magazine before her first published story, “And Summer Will Not Come Again”, was published in the August 1950 issue.

But, did you know...
this was not her first publication/appearance in Seventeen?

In the November 1949 issue (pictured here), Plath had a contribution to the lead article “When I’m a Parent” for which she was paid, I believe, $10. The article begins,

“Sooner or later, every teen-ager says fervently: ‘When I’m a parent, I’ll do thus and so.’ If your mother or father show particular understanding, you make a mental note that you’ll treat your children as intelligently ... So we asked a number of you what your do’s and don’ts are...Here are the most illuminating and provocative. You said, ‘When I’m a parent...’”

Plath’s response to this question is anonymous: her name does not appear next to her quote. However, if you have access to the issue, see page 77. Plath’s response begins, “I will not pry...”

Plath received a letter from Seventeen letting her know of the acceptance of her “answer”, which is retyped in the letter she received on October 4, 1949. The letter is contained within her "Publications" scrapbook in Box 15 of Plath mss. II at the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington.

While other libraries likely hold Seventeen, I physically examined a copy held at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study of Harvard University. They own a run of bound Seventeen’s which includes all those issues in which Plath’s work appeared. In the past, I have also worked with bound volumes of Seventeen at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. as well. (The Call Number for this periodical is PN1993.S4.) You can see a list of Plath’s periodical publications over here.

I’ve been sitting on this since January when I read the letter at the Lilly Library and confirmed with the magazine held at the Schlesinger Library. This post and the information presented was assisted by the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship.

09 November 2010

More Photographs of Sylvia Plath's Poets Corner Induction

Bo Kukil kindly sent over four photographs from Sylvia Plath's Induction ceremony on Sunday at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City...

Plath's plaque

The Poets' Corner

Susan Plath Winston, Tristine Skyler, Karen V. Kukil

Emily Cook and Robert Shaw

08 November 2010

Photographs from Plath's Induction Ceremony

The following photographs were sent from Tristine Skyler of Sylvia Plath's induction in to the Poets Corner at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. The first is of Karen Kukil with Susan Plath Winston (Warren Plath's daughter). They are standing by the plaque. The second picture is of the plaque with the quote "This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary", which is beautiful first line of "The Moon and the Yew Tree."

Update 12:39 pm, 8 November:

Jessica Ferri covered the event and has a post on the New Yorker's blog about it. Read "The American Poets’ Corner Inducts Sylvia Plath" here.

07 November 2010

Photographs of Plath's Celebration on Thursday 11/4

The following eight photographs were sent by Bo Kukil from Thursday's (4th November) Sylvia Plath Celebration at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Today at 4 PM Plath will officially be inducted into their Poets Corner!

Karen V. Kukil, Tristine Skyler, Paul Muldoon (above)

Paul Muldoon

Tristine Skyler

LouderArts Project poets reading "Lady Lazarus"

Annie Finch

Karen V. Kukil

Marilyn Nelson

04 November 2010

New article on Sylvia Plath, and more!

Look for “‘The Feeding of Young Women’: Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Mademoiselle Magazine, and the Domestic Ideal” by Caroline Smith, Assistant Professor of Writing at George Washington University in College Literature - October, or Fall 2010.

If you’re interested in the history of Plath in College Literature, look no further than their 30 year index (link removed due to being broken - pks 9 Nov.):

To sum, they have published articles in the following issues. (6.2 means Volume 6, Number 2)

6.2: 121-28; ("On Reading Sylvia Plath" by Margaret Dickie Uroff)

19.2: 60-82; (“‘The Woman is Perfected. Her Dead Body Wears the Smile of Accomplishment’: Sylvia Plath and Mademoiselle Magazine” by Garry M. Leonard)

29.3: 17-34; "Plath, Domesticity, and the Art of Advertising" by Marsha Bryant)

29.3: 35-56 ("Sylvia Plath's Transformations of Modernist Paintings" by Sherry Lutz Zivley)

Plath was most recently featured in the article “Mad Girls' Love Songs: Two Women Poets--a Professor and Graduate Student--Discuss Sylvia Plath, Angst, and the Poetics of Female Adolescence” by Arielle Greenberg and Becca Klaver (Fall 2009, Volume 36, Number 4).


The following title was recently made aware to me by Ann Skea.

A Postcard to Sylvia Plath: Poems from the dark edge by Patricia Jones.

Patricia writes with passion, incisiveness and lucidity to reveal a life filled and felt to the hilt. Her work brings to mind my favourite piece by the artist Louise Bourgoise, who once embroidered on a handkerchief in perfect stitch, "I have been to hell and back and let me tell you it was wonderful". So too are the depths and heights that Patricia descends and scales, taking the reader with her all the way.' - Carole Douglas, artist, writer, traveller.

'Patricia Jones has a unique voice that comes from the intensity of her life's experience. Although that voice is her own, it resonates much more widely. Her eye for the darker side of life is unflinching, but it is softened with humanity, compassion and a gentle humour that lifts the spirit. Read her poems and allow your own heart to be touched.' - Louise Gilmore, meditation teacher, writer.

Patricia Jones, playwright, artist and poet, does not let the reader off lightly. Her poetry is strong, sensual, sometimes confronting raw truths. She fills the reader with creative images and clever juxtaposition. Her work demands the reader's attention. There is no prissy emotion here. Patricia's work takes no prisoners yet at the same time is food for the soul' - Margaret L. Grace, poet, artist and writer.

ISBN: 978 1 74027 649 8, 50pp, $20.00 (Australian). For more information, visit the Gininderra Press website here.


A reminder that today kicks off the first of two events as Plath is inducted to Poet’s Corner at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. At 7:30pm tonight, poets and Plath scholars will take part in the celebration. Participants include Poet in Residence Marilyn Nelson; poet Paul Muldoon; Karen Kukil, Associate Curator, Special Collections & Archivist, Plath Papers, Smith College, speaking on her extensive work with Plath manuscripts, both as archivist and editor of the unabridged journals; poet/scholar Annie Finch speaking on the meter and music of Plath’s poetry; playwright/screenwriter/actress Tristine Skyler; and louderArts Project poets Corrina Bain, Elana Bell, Sean Patrick Conlon, Marie-Elizabeth Mali, and Lynne Procope reading Plath poems.

01 November 2010

Sylvia Plath's Desk

When Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes moved to Court Green in September 1961, they had abundant living space for the first time in their married lives. Each even got a room to serve as a study. In a 15 September 1961 letter to her mother, Plath writes about settling in Court Green and that her brother Warren “has been really a wonderful part of the family “ (429). While he was there, Warren Plath assisted in “sanding an immense elm plank which will make me my first real capacious writing table” (429).

Over the next 14 months, Plath would probably write all her new poems and stories on this elm plank. And probably also typed letters home and made entries in her journals.

That elm wood desk was part of Plath’s estate sale that, in 1981, would go to the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College. How wonderful and coincidental that Plath lived on Elmwood Road! To celebrate this piece of elm wood and the works composed on it, here is a badly shot video. It hangs in the offices of the Mortimer Rare Book Room. Its position hanging on a wall is highly reminiscent of Han Solo hanging frozen in carbonite in Jabba the Hut’s palace on Tattooine.

I had meant to post this in October but other news and posts kind of took over!

If you’re interested in just seeing a still image of questionably better quality, please see “These Ghostly Archives” from Plath Profiles 2. The desk is on page 189 but, having co-written the piece with Dr. Gail Crowther, I’d encourage you to read the whole thing (if you haven’t done so already)! Like Star Wars, there was a sequel, “These Ghostly Archives, Redux.” And we’re in the early stages of a third installment...

See all Sylvia Plath Info YouTube videos.
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