30 April 2012

Book Dealers' Victoria Lucas [Sylvia Plath] Bell Jar Stolen

Jonkers Rare Books of London recently reported the theft of a first edition of The Bell Jar by Victoria Lucas [Sylvia Plath]. This 1963 edition is price-clipped. Please see the ABAA security "Missing and Stolen Books Blog".

Theft in the rare book world - and anywhere else for that matter - is a terrible shame. If you read this blog and have a blog of your own, please spread the word in hopes that the book can and will be recovered. Thank you.

29 April 2012

Article on Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes...

The Daily Mail in England published an article on some of the content of the letters between Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar, which is soon to be published by the British Library. In "The string of bad luck and accidents that killed Sylvia Plath: Letters reveal former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes was haunted by wife's suicide," article author Chris Hastings sensationalizes what is likely a minor aspect of the forthcoming book, Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar, regurgitating what is old news to Plath's &Hughes' readers.

Eleven years ago, when the British Library first acquired the Sagar-Hughes correspondence, Emma Yates at the Guardian - among others - published "Drugs a 'key factor' in Plath's suicide, claimed Hughes". Now, it was "news" then. It is not news now.

Now, that being said, genuine thanks to ~VC and KZ for passing on the link! Poet and Critic is on sale in May 2012 and can be purchased from the British Library Shop.

28 April 2012

Article with a bit on Sylvia Plath

There is a new article that contains a bit on Sylvia Plath that some may find of interest. Please see:

Grobe, Christopher A. "The Breath of the Poem: Confessional Print/Performance circa 1959." PMLA 127.2 (March 2012): 215-230.

That's it.

27 April 2012

Sylvia Plath Info Blog: 5

On 27 April 2007, Sylvia Plath Info Blog began with a post that I hope has been enacted and kept up like a promise. At the time I started this blog, I was unable to update my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is, and I saw this medium as a platform to make announcements about new books, provide updates on the Symposium at Oxford that year, etc. Now, however, I cannot stop! Like the speaker of "Getting There":

"...and the train is steaming.
Steaming and breathing, its teeth
Ready to roll, like a devil's."

Thank you all for your encouraging and valuable comments, and for your visits over the past five years. Thank you also for the guest posts that occasionally appear here, too. If you are interested in such a thing, please contact me. This blog would never have survived with you, its readers and followers. Let us keep steaming.

And 77th Happy Birthday Warren Plath.

21 April 2012

Sylvia Plath's "Desert Song"

In the Sylvia Plath Collection at Mortimer Rare Book Room, there is a typescript of a poem entitled "Desert Song." Plath dated this poem April 21, 1955 and submitted it to her creative writing professor Alfred Young Fisher as part of the course requirement. "Desert Song" remains unpublished to this day, but the poem is about, well, it is a sex poem - or lack thereof in the metaphor of an arid desert in want of saturation. The course for which this poem was submitted was a special study course in creative writing which Plath most certainly earned based on her academic credentials, her success in publishing her creative writing in both local and national periodicals, and the promise of her future in the field of poetry and creative writing.

On the verso of this typescript, in Plath's hand and in pencil, she cryptically made note of a date (29 April), a page number (30) and a newspaper title (Union). It is evident from the typescript being dated 1955 that Plath was referring to 29th April of that year; and the Union must be the Springfield Union, one of the newspapers out of Springfield, Mass. Familiarity with her biography allows one to remember that around this time Plath was quite busy: winning awards as the school year ended, preparing to graduate summa cum laude, receiving a Fulbright to Cambridge, and competing in the Kathryn Irene Glascock Poetry Competition at Mt. Holyoke.

For her poetry class with Fisher, Plath produced a number of poems that are both dated and undated.

Dated poems Plath submitted in that spring semester of 1955 were:

"Harlequin Love Song" on 20 January;
"Danse Macabre" on 10 February;
"The Princess and the Goblins" on 3 March;
"Sonnet to a Shade" on 10 March;
"To a Jilted Lover" on 17 March;
"On the Futility of a Lexicon" on 24 March;
"Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea" 14 April; and
"Desert Song" 21 April

Undated poems (and by undated, what I mean is that we know these were written circa 1955, but what is not known is the specific date the poem was written) submitted were:

"Apology for an April Satyr"; "Black Pine Tree in Orange Light"; "Complaint"; "The Dream"; "Elegy" [submitted between 1952 and 1955]; "Epitaph in Three Parts"; "Ice Age" (I); "Insolent Storm Strikes at the Skull"; "Lament" (Variant title "Dirge"); "Million Dollar Month"; "Moonsong at Morning"; "New England Winter Without Snow"; "Notes on Zarathustra's Prologue"; "Notes to a Neophyte"; "On Looking Into the Eyes of a Demon Lover"; "Prologue to Spring"; "Rondeau"; "Second Winter"; "Song for a Revolutionary Love"; "Song for a Thaw"; "Song of Eve"; "Sonnet for a Green-Eyed Sailor"; "Sonnet to Satan"; "A Sorcerer Bids Farewell to Seem"; "Temper of Time"; "Terminal"; "Triolet Frivole"; "Wayfaring at the Whitney: A Study in Sculptural Dimensions"; "White Girl Between Yellow Curtains"; and "Winter Words."

Plath submitted the poems in batches, so only the top poem in each batch would be dated. But, what a prolific spring! It would be interesting to try to determine which poems belonged to which batch, but that might not be knowable.

Getting back to "Desert Song." We ask the question: did Plath get it back the following Thursday, on 28 April? It is unlikely for on "Two Lovers and a Beachcomber by the Real Sea," which she submitted on the 14th, Fisher noted, "No meeting next week on Thursday 28 April." He would have given back the batch of poems with "Two Lovers" on the 21st: the day she submitted her next batch headed by "Desert Song."

In some ways this little annotation by Plath takes on a life of its own. It is not the only time Plath used whatever sheet of paper she had handy to jot down a note. How did Plath get the "Desert Song" and the other poems back? Did Fisher leave them in her mailbox? Did they meet somewhere? Does it even matter? And then there is that annotation in Plath's hand on the verso of "Desert Song"... Where was she on the 29th? At a coffee shop? In a common room on somewhere campus? Was she reviewing this poem? Others? Or did she write this at a later date?

Using the microfilm of this newspaper at the Boston Public Library, I found the article to which this annotation referenced: an article covering the results of of the Glascock poetry contest. The article title was "Senior at Smith, Wesleyan Junior Poetry Winners." The article includes this hardly flattering picture under the caption "Compete in Poets' Contest." (Another photograph from the same competition is much more kind.) It should be noted that not all editions of this issue of the Springfield Union-News ran this story. News of the results of the Glascock Poetry Competition reached other Massachusetts newspapers including The Christian Science Monitor and The Townsman (Wellesley).

Nothing in the article is new or anything, but it has never been listed in a Plath bibliography; it does not appear to be in her archives. What other clues exist in Plath's manuscripts that might uncover other articles we can conclude she read? And, for the record and for what it is worth, the majority of those poems created in 1955 for that poetry class remain unpublished. For those interested in reading them, copies of the poems are held by Smith College, and in addition some (or all) may also be held by the Lilly Library.

All links accessed and revised 10 April 2020.

18 April 2012

Forever Sylvia Plath

Saturday 21 April will see the release of the Twentieth Century Poets stamp series in the US. As we know, Plath is one of the featured poets. Taking my inspiration from the technophiles [ahem, losers] who eagerly await new devices, I will be taking off work & life in order to camp out at the post office to be FIRST IN LINE. Someone please bring me coffee... The stamp is a "forever" stamp which means the price you buy it at will be good for first class postage no matter future price adjustments. In some ways it pains me to think that someone will send me a stamp with a big postal cancellation stamp on Plath's face, but it would also be nice to receive real mail...

16 April 2012

Information on Gerald Hughes book about Ted Hughes

On 4 April, the post "Ted Hughes News" had brief information about a forthcoming title by Ted Hughes' brother Gerald.  Well, The Telegraph has just published "Ted Hughes brother to write memoir". It is a brief article but gives us something to mull over until the book Ted and I is published by Jeremy Robson this fall. Not sure how much Sylvia Plath material will be in there, but we can look forward to reading it nonetheless.

Thanks to ~VC for the information.

14 April 2012

Reminder: Call for Papers for Sylvia Plath Symposium 2012: The October Poems

As things in the blog-world get lost and forgotten easily, it seems as good a time as any to re-post information on the Sylvia Plath Symposium 2012 as a way to encourage you all to consider submitting for topics. I have! Have you? Will you?

The Department of English at Indiana University is accepting papers for the "Sylvia Plath Symposium 2012: The October Poems" to be held Thursday to Sunday, October 24-27 at the Bloomington campus.

This event commemorates the 50-year anniversary of Ariel with a focus on poems Plath wrote in October 1962. While all topics related to Plath's work may be submitted, featured scholars and artists will highlight Plath's most famous works. The opening day seminar will address the phenomenon of inspiration and the creative imagination. Literary panels will take place on Friday and Saturday. A website posted in May will provide more details.

Deadline for abstract submissions is July 1, but earlier is recommended, particularly for international scholars. Students are encouraged to submit.

Please submit 250-300 word abstracts for 15-20 minute papers to plath70 (at) indiana.edu. Queries may be sent to kdconnor (at) indiana.edu.

08 April 2012

Sylvia Plath Interdisciplinary Master Class at Oxford

Because this is a great opportunity, I thought I would re-post  from January the information about the Sylvia Plath Interdisciplinary Master Class on offer this summer at Oxford.

This summer, Dr. Sally Bayley and Linda Gates will teach a Sylvia Plath Interdisciplinary Master Class entitled "Finding a Voice: Sylvia Plath's Poetic Landscapes" at Oxford University in England from 2-6 July 2012.

From the course description (accessed 23 January 2012):

"This class will take a selection of Sylvia Plath's poetic manuscripts as a starting point for exploring the process of Plath's poetic composing. The particular focus will be on Plath's mature landscape poems, Winter Trees, Crossing the Water, Little Fugue, The Moon and the Yew Tree and Elm in which the speaker devises and revises a poetic identity through several drafted stages. The quotient points of her identity shift between inner and outer worlds as the poems come into focus and her personae begin to speak.

"At the heart of the class will be the subject of voice and the ways in which Plath’s poetic voices are developed and tuned through the process of drafting.

"Led by Plath scholar Dr. Sally Bayley of the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford, and Linda Gates, Professor of Voice at Northwestern University, the class will be aimed at students studying Plath as a subject of research and students of literature, drama, voice and music at the undergraduate and graduate level. The class has been designed to be strongly interdisciplinary and will include a session on Plath’s poetry as translated into songs for voice by composer and scholar, Dr. Will May of Southampton University.

"Teaching will be focussed on close readings of poems in draft and published forms and students will be encouraged to read across drafts, drawing connections between aspects of Plath’s poetic imagery. At the heart of the class will be an investigation of Plath’s mythopoeic body. Students will be supported to make observations and notes on Plath’s journey into a poem with the aim of preparing a final performance piece to be led by Professor Linda Gates.

"Further information is available on the website including: Programme Foci, Programme Outline, Masterclass Tutors, and Suggested Reading."

It should be noted that class space is quite limited to about 20 people and currently enrollment is open to all. While I do not know Ms. Gates, Sally Bayley is a dynamic Plath scholar. This course structure will extend the boundaries of Plath interpretation, including the relationship between the spoken voice and music in Plath's landscape poems.

04 April 2012

Ted Hughes News

On 10 May 2012, readers of Ted Hughes (and Sylvia Plath) should be on the lookout for Keith Sagar's Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar (published by The British Library Publishing Division). The book will weigh in at 320 pages, and topics discussed in the correspondence include Hughes's travels, hunting, religion, education and his relationship with Sylvia Plath. Never published before in their entirety, this collection provides a significant new perspective on Hughes's life and work.

Look for the book available in America in June.

Purchase Poet and Critic from the British Library!

Later in the year, Ted Hughes's brother, Gerald, will publish a book about his brother. More details as they are made available.

Roy Davids has published via Earth-Moon: Information about Ted Hughes, a detailed finding aid of the Ted Hughes materials at the British Library. A massive undertaking and an enviable product.

Ann Skea has published recently "Ted Hughes and Small Press Publications". This will be of interest to many of us, particularly those books by Sylvia Plath done by the Rainbow Press in the 1970s.

01 April 2012

Sylvia Plath's Gravestone Vandalized

The following news story appeared online this morning:

HEPTONSTALL, ENGLAND (APFS) - The small village of Heptonstall is once again in the news because of the grave site of American poet Sylvia Plath. The headstone controversy rose to a fever pitch in 1989 when Plath's grave was left unmarked for a long period of time after vandals repeatedly chiseled her married surname Hughes off the stone marker. Author Nick Hornby commented, "I like Plath, but the controversy reaching its fever pitch in the 80s had nothing to do with my book title choice." Today, however, it was discovered that the grave was defaced but in quite an unlikely fashion. This time, Plath's headstone has had slashed-off her maiden name "Plath," so the stone now reads "Sylvia Hughes."

A statement posted on Twitter from @masculinistsfortedhughes (Masculinists for Ted Hughes) has claimed responsibility saying that, "We did this because as Ted Hughes' first wife, Sylvia deserves to be known by her married, legal name. We'd say more but r restricted by Twi". The update ends here, we presume, because of Twitter's 140 character limit. This is quite a bold move, and legions of Plath's fans around the globe will likely seek vengeance. An early sign of this retribution was spotted at a Waterstone's bookshop in Castle Street, Norwich, where all of Ted Hughes' books were defaced. The late poet laureate's name on the cover, spine and title page on all three of the stores copies of his books was redacted in black ink. Over it, in pink ink, is the word "MR. TED PLATH." British immigration was asked if Plath fan-site moderator Peter K Steinberg, who generally has too much free time on his hands, was in the country, as he would be a prime suspect, but they could neither confirm nor deny his whereabouts. Another scholar, Gail Crowther, has been detained and is reportedly uncooperative.

Attempts to contact Plath's British publisher, Faber, went unanswered. "No surprise there," commented one Plath scholar, who spoke under the condition of anonymity of not being named. Prompted by the news of the desecration of her father's books, the artist and writer Frieda Hughes, who we are lead to believe is the daughter of Ted Hughes, told a BBC reporter "This is an unfortunate occurrence, the behaviour of which I thought was left firmly behind in the last century." Hughes continued, "It's simply barbaric.As a result of the treatment of my father's books and that other issue [the desecration of her mother's gravestone], as Executor of my mother's Estate, I will be reissuing all of my mother’s books under her married name effective immediately. This way we can have all our books together on bookshelves. I just want us to be a family again." Hughes continued, "Those who have books by 'Sylvia Plath' are encouraged to return them to the publisher where they will be pulped. In return the good samaritans will be given, as a fair and even trade with no questions asked, copies of my own books which are most readily available."

In another Plath-related international news story, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently addressed the United Nations 4th Council to Appraise the Legitimacy of Literature in the English Dialect (UN-CALLED 4) and denied the existence of Sylvia Plath. Ahmadinejad, speaking through his interpreter Constantin, said, "They have created a myth in the name of Sylvia Plath." Ahmadinejad's stance on Plath as a myth is because she "used Holocaust imagery and metaphor to relate her personal suffering and we know that because the Holocaust never happened that her metaphorical suffering - whether it was an actual, congruent pain or merely a perceived appropriation - could not have happened either. Therefore Sylvia Plath did not exist." Ahmadinejad was then asked, "Who, then, wrote works attributed to Plath?" He privately smiled with a twinkle glistening in his eyes as if laughing at a joke, held out his thumb and index finger in the shape of a gun, and said, "Roy Rogers? Pchoo-Pchoo."
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