26 December 2011

2011 Sylvia Plath Info Year In Review

If it felt like a big year for Sylvia Plath it is because it was. There were periods of quiet, but that is fine as it gives us a chance to rest, reflect, write, etc.  I do find it hard to sum up a year but have in the past so will attempt to continue now...

Sadly, we lost two valuable contributors to Plath scholarship. In June, Jim Long passed away. And before that, quietly in February, Nephie Christodoulides. Nephie is the author of numerous articles on Plath, H.D. and others. Her book Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking: Motherhood in Sylvia Plath's Work was published in 2005 by Rodopi Editions in Amsterdam. You can read a review of Nephie's book by fellow Plath scholar Toni Saldivar here.

Books about Plath published this year were many and each provides valuable insight and a great contribution to the scholarship in Plath studies.

The year started off with a "bang, smash" in Heather Clark's The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes (review). We had time to digest this before a very busy summer and fall that saw Janet Badia’s Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers (review), Tracy Brain and Sally Bayley's Representing Sylvia Plath (review), and Janet McCann's Critical Insights: The Bell Jar (review forthcoming) Plath appeared in one fictional book, Arlaina Tibensky's young adult novel And Then Things Fall Apart (review) Poetry "about Plath" written by David Trinidad and Christine Walde were published, too.  These are two very fine examples of Plath's readers responding and reacting to her work. And, with the good you have to take the bad... Lucas Myers' recent memoir An Essential Self: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath which is an example of time spent that we will never get back.  But, to end on a good note, Plath Profiles 4 was published in July and featured a special section "Plath and Place" as guest edited by Gail Crowther. These essays, poems, and images are highly evocative of Sylvia Plath and the world she inhabited.

Perhaps the biggest news of the year came in October with the announcement of the exhibition in London of "Sylvia Plath: Her Drawings" which was curated by her daughter Frieda Hughes. Not afraid to ruffle feathers, it was learned (at least, by me) soon after the exhibit opened on 2 November that Frieda Hughes had put the drawings for sale and they were readily bought up by collectors, dealers, and maybe some other type of person. Many would have preferred these be sold to or donated to an archive where they would be made useful to Plath's researchers, but this was not the case. Time will tell how many will appear on the open market. If I catch wind of where some of them will reside and am allowed to do so I will pass on any information I can. The catalogue for the exhibition is marvelous, and offers full color pictures of the drawings in the exhibit (review).

As for this blog, in addition to a redesign I hope you enjoyed the content presented. A favorite of mine are the "Did you know..." posts, which I hope provides interesting factoids of information that may not have been previously known or thought about much.  In the winter and spring I did a big review of the archive of sold lots from the big auctions houses (Bonhams, Christie's, Sotheby's, Heritage) that featured Plath items. This turned up some interesting finds, and I hope all the links in each post to the lots still work.

I did have some fun - often at your expense and the expense of others, but also at mine -  in my 1st April post and in my faux book covers in my reviews of Sylvia Plath & the Mythology of Men Readers and Representing Sylvia Plath. Let not the mockery overshadow that these books do make significant contributions and advances in our understanding of Plath.

It was a grand year for meeting people. The platform of the blog enables me to reach hundreds or thousands of mostly anonymous people.  So, when it is possible to see someone live and in living color it adds something very real to the whole experience. In February I meet Heather Clark and Andrew Wilson. I later met Carl Rollyson and Stephen Gould Axelrod. More on Clark, Wilson, and Rollyson below.... In October I missed the chance to meet Maeve O'Brien of "The Plath Diaries" blog which I regret profoundly; and in November I met Gillian Groszewski.  I was very lucky to have spent roughly a month with Gail Crowther as she visited the US for the first time. We got up to some great Plathing in New York, Boston, Cape Cod, Northampton, Winthrop, and Wellesley, among other places. We even made a little video on Nahant... Gail spent a week at the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith and based on that and some archival work I have done, we will shortly be at work on a "These Ghostly Archvies 4," I hope. In the meantime, Gail contributed a Guest "Did you know..." Post in September as a result of that week...

And with what has passed, we look forward to what will come. In the long view, we learned that we should look forward to a few new biographies of Plath. Carl Rollyson, author of biographies on Lillian Hellman, Amy Lowell, Rebecca West, Marilyn Monroe, and many others, has turned his attention to Plath and will have a full-length biography entitled American Isis: The Life and Death of Sylvia Plath, which will be published circa February 2013. The writer Andrew Wilson, author of The Lying Tongue, Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith, and Shadow of the Titanic, is writing a biography of Plath from 1932 to roughly early 1956. Two words: highly anticipated! Two more words: completely unique! This is one that I am certain will shed a lot of light and focus on a comparatively ignored period of Plath's life. Andrew's book will be published by Simon & Schuster in UK and its Scribner imprint in the US. And in a few years, we have to look forward to a literary biography of Plath by Heather Clark, author of the recent The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes. Good luck to you all and thank you for your work.

Time will tell what else we can look forward to in 2012, but keep your eyes open for Plath Profiles 5 (and if you are writing something for it, thank you!). The deadline as in years past is on 1 April. On 30 April, Luke Ferretter's excellent critical study on Sylvia Plath's Fiction will be published in paperback (US and UK).  I have it in hardback and I will definitely buy it in paperback, too. According to Amazon.co.uk, a new issue of Janet Malcolm's The Silent Woman is expected on 7 June. Hopefully there will be more!

I have renewed the ownership of my website "A celebration, this is" for five years. So, with any luck you will keep hitting it and finding its content somewhat and somehow useful.  In the past I have listed the most and least popular pages on the site... so, the most popular pages were the biography page, the poetry works page, the Bell Jar page, photos 1960-1963,  and the prose works page. The least popular were … well, let's not beat a dead horse.... And, between the blog and the website, there have been more than 110,000 hits!

Something to read:

A number of people (well, two in the last few months) have sent me a link to "Jane and Sylvia" by Ruth Fainlight, which appeared in Crossroads, the journal of the Poetry Society of America, in Spring 2004. However, It first appeared with slightly different text on 12 December 2003 in the TLS under the title "Jane and Sylvia and Me."  Thanks Julia and Carmen!

And, Carl Rollyson has just published the provocative "Proprietary Biography" over on Bibliobuffet.com. A very recommended read.

Thank you all for reading theis blog, for following it, for leaving comments, and for your emails. Remember to check A Piece of Plathery and The Plath Diaries for other Plath blogishness. If you want to guest post on something just let me know, I am very open to this kind of thing and want as many voices out there as possible. Happy New Year.

22 December 2011

A Very Sylvia Plath Christmas

Back in 2009, I made an Otto Plath cookie.  I decided to make this year, 2011, a very Sylvia Plath Christmas. ** 

Inspired by "The Applicant,"

"We make new stock from the salt."

And, further inspired by "Daddy,"

Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.


There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.

** Disclaimer: Several sugar cookies were harmed in the making of this update.

20 December 2011

Did you know... Sylvia Plath's Mid-Life

Sylvia Plath lived from 27 October 1932 to 11 February 1963. This was 11,064 days; or 30 years, 3 months, 15 days. Sylvia Plath's mid-life was, then, 5532 days.

Did you know that that date -Sylvia Plath's mid-life - fell on 20 December 1947 (a Saturday that year). She was 15 years, 1 month, and 23 days; in tenth grade, in her first year at Gamaliel Bradford High School, and it was during this school year she took her first class, English 21, with Wilbury Crockett. In this class, the readings and assignments were vigorous, and not for those seeking only to be generally educated. Many of Plath's papers from this class are now held at the Lilly Library, and from examining them, we know which books she read, many of which are cataloged in LibraryThing.

One of the poems Plath wrote this year was "I Thought That I Could Not Be Hurt." Her activities that year included basketball, orchestra, and she worked for the school newspaper, The Bradford. It was in this first year at Bradford High, Plath also went through an initiation process that she later remembered in her story "Initiation."

By this point, Plath had published poems and artworks 21 times in national (Boston Herald) and local (Wellesley town and schools) publications, and she had written and assembled a number of poems into a book she called "Poems" (now held by the Morgan Library: click here and  here and here for more information). Plath was also in correspondence with her German pen-pal Hans-Joachim Neupert. Photocopies of these letters are held by Smith College, and some of the topics of which they discuss are education in America, student life, her hopes, fears, religion, and personal philosophy. Some letters also contain drawings by Plath.

So much attention is paid to the last seven years of Plath's life: the poems and other writings, the letters, the drama of her meeting Ted Hughes, her marriage and its breakdown, etc. But it would be interesting to compare the subjects above and sentiments Plath presented as an early-to-mid teenager with what we know of Plath's later politico-historico interests, involvement, and opinions. An examination of Plath's creative writings at that time would also be interesting: it is where she learned the skills she would use throughout her life to create poems, to market them, and to assemble and order them in collections. It serves a reminder that her life was so short but that she accomplished so incredibly much.

For Christmas that year, five days after she hit her mid-life, Plath received a copy of the Stephen Vincent Benet Pocket Book.

16 December 2011

More books by and about Sylvia Plath in Kindle Editions

Adding to their enviable Kindle edition selection, the British have had available since June in Kindle format the following book: Sylvia Plath's Selected Poems

Plath's American publishers have to get on the ball here...Back in January, I posted that via Amazon.com, you can ask for them to consider titles for publication in a Kindle edition. So, please visit that post and start clicking so that we can get Kindle editions available to us, too! In November, The Colossus was made available to US Kindle owners... 

Another "new" book of interest perhaps, to readers of Sylvia Plath, that is available to Kindle owners (or Kindle app downloaders) is the 2007 book Letters of Ted Hughes edited by Christopher Reid. US readers click here; for those in the UK, you can find this book for your Kindle's here.

And now (now... now...) the book (book … book) that nobody (nobody...nobody) read (read..read)... Chelsea House is making easier for you to read the book that nobody read... Sylvia Plath, part of the Great Writers series, by yours truly is now available in Kindle format. In the US; and in the UK

13 December 2011

Ted Hughes Memorial Radio Broadcast

Earlier this week, BBC Radio 4 aired "Ted Hughes Memorial Tones." It is a 58 minute long program about his recent memorializing in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey. The program can be listened to until 17 December. Among those interviewed were Seamus Heaney, Carol Hughes, and Melvyn Bragg, who is the narrator. As can be fathomed, topics discussed include Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Court Green. In addition, there are audio snippets of Hughes reading, as well as from the "Two of a Kind" interview from 1961.

11 December 2011

Sylvia Plath: Her Drawings ending this week

If you are in London this week, plan to see "Sylvia Plath: Her Drawings" at the Mayor Gallery now for the exhibit is coming down by the 16th. Our friend in Plath, Gail Crowther, visited the cloudy city this weekend and send on some more pictures of the exhibit.... Thanks Gail!

The first picture is the Willow tree from Grantchester. Perhaps this is the one where she placed her Earthenware head...

This picture shows many of the drawings. The second one on the long wall from the corner, you can see, is missing. This is one of a few that are no longer in the gallery and presumably already with their new owner...

Here is another view of the willow, as well as of "Horse Chestnut," "Horse Chestnuts," and "Cow."

If you visited the exhibit and want to write a guest post about the experience please send me an email!

07 December 2011

Marsha Bryant essay on Sylvia Plath in new book

Marsha Bryant, author of several articles on Sylvia Plath, has recently published Women's Poetry and Popular Culture through Palgrave Macmillan.  In this book will be the chapter "Everyday Ariel: Sylvia Plath and the Dream Kitchen." The book was published on 25 November 2011. ISBN: 9780230609419; cost: £52.00. Other chapters look at H.D., Stevie Smith, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ai, and Carol Ann Duffy.

Articles on Plath by Bryant include:

"Plath, Domesticity, and the Art of Advertising." College Literature 29:3. Summer 2002: 17-34.

"IMAX Authorship: Teaching Plath and her Unabridged Journals." Pedagogy 2:4. Spring 2004: 241-262.

"Ariel's Kitchen: Plath, Ladies' Home Journal, and the Domestic Surreal." In The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2007: 211-235.

04 December 2011

Ted Hughes in Poets Corner & Some Sylvia Plath, too

On Tuesday 6 December 2011, Ted Hughes will be memorialized in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey in London. Frieda Hughes, Carol Hughes, and Seamus Heaney are three among the many expected to attend the service. This news broke in early 2010. A more recent article appeared on Westminster Abbey's website in early November.

The Mayor Gallery in London, which is exhibiting "Sylvia Plath: Her Drawings" through 16 December, recently informed me that they have three rare copies of the limited edition Pursuit for sale. Copies are £1,000 and were formerly in the possession of Frieda Hughes. The book was limited to 100 numbered copies and these three copies are numbered 20, 22, and 23. I have a photograph of the title page of Pursuit on my website.

There are also a few copies of The Crystal Gazer still available, numbered sequentially 271-277.

Bloomsbury Auctions will be selling two copies of The Bell Jar on their Books, Manuscripts, Maps and Works on Paper auction on 14 and 15 December 2011. Lot 386. [Plath (Sylvia)], "Victoria Lucas". The Bell Jar, first edition, original boards, a little cocked, central crease to spine, 1963; The Bell Jar, first faber edition, original boards, dust-jacket, light surface soiling to lower panel, a little creased at head, spine ends rubbed, 1963, 8vo (2) est. £200 – £300.

On 22 November 2011, Sotheby's Milan sold in Lot 79, an oil on canvas copy of Giorgio De Chirico's Le Muse Inquietanti, which was executed in 1962. The image online shows the shocking vibrancy of de Chirico's masterpiece in colors like none I have ever seen in trolling around the internet. I could not read the Italian in catalog description, so translated it via Google Translate and hope that you enjoy the below. There were a couple of words that were hung up, but the basic understanding of the catalog description should not be too affected...

"Meanwhile, the shades of night descended on Ferrara. Neared the time when the sweet night, sitting on an invisible throne, would have drained, with a gesture full of tenderness and grace, the contents of her horn. Sprinkle berries so SLEEPING countries and cities of half the earth. " Giorgio de Chirico, Memoirs, London, 1962, p.. 86

"The first version of The Disquieting Muses goes back to 1917 and was defined by James Thrall Soby as one of the most important works painted by the master de Chirico. The work was performed by the artist while he was hospitalized in Ferrara during the First World War during which he met Carlo Carra, an artist with whom he perfected the standards of Metaphysical painting, artistic period already undertaken by de Chirico, and for some years during which he performed his most important works. The second version of the work was dated 1924 addressed to Paul Eluard and his wife behind their explicit request. The work was greatly admired and is also for this reason that later de Chirico shoot the same subject several times. This version, released in the early sixties is part of the new phase metaphysical artist has already been done for some years. The sense of anxiety that reigns the atmosphere of the work is mainly due to the description of a deserted city where low light and long shadows formed by sharply defined outlines, create a space exaggeratedly a vacuum. Suspended in space no smoking chimneys emerge, as non-functioning and belonging while being flanked by the contemporary era architecture of the past. The latter as the Este Castle symbol of Ferrara, a city defined by de Chirico's 'perfect city', with the representation of the Doric column, which brings the artist to Greece, his birthplace, underline the melancholic atmosphere, typical of the artist, for places that apparengono lived a past date. In this composition space is lived by dummies have only the appearance but not the human substance and classical statues that recall the ancient Greece temporally and geographically very distant. In addition to a sad, troubled and deliberately unrealistic this is perhaps the connection with the dream that strikes the viewer. In 1916 both Freud (1900) that Jung (1909) had published their theories about dreams and some intellectuals of the time they were fascinated, not at home the work in question contains all the laws that regulate and decipher the dream according to psychoanalysis. It should also be added vhe unreal and the static timing of this composition gives the viewer more easily to a nightmare in which everything while apparently not real because it is created by our subconscious. This concern would seem created by Permit us to overcome the appearance space for dialogue between the viewer and the mystery. The poet Plath in Sylvia 1957 was inspired by precisely this work of de Chirico for the composition of a poem whose title was 'The Disquieting Muses'."

01 December 2011

Articles on Sylvia Plath

Recently found the following citations for articles on Sylvia Plath which either have appeared or will appear in journals or in books...

Aragno, Anna. "Silent Cries, Dancing Tears: The Metapsychology of Art Revisited/Revised." Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 59: 2. April 2011: 239-288

Boswell, Matthew. "Poetry. Sylvia Plath, Ariel (1965) and Other Poems." In Holocaust Impiety in Literature, Popular Music and Film. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Leake, Elizabeth. "The Corpus and the Corpse: Amelia Rosselli, Jacques Derrida, Sylvia Plath, Sarah Kofman." In After Words: Suicide and Authorship in Twentieth-Century Italy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011: 65-103.

Lester D., and McSwain S. "A Text Analysis of the Poems of Sylvia Plath". Psychological Reports 109:1. 2011:  73-76.

Piatti-Farnell, Lorna. "'At My Cooking I Feel It Looking': Food, Domestic Fantasies, and Consumer Anxiety in Sylvia Plath's Writing." In Jones, Darryl, Elizabeth McCarthy, and Bernice M. Murphy. It Came from the 1950s!: Popular Culture, Popular Anxieties. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011: 198-215.

Swiontkowski, Gale. "Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and the Allure of Incest." In Harold Bloom (ed.) American Women Poets. New York: Bloom's Literary Criticism, 2011. [A reprint from Swiontkowski's Imagining Incest: Sexton, Plath, Rich, and Olds on Life with Daddy. Selinsgrove, Pa.: Susquehanna University Press, 2003: 31-56.]
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