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Showing posts from December, 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.