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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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017.
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, 1956-1963. London: Faber, 2018.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.

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