21 March 2013

These Ghostly Archives 5 & Ann Skea on Sylvia Path, Ariel and Tarot

Yesterday's preview of "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past" was very fun to do. A very big thank you to Plymouth University and to Rachel Christofid​es, Robin Peel, and Kathryn Gray for hosting us and coordinating the event, and to all of those who attended, including - & I only know a few people's names - Elizabeth and William Sigmund, Andrew Wilson, Marcus, Nick Smart, and Rosemary Clark. There was a lively question and answer session after a drinks reception and no doubt the wine helped with that!

Gail and I had to massively cut down our paper for the talk, but the full contents will appear this summer in Plath Profiles 6, though the summer seems quite far off with the wind and rainy howling outside. The advantage to the talk was that we could quote from the letters Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes wrote, as well as show images of the manuscripts we discuss, too. Please know that with rare exception, you can request and order photocopies or scans of anything we talk about it you are so inspired to do so.

Today, on our way to spend the afternoon with Elizabeth and William Sigmund, we stopped for some treats in the ultra nice town of Tavistock, and found this very Plathian bottle, which I clutched (cf. "Cut") after stepping on it. Very poignant given what Plathing Gail and I got up to today...

I was just set to hit "Publish" when I got the news that Ann Skea's recent work in Sylvia Plath, the Ariel poems, and Tarot has been updated with chapter 6, which looks at the following poems: "The Other," "Stopped Dead", "Poppies in October", and "The Courage of Shutting-up." This chapter concludes her look at Plath and Tarot, the conclusion of which is very well written and thought provoking. Skea finds that "Plath did use the Tarot to order her Ariel manuscripts and that at least some of the poems were written with a particular Tarot card in mind. But given that the chronological order in which the poems were written is markedly different to the order in which the cards are arranged in a traditional Tarot journey, her method of using the cards is still a puzzle." Skea's work on examining these poems well illustrates and supports the seeming puzzling nature of Plath's use of these cards in her work. I find particularly, beautifully written, Skea's final thoughts on the subject:

Words, as Plath wrote are like axes. The echoes of their strokes can travel "off from the centre like horses". And there are so many echoes in Plath's poetry – echoes of her life, the people she knew, her loves and her hates; echoes of mythology, folk–tales and magic – that her poems can mean many different things to many different people. Perhaps she did use the Tarot in Ariel, perhaps not. Whatever one believes about that, Plath's Ariel poems are remarkable poems written, as Ted Hughes said, "with the full power and music of her extraordinary nature". Ariel, as he also said, "is not easy poetry to criticize. It is not much like any other poetry". But "It is her… It is just like her – but permanent".


The Plath Diaries said...

Glad you are having a great time in England, Peter! Absolutely cannot wait to read PP6 and hear about everything you presented.

Beautiful closing words from Ann Skea. I'm quite sceptical when it comes to tarot but think it's definitely fascinating to think Plath used her interest in it to organise Ariel.

P.s. Gail Crowther is so pretty!! Love her hair!

Anonymous said...

I really like the way the title page for the talk is superimposed on the ghost of a letter from SP. Having "with much gratitude / Sylvia" at the bottom right, just below your names is a nice touch. It's almost as though she's thanking you.

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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.