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Showing posts from 2012

P. H. Davies: A Life of Sylvia Plath

I did not expect the tributes for Sylvia Plath to start until closer to the anniversary of her death, but the fine poet and writer P. H. Davies has recently published A Life of Plath : both a blog post as well as a selection of poems written about her and inspired by her. It is the first tribute, therefore. And it is also the one by which all the others - that are I am sure forthcoming - will be compared to. My own 11 February post is currently in draft form, but reading Davies' now makes me want to scrap the whole things and start over.

Sylvia Plath 2012: Year in Review

The Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium dominated my thoughts this year. From January through October it was all I could think about, and not just because I was giving a few papers: but it was a chance to meet some of you, talk Plath and other subjects, and learn faces and voices to accompany your written words via comments and emails. The Symposium did not disappoint. The chance, too, to spend some time in the archives at the Lilly Library was something most of the attendees took advantage of: and it was really wonderful to see people interacting with Plath's papers for the first time. A new strain of archives fever was born! A number of us there had attended all three of the Symposia (2002, 2007, 2012). While no awards were given out for that, it was a small sense of pride. Looking back through the blog to see what in the world was going on, largely from my perspective, in Sylvia Plathdom, shows quite a varied year. In January I spent a week at Smith College doing both some archives re

Seven Days of Sylvia Plath Gifts: Day 7

Day 7 - Sylvia Plath by Peter K Steinberg On the 7th day of Plathmasnukkahzaa my true love gave to me A biography that no one has read... Ha ha! I mean, ho ho ho! Merry Plathmas to you all, and if you read my book: to all a good night! Guaranteed to cure insomnia! "It is guaranteed To thumb shut your eyes at the end"...

Seven Days of Sylvia Plath Gifts: Day 6

Day 6 - Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual edited by Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley and  Sylvia Plath: Her Drawings  (Catalogue) On the sixth day of Plathnukkazaa my true love gave to me A gift that keeps on giving Unfortunately out of print, Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual is a revolutionary book in Plath scholarship. The reproductions of Plath's art, as well as Kathleen Connor's essay "Living in Colour," make this book a must have for any Plath reader, fan, what have you. It is expertly done; a book to be cherished and studied. In fact, buy two. Pair reading Eye Rhymes  with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon to accentuate the tannin's and rich, fruit-peppery oak pomposity. Wine not your style? Eye Rhymes also matches quite nicely with a dark, spicy, cold winter beer. I'd say go for "the clear beer of Vienna" here, but we know it not to be either "very pure or true." Oh, you're a teetotaler?

Seven Days of Sylvia Plath Gifts: Day 5

Day 5 - Limited and First editions by Sylvia Plath On the fifth day of Plathmasnukka my true love gave to me Pretty things to sit on my shelves Do you like pretty things? If you like pretty things, Fuggetta 'bout jewelry, collect Sylvia Plath first and limited editions. If you love or like someone, this is the perfect gift to give because rare books typically gain in value in ways that other merchandise does not. A car, for example, which is on many people's wish lists, loses exponential value the moment you take it off the lot. A bobblehead or action figure, too, once out of the box, loses its value. But, a rare book? The moment you buy it its value increase because it is off the market. This makes the remaining copies more valuable, too, due to concomitant scarcity. You can find many limited editions for sale from ABEBooks . For a list of titles and cover images, please see my website .

Seven Days of Sylvia Plath Gifts: Day 4

Day 4 - Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study by Luke Ferretter and The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath edited by Anita Helle On the fourth day of Plathmaszaa my true love gave to me Books to put Plath's works in context In Sylvia Plath's Fiction: A Critical Study , Luke Ferretter breathes life back into Plath's prose which largely has been ignored. One may want to buy Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams  too, and, while you are at it, request photocopies of Plath's short stories from the archives (primarily from Smith College, Indiana University and Emory University) to help as you read this book. And, the journey into archive of Plath has never been so fully examined as in The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath edited by Anita Helle. Though published in 2007, this book has not lost any relevance, and remains among the most important works on Plath to ever see the light of day. In two parts, "The Plath Archive" and "

Seven Days of Sylvia Plath Gifts: Day 3

Day 3 - The Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Karen V. Kukil On the third day of Plathzaa my true love gave to me A 732 page book Published in 2000, The (Unabridged) Journals of Sylvia Plath is the book to read if you are interested in Sylvia Plath. Within its pages both a life and ideas are captured. The editing is superb and the notes in the back are truly a valuable resource. In addition to recording events from her life, Plath's journals are a place where she drafted poems and stories and letters, using it, too, to sketch and to document important historical events such as the D.H. Lawrence obscenity trial in London, which she attended on her birthday in 1960. As well, Plath's journals were kept to record a dossier of information on her neighbors for use, mostly likely, in future stories and novels. That is, unless Sylvia Plath was an undercover CIA agent? We know that the CIA liked Smith College women (eg. Julia Child). Just sayin... nothing like starting a rumor fo

Seven Days of Sylvia Plath Gifts: Day 2

Day 2 of Seven Days of Sylvia Plath Gifts:  The Bell Jar and The Collected Poems On the second day of Plathnukkah my true love gave to me Two tomes for my entertainment... These two books, The Bell Jar and The Collected Poems , provide the greatest overview to Sylvia Plath's creative works.  The Bell Jar , originally published nearly 50 years ago under the name Victoria Lucas, is a really funny, great read. It does many things at the same time: tells a coming of age story; is a response to the social climate of the period covered in the novel; and much more. There are different editions of The Bell Jar out there with textual variations, so in order to read the one Sylvia Plath herself sanctioned, read the 1963 Heinemann edition if you can afford it, or any Faber edition published between 1966 and 1996 . Faber is releasing a 50th anniversary edition of The Bell Jar on 3 January 2013 . It would have been better to release it on the 14th, just as the book was originally in

Seven Days of Sylvia Plath Gifts

For the next seven days, I am going to suggest a perfect Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa - er, Holiday - gifts by or about Sylvia Plath. These are perfect gift ideas for friends, lovers, acquaintances, or enemies. On the first day of Plathmas my true love gave to me: A CD of rare recordings.... Day 1 - The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath (British Library Publishing, 2010) ( Order from British Library ) ( Order from University of Chicago Press ) The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath , with an introduction by - ahem - Peter K Steinberg, is the perfect gift for the holidays. Offering a range of rare Plath recordings, The Spoken Word is an instruction audio compilation. As you listens to Plath's speaking voice, you learn how to read those poems: the meter, the stresses, the line breaks, etc. The interviews add a human dimension to Plath, and Ted Hughes, too. The "Two of a Kind" recording is worth the price of the CD alone, offering glimpses at the poetic ideology of the 20th ce

Event: Helen Vendler on Sylvia Plath

On Wednesday, 9 January 2013, the unequaled and venerable Helen Vendler will present a 3 hour long talk on Sylvia Plath at the Warburg Lounge, Unterberg Poetry Center, part of New York's 92nd Street Y (Lexington Avenue and 92nd Street) in New York City. The event will run from 6 pm to 9 pm and registration starts at $160. Per the website , "We’ll look at some Smith College juvenilia to investigate her early aims and then at some late and posthumously published poems to see what drove her most original imaginative works. The aesthetic criteria for evaluative judgment will be examined in these contexts." So far as I have learned, this is the first event somewhat associated with the 50th anniversary of Plath's death. Helen Vendler is the A. Kingsley Porter Professor of English at Harvard University and the author of Coming of Age as a Poet: Milton, Keats, Eliot, Plath ; Poets Thinking: Pope, Whitman, Dickinson, Yeats ; and Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lo

Some Aspects of the Journey: A Review of Kathleen Spivack's With Robert Lowell

With Robert Lowell and His Circle by Kathleen Spivack (Northeastern University Press, 2012) is a veritable who's who of poets over the last 50-plus years. As a memoir, similar to Ted and I recently published by Gerald Hughes, it is not without some faults. Spivack writes, "What I have tried to record in this description of Robert Lowell and his circle were some aspects of the journey as I lived it" (213). However, the remembered memories written over the course of many years - some of those "aspects" - are false. And even just the smallest, misremembered fact throws the entire book under suspicion in what is a very tricky genre. Such as Spivack's comment that during the spring semester of 1959, in Lowell's classroom which faced Commonwealth Avenue, "each class extended longer than scheduled, and the afternoon got colder and darker" (34). However, in springtime, the afternoon light actually extends by a minute or so each day. I understand wh

Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth for Sylvia Plath

For the second book in a row, Sylvia Plath features briefly in an Ian McEwan  novel. Plath was name-dropped in McEwan's Solar (2010) , and in his just published novel Sweet Tooth , she again is mentioned. On page 189, McEwan's protagonist Serena Frome (rhymes with "plume") receives as Christmas gifts hardback books of Sylvia Plath's poetry. I know it is fiction, but the poetry books Frome received were most likely Crossing the Water and Winter Trees which were published in 1971. Although naturally Ariel and The Colossus were also available at this time in hardback, as well. It is really amazing what Ian McEwan will do to get mentioned on this blog.

Unveiling the Face of Sylvia Plath

Press Release Celebration of Ariel and New Plath Portrait at Smith NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—The Poetry Center and the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College are pleased to announce the unveiling of a stunning new portrait of Sylvia Plath ’55 by Susan Seidner Adler ’57. The celebration of the acquisition of the painting and the 50th anniversary of the creation of Plath’s Ariel poems will take place on November 29 at 7:00 pm in the Poetry Center. The large oil-on-canvas painting depicting a college-age Sylvia Plath with a draft of her iconic Ariel poem “Stings” in the background was recently commissioned by Esther C. Laventhol ’57, a housemate of Sylvia Plath at Lawrence House during her junior and senior years at Smith. The evening’s festivities will include a Q&A with the artist and donor of the painting, followed by readings of favorite Plath poems by students, faculty, and curators. Light refreshments will be served following the reading. Sponsored by the Poetry Center an

Did you know... Sylvia Plath and Bartholomew Fair

In the fall of 1955, in her first term as a graduate student at Newnham College, Cambridge University, Sylvia Plath played the role of Alice in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair (1614), produced by the Amateur Dramatics Club in Cambridge from November 24-December 3, 1955. Alice's role is "mistress o' the game." The role has just a five lines (and a fight!). Did you know … what those lines were? They were: "A mischiefe on you, they are such as you are, that undo us, and take our trade from us, with your tuft-taffata haunches."; "The poore common whores can ha'no traffic, for the privy rich ones; your caps and hoods of velvet call away our customers, and lick the fat from us."; "Od's foot, you Bawd in grease, are you talking?"; "Thou Sow of Smithfield, thou!"; "Ay, by the same token, you rid that week, and broke out of the bottom o'the Cart, Night-tub." ( source, with some "corrections"

Lost Sylvia Plath Poem Stunned Us in 1998: Or did it?

Unbelievable. Simply the only word I can think of to describe November 19 & 20, 1998. How did we miss it? How did we not know? The (Sylvia Plath) world was still reeling from the publication of Birthday Letters and the then quite recent passing of Ted Hughes. Just three articles (per Lexis-Nexis Academic) ran on this particular story and appeared in The Guardian , The Evening Standard , and The Irish Times . The headlines were provocative to say the least... The Guardian article, authored by Rory Carroll, used "Discovery of Plath's Forgotten Teenage Poems Dismays Friends." The Evening Standard tried out "Early Plath Platitudes Dismay Poetry World." And, The Irish Times said "Plath Find Sheds Light on Sexuality." The first paragraph of Carroll's article reads, "The literary world was stunned last night after the discovery of three forgotten Sylvia Plath poems revealed both sexual disgust and technical immaturity, providing an embar

Sylvia Plath Books at the Boston Book Fair

This years Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair did not dissapoint when it came to getting to see and touch rare and valuable Sylvia Plath books. There is the perennial first edition of The Colossus signed by Plath to fellow poet Theodore Roethke that I am glad seems impervious to selling from the fine bookseller James S. Jaffe Rare Books . At $50,000 it is the Mercedes Benz of books. Only, people buy cars. If only they realized that a book will not depreciate so swiftly... If anyone out there feels so inclined, I am more than open to receiving this book as a gift. Thank you. Jaffe also brought a stunning first Faber edition of Ariel ($4,000) as well as a signed, limited edition of Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes ($850) . On a side note: please for the love of sanity, alphabetize your displayed books. This persnickety peruser refuses to detail your Plath books if you do not alphabetize. Thank you. Paul Foster brought their copies of Plath limited editions: The Green Ro

2 books by Sylvia Plath Now Available

There are been two recent publications of books authored by Sylvia Plath. The first is Carol Ann Duffy's selection of seventy-five poems by Plath, with a foreword by Duffy. Published on 1 November, the book is available in the UK in hardback and on Kindle ; and in the US, you can buy it on Kindle (or order the hardback book from the UK site). Duffy's introduction was reprinted in The Guardian on 2 November 2012 . The other "new" book is The Bell Jar in a Kindle edition, which was published  in mid-August . A different Kindle version -published on 8 November- was online for a couple of days, but has now disappeared.  The Bell Jar has been available in a Kindle edition to UK customers for quite some time. While at it, it appears that Ariel: The Restored Edition is now also available to US Kindle customers. A general reminder: one does not need the actual Kindle device to enjoy Sylvia Plath's books in an eBook format. Kindle offers reading apps for your

Boston Book Fair this weekend: Sylvia Plath Books!

Collect Plath Books Yoda Does This weekend is the 36th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Are you going? You should consider it. It is like a petting zoo for nerds. In the past, I have reported on the rare and valuable Sylvia Plath books and related materials that I have seen and I see no reason to deviate from this pattern. So, I hope to have something written up for Sunday. I have rummaged through the list of sellers to see what Plath books they might have, and have made a couple of small requests for sellers to bring specific stock items for purchase. Small things because, frankly, that $50,000 The Colossus signed by Plath to Theodore Roethke is still outside of my budget...

Newly Published Books About Sylvia Plath

Published officially today by the Northeastern University Press is Kathleen Spivack's memoir With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz & Others . 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1555537883. Retail price: $19.95. Order from the publisher :  Or, buy through . Also published today is Analyzing Sylvia Plath (an academic mystery) by Alice Walsh. The book is available in paperback and as a Kindle ebook.

Book trailer: American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson

American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson is a much anticipated biography (St. Martin's Press, 2013). Donald Spoto calls this new Plath biography "compulsively readable." Lois Banner says Rollyson shows how Plath "both shaped and reflected her times, becoming a symbol for our age." Carl has recently made a book trailer for his American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath . (Mind you, this is not a trailer for a movie...just an advertisement for the book.)  American Isis is the first full length biography of Sylvia Plath since 1991, and benefits from: a wide range of recently opened archival collections in the US and England; the 2000 publication of Plath's Unabridged Journals ; interviews with friends and students from Smith College; and features new information from A. Alvarez, David Wevill and Elizabeth Sigmund. In conjunction with the release of this book trailer - a novel idea, by the way, to promote both the the book its

Review of Ted and I by Gerald Hughes

Memoir is a tricky genre. On the one hand the subject of the memoir is greedily consumed by its readers; on the other hand questions surrounding the veracity of memory come into the forefront. Memoirs of Sylvia Plath have been particularly scrutinized: even the ones written in the first decade or so after her death when memories are presumably fresher. Ted and I by Gerald Hughes (Robson Press, 2012), brother of the poet, is a book worth reading. In some ways Gerald is "the other" or is "an other" in the life of Ted Hughes: a dream, an ideal, that would never be realized. Ted and I is divided into three sensible parts; "Childhood"; "The War Years"; and "Keeping in Touch". Each part is further divided into subparts. "Childhood" was the least emotive part of the book: a series of broken memories, shorter staccato vignettes and mostly nondescript that in some ways could describe the childhood of any myriad of boys and gir

Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium Photo Dump

In working through the photographs and files from the week in Bloomington, I have found the following that I thought others might like to see (primarily those who were not present, but also those who were because there is never enough). The first three are from the IU Art Gallery and features some of the works by Kristina Zimbakova and Linda Adele Goodine. The next are all from the "Transitions" exhibit in the Lilly Library. As we leave October behind, it can only be described as memorable. If you, dear reader, are so inspired to write something about your own experience with the archive: this is an open call for a guest post to get your impressions, which are as unique as snowflakes.

Sylvia Plath Symposium Panel Reviews by Lauren Benard

The following are reviews of Panels 2 and 9 by Lauren Benard, author of Plath Profiles 4 essay " Taking on a Mourning Her Mother Never Bothered With: Esther's Anguished Memory and Her Resistance to a Domestic Life in Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar ". Thank you, Lauren, for these reviews, I know I am not the only one who appreciates it. Panel 2: The Bell Jar Peter K. Steinberg (the man behind the Sylvia Plath Info curtain) spoke on “Sylvia Plath: Palimpsestic Writer in The Bell Jar .” Steinberg opened by stating how Plath and Hughes often overwrote each other; however, rather than only focusing on the lexical connections between their works, it is important to understand her own influence on her writing. It is important to read her writing for her own intertextuality. The Bell Jar entrapped Plath as much as it worked for her as an enabling device. After the novel was published she better expressed her anguish. He shares that there are more than twenty similarities b

Day 4, Part 2 of the Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium: The Afternoon

This afternoon was also a good - no, a great - way to conclude the Symposium. As with the other post today, I've just decided to post my notes, relatively unedited! Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick: "Sylvia Plath and Trauma: Reading the October 1962 Poems" Part of a book on modernist and contemporary poets. Two terms in trauma studies are "acting out": nightmares and reliving experiences and "working through": the process of the subject trying to make sense of the traumatic experience. Attempts to come with a narrative that hangs together about that experience, enables her/him to begin to work through it, to put the episode behind her. "A Birthday Present" Calm and resigned voice anticipates "Edge" and "Words". Line "I am alive only by accident" is the trauma event about which the speaker needs to work through. Trauma leads to a fetishization of death. "Lady Lazarus" Founding trauma is part and parce

Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium Day 3, Part 2: The Afternoon

Yesterday, in day 3 of the Symposium, David Trinidad's talk on the biographical references and sources to Plath's October poems was an inspired piece. For those that were there, I think we can all agree that we could have listened to David speak for about 17 more hours. Or more. Culled down from a large piece, David focused on the poems written after Hughes left Court Green including "Daddy" and "Eavesdropper" and "Lesbos", among others. An extremely careful and detailed work of art, David's essay was, quite well received, a highlight included a calendar layout of the month with the names of the poems written in on the days in which they were composed, and other significant events, as well as contextual photographs that are important to the poems including the photograph of Otto Plath standing at a blackboard, and photographs take by Gail Crowther of the home the Kane's in St. Ives (where Plath stayed the weekend of Ocober the 13th/14th), w

Gail Crowther visits Heptonstall on Sylvia Plath's Birthday

Fighting through a gaggle of other visitors, the only Sylvia Plath scholar deserving to be at the gravesite today sent these photos in for us. While there, Gail planted a Blue Moon rose bush.

Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium Day 4, Part 1: The Morning

This morning's panels and presentations by Maeve O'Brien, Christine Walde, and Karen Kukil was better than coffee. Below are rough notes taken during the talks and are relatively raw. But it is more important to get this out than worry about finesse, perhaps. Maeve O'Brien's presentation: "'Something in me said, now, you must see this': reconciling death and 'the empty beaches of memory' in 'Berck-Page'", brought much attention to "Berck-Plage", what she terms a "notoriously difficult" poem. Reframe poem to focus on new themes in the poem. So many of the things at Berck are still there, which gives a tangible grasp of what Plath saw and experienced. O'Brien cited the work of Gail Crowther (" The Playfulness of Time ") as well as Anita Helle and others. Silence - what Plath mentions, but also what is absent from her poetry. What is not revealed in the beach scene in Plath's "Berck-Plage"

Review of Panel 11: Plath and Hughes

The "Plath and Hughes" panel was nearly filled to standing room only, which illustrates how important a topic this is, likely to the chagrin of some. Helen Decker spoke on "Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Side by Side: What I Can and Can't Tell You", Rai Peterson's paper was supposed to be on "Hughes and the Two Ariel 's" but she changed it to "An Efficiency, A Great Beauty": Sylvia Plath's Ariel Titles", and Georg Nöffke spoke on "These Super'People: The Superimpostion of Ted Hughes' 'Brasilia' on Sylvia Plath's 'Brasilia'". No one in the room was disappointed. The three presenters in the Walnut Room spoke clearly and expertly on their chosen topics. Decker has been at work on a book about Plath and Hughes for a while, and with any luck we'll see it soon for general consumption. She has been working both on Plath's and Hughes' appearances in periodicals together, as well as th

Review of Sylvia Plath Symposium Panels 1 and 5

The following is a guest post review by Jaime Jost (the  Plath Profiles author of " To See What She Saw: The Influence of Sylvia Plath " in Volume 4 and " 'Panic' over Puddle Jumping in Plath's 'Mothers' " published TODAY in the Volume 5 Supplement). Jaime was kind enough to review two panels: Panel 1: Plath and Religion; and Panel 5: Plath's Influences: Lowell and Sexton, the Qabalah. Please thank Jaime (and Bridget in the post before) for their wonderful write-ups, for their fresh perspectives on the Symposium panels, and for providing us with possibly otherwise lost impressions due to concurrent nature of the conference structure. Your work, effort, and insight are all highly-valued, very much appreciated, and a valuable contribution to your fellow Plath-heads. Panel 1: Plath and Religion Emma Komlos-Hrobsky, editor of Pinhouse Magazine in New York, presented her paper “‘The Black Amnesias of Heaven’: The God-Obsessed Atheist and