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Sylvia Plath 2013: Year in Review

How do you summarize 2013 for Sylvia Plath? I think the word I would choose would be inundated. Do I mean that negatively? Heck no. But it was a big, busy year. Longer feeling than its 365 days. Three major biographies were published: American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson;  Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life before Ted by Andrew Wilson; and Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder. And, several re-issues and new editions of her own books, as well as dozens upon dozens, if not hundreds, of newspapers and online articles were written about her. A new publication, too, saw the light of day in Sylvia Plath: Drawings (Faber, September; and Harper, November). And then there is by far the larger media that is basically rubbish name-drops that get picked up and distributed… but those are easily enough ignored and forgotten. Early in the year I started tracking the bigger articles and made a page on this blog th

Sylvia Plath Collections: Letter to Dorothea Krook, Central Zionist Archives

As with the previous post on the letter co-written by Plath to Irwin Edman , this post focuses primarily on one original Plath document. Sylvia Plath admired greatly her Cambridge don Dorothea Krook (later Krook-Gilead). In journals and letters, Plath sung her praises. She was one of the "brilliant young" women Plath knew ( Unabridged Journals , 225), and to her mother on 29 April 1956, she wrote: "My philosophy supervisor, Dorothea Krook, is more than a miracle!" ( Letters Home , 243). Plath often put Krook on the same level that she did her "psychiatrist" Dr. Ruth Beuscher. By February 1957, Plath had become so familiar with Krook that she started to refer to her by the nickname "Doris". (Among other faults, one of the more disingenuous comments in Plath's abridged Journals appears on the footnote to the quote above about Krook being one of the brilliant young women. The editorial comment reads in part, "Plath frequently--and inexpl

Sylvia Plath Collections: Irwin Edman papers at Columbia

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University holds the Irwin Edman papers, [ca 1930]-1954 ( Finding Aid ). There are two Sylvia Plath items in this collection. I know what you are thinking: Who was Irwin Edman? The short answer is that Edman (1896-1954) was Professor of philosophy at Columbia University. The items in the collection are a letter co-authored by Plath and Gamaliel Bradford Senior High School classmate Jeanne Woods dated 15 March 1949 and his reply, dated 28 March 1949. In their 15 March letter, Plath and Woods respond to Edman's March 1949 article "A Reasonable Life in a Mad World" from the Atlantic Monthly (pages 60-62). The letter is a mixture of sanctimoniousness with aspects Christian ideology. Plath at the time of this letter was a junior in High School and was writing on behalf of her English 31 class which was under the tutelage of Wilbury Crockett. The authors of the letter credit Edman with writing logically on the subject bu

Sylvia Plath Collections: Lost and Not Found

Not every one of my archival searches for Sylvia Plath materials in libraries and special collections has been successful. As you will have noticed from some of this series of posts on Sylvia Plath collections, I have gone after journals and periodicals to which Plath submitted her work. Two archives I contacted confirmed that they had no letters or typescripts from Plath. Those are the records of the  Antioch Review (housed at the Lilly Library of Indiana University) and the Partisan Review (housed at Boston University's Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center ). The Partisan does have a carbon of one letter to Plath. Antioch Review published "Black Rook in Rainy Weather" by Plath in their June 1957 issue. The Antioch Review records were sold to the Lilly Library a couple of years ago. ( More on what is in the Antioch Review records here .) Partisan Review published Plath's "I Want, I Want" in their Fall 1959 number and "Metaphors for a

Sylvia Plath Collections: London Magazine

The archives of the London Magazine are held, along with so many other amazing archives, at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin . Sylvia Plath had her poems, stories and other prose published in the London Magazine from June 1958 ("Spinster" and "Black Rook in Rainy Weather") through January 1963 ("The Applicant" and "Stopped Dead") in her lifetime and also made appearances after her death, from April 1963 and beyond. Plath dealt with a few people on the staff of the magazine over the years, including John Lehmann, Charles Osborne, and Alan Ross. In addition to what was found at the University of Texas, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the Mortimer Rare Book Room of Smith College has photocopies of a number of Plath's letters to Lehmann and Osborne. These are contained in the Edward Butscher papers . Presumably the originals of these letters are with the London Magazine records in Texas, but as I have seen

Sylvia Plath Collections: Peter Davison papers at Yale

There are 20 letters from Sylvia Plath to Peter Davison and other staff members of The Atlantic Monthly in the Peter Davison papers , held by the Beinecke Library at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut ( PDF Finding Aid ). The letters are in Box 7, in a folder labeled "Plath, Sylvia." Additionally, there are letters from Ted Hughes, and one from Aurelia Plath to Davison, dated 31 July 1982. Sincere, deep thanks need to be expressed to David Trinidad for pointing out this collection to us. The letters are largely related to submissions of Plath's, but a few of them to Davison are more personal, newsy letters. Below is an inventory of the letters by date along with a synopsis of the letter. Unless otherwise stated, the letters are from Sylvia Plath. 12 February 1955, to Atlantic Monthly : Plath questions the five month wait for her submission of seven poems from 29 September 1954 ("Never Try To Know More Than You Should," "Verbal Calisthentics [s

Event: Sylvia Plath in the Domestic Sublime

The following event will take place on 5 December 2013 at 7:30 pm at the Helen Hills Hills Chapel at the esteemed Smith College. Please see the flyer below for all the great details on this Sylvia Plath related event. BACH Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 SCHOENBERG Drei Klavierstücke, Op.11 and Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, Op.19 PLATH Kindness, Totem, Cut, Nick and the Candlestick, Mary’s Song, Child, Contusion, Words, and Balloons Sylvia Plath in the Domestic Sublime celebrates the visionary voice and breathing spirit of Plath, 50 years after the poet’s death in 1963. Like Plath’s late poems, Bach’s Goldberg Variations are at once intimate, personal, domestic; and macrocosmic, baring the deep architecture of the universe and the sufferings of the Platonic world-soul. With musically dynamic magic, the Goldberg Variations (inward as a dream, expansive as sunlight) transform the involutions of their close-hearkening dwelling-space within the human heart into a gothic cathedral rea

Sylvia Plath Collections: Texas Quarterly

Just a small post today. Sylvia Plath had two poems published in Texas Quarterly : "Flute Notes from a Reedy Pond" and "Witch Burning". Both poems appeared in specially themed issues on Britain and largely featured British writers. Which is bizarre as Plath was American (her way of talk was an "American way of talk"…), both poems were written in Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, as parts of her sequence "Poem for a Birthday" in the Fall of 1959. However, Ted Hughes figures prominently in the issue, so she must have been lumped in with him. Winter 1960 issue In the " Texas Quarterly records", held at the University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Center, there is just one typescript that a kind archivist searched for me (us!) and found: "Flute Notes from a Reedy Pond" which appeared in the Winter 1960 issue. Ted Hughes' poem "Lines to a Newborn Baby" and his story "The Caning" also appeared in the Wi

Sylvia Plath Collections: Kenyon Review

The archives of the Kenyon Review ( journal website ), held by Greenslade Special Collections and Archives of the Olin Library at Kenyon College, contains a small amount of Sylvia Plath materials. These include two letters and two typescript poems. The letters are addressed to the  Kenyon Review editor Robie Macauley ( obituary ) and are dated 28 November 1959 and 5 May 1960. The typescript poems are "The Bee-Keeper's Daughter" and "The Colossus." These two poems appeared in the Autumn 1960 issue. The first letter from 28 November 1959 expresses delight at the acceptance of these two poems, and gives a brief biographical sketch. Plath mentions graduating from Smith College and her Fulbright to Cambridge University; and lists the following periodicals in which her poetry has previously appeared: Atlantic Monthly , Harper's , The Hudson Review , The New Yorker , The Partisan Review , Poetry (Chicago), and The Sewanee Review . Plath, mere weeks from re

Sylvia Plath Collections: J Kerker Quinn Papers

In the J Kerker Quinn papers in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign , there is a mini treasure trove of Sylvia Plath archival materials. Quinn was the editor of the journal Accent , which published two poems ("Recantation" and "Tinker Jack and the Tidy Wives") by Plath in their Autumn 1957 issue. In the Quinn papers there are two undated letters from Plath to the Poetry Editor; five typescript poems ("The Eye-Mote"; "The Thin People"; "Landowners"; "Maudlin"; and "Green Rock, Winthrop Bay"); and a typescript of her short story "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams". Additional materials in the papers include reader report comments on Plath's submissions. The undated letters from Plath can be roughly dated to circa 5 April 1957 and 1 July 1959. This is based on the date received that was marked down on the reader reports for Accent . The 1957 le

Sylvia Plath Collections: Stuart Rose Literary Collection

The Roy Davids' Collection ( catalog description ) auction held by Bonhams earlier this year featured wonderful Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and even Assia Wevill materials. The prices realized for the documents was quite substantial. I was curious at the time where they would end up… And now we partially know. Several of the auctioned items are now held by Emory University in Atlanta in the Manuscripts and Rare Books Library (MARBL) in the Stuart Rose Literary Collection ( permalink ). This is a fitting place for these materials as Emory holds a massive collection of Ted Hughes papers already. The collection features a substantial sub-series of Sylvia Plath materials (series 3), and in addition there are smaller collections, including  Letters to Assia Wevill , among others. The following are now available for research use with no stated restrictions on access: Box 1 Folder 10: Hughes, Ted, "The Evolution of Sheep in the Fog," by Sylvia Plath, 7 working drafts, cir

Sylvia Plath's "Evolution"

Recently I was browsing through ABEbooks.com and saw something that nearly stopped my heart: a poem by Sylvia Plath called "Evolution" that appeared in a periodical called Experiment Magazine . The bookseller description reads: Chicago, 1950. Soft Cover. Book Condition: Very Good. First Edition. Very good in original wrappers with light wear. Early, perhaps the third, appearance of Plath in print. Uncommon and, to the best of our knowledge, unrecorded. Bookseller Inventory # b31364. $750. I wrote to Clayton Fine Books of Shepherdstown, WV, who has a great collection of Sylvia Plath books available to begin with, and received a reply very quickly from Cameron Northouse (who co-authored Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton: A Reference Guide  with Thomas P. Walsh in 1974, which at the time was the first full-length bibliography published on Plath). Northouse found the periodical in Maine: a very lucky find. And considering that it was a previously unrecorded publication of a poe

Review of Sylvia Plath: Drawings

Drawing calmed you… You drew doggedly on, arresting details, Till you had to whole scene imprisoned. Here it is. You rescued for ever Our otherwise lost morning." -- Ted Hughes, "Drawing," Birthday Letters , 1998: 44. "...and I was aware of people standing all around me watching but I didn't look at them - just hummed & went on sketching. It was not very good, too unsure & messily shaded, but I think I will do line drawings from now on in the easy style of Matisse. Felt I knew that view though, through every fiber of my hand." -- The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath , 2000: 554. The Mayor Gallery catalog of Sylvia Plath: Her Drawings was a wonderful publication, especially for those who were unable to attend the same-named exhibition of Sylvia Plath's artwork when it was on view in November and December 2011. I reviewed the catalog at the time and largely stand by it, never dreaming the drawings would see the light of day again.

Sylvia Plath Collections: Letters to Esther & Leonard Baskin

Reading Carrie Smith's wonderful essay "Illustration and ekphrasis: the working drafts of Ted Hughes's Cave Birds " in The Boundaries of the Literary Archive: Reclamation and Representation (edited by Carrie Smith and Lisa Stead , Ashgate, September 2013) got me thinking about Plath's own ekphrasis-experience with collaborating with a Baskin. The British Library holds a very important collection of Sylvia Plath letters in the Ted Hughes & Leonard Baskin collection (known as Hughes-Baskin Papers). The letters from Plath range in date from circa 1958-1962 and it was in reading these letters on a visit to the British Library  last March that I learned (or, re-learned if I knew and forgot) about Plath's attempt to write a poem based on the work of Esther and Leonard Baskin. Of course there is Plath's poem "Sculptor" which was dedicated to Leonard Baskin, but that was not something Plath did in collaboration with him. In late 1958 and early