27 October 2014

Gail Crowther & Elizabeth Sigmund on Sylvia Plath in Devon: A New Book

What better way to remember Sylvia Plath's birthday today than by announcing the forthcoming publication of an exciting new book?

Sylvia Plath's friend, and dedicatee of The Bell Jar, Elizabeth Sigmund and Plath scholar Gail Crowther have joined forces in the forthcoming book Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning to be published in early 2015 by Fonthill. As of right now, the scheduled publication date is 14 February 2015. The book will be available from Fonthill, as well as via Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

From the Amazon blurb:
Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning is part memoir, part biography focusing on the fifteen months that Sylvia Plath lived in North Tawton, Devon from September 1961 to December 1962. This was an extraordinary time for Plath as she finished the proofs on her first novel The Bell Jar and in the autumn of 1962 produced most of her dazzling "Ariel" poems. Elizabeth Sigmund recalls the year of her friendship with Plath from their first meeting drinking tea to attending music concerts together. Gail Crowther considers the impact Plath's domestic life had on her creative work during this period drawing for the first time on unpublished letters, documents and previously unseen resources from a wide range of archives in the UK, US and Canada. What emerges is a unique and industrious picture of Plath as she settled into town life forging new friendships, giving birth to her second child, decorating her new home and producing some of the most memorable and powerful poetry of the 20th century.
The subtitle of the book is taken from Dylan Thomas' "Poem in October": "O may my heart’s truth / Still be sung / On this high hill in a year's turning", which Plath marked in her copy of Thomas' Collected Poems. (As a side note, in addition to it being Plath's birthday today, it is also Dylan Thomas', who was born 100 years ago.) Crowther & Sigmund's book features a fascinating amount of concise, soundly researched information about Plath's life and works during this period and many contextual photographs. Excellently written, Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning is certainly a must read for any scholar, fan, reader, or otherwise of Sylvia Plath. I would offer a "Satisfaction Guaranteed" guarantee but I am aware of certain people out there who are simply too hard to please.

Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning offers unique insight into the year that Sylvia Plath lived and worked in Devon. The book includes:

  • Previously unpublished memories by one of Sylvia Plath’s close friends.
  • Information from newly discovered letters and documents from the archives offering a unique portrayal of Sylvia Plath during her most productive year.
  • Previously unpublished images.
  • Offers a fuller and more in depth depiction of Plath during this final year of her life.

Congratulations to Gail and Elizabeth! Pre-order today!

All links accessed 16 October 2014.


The Plath Diaries said...

Oh wow, this will be a very interesting read. To me, everything for Sylvia in Devon has a real touch of sadness. The little journal fragment of 2nd March 1962, where she is at the Tyrers and overheard the women gossiping about an American girl really fills me with sadness: "I later sobbed --- for the poor heard-of American girl, and for the flat malice of people I keep dreaming into friends". I think a lot of that statement is a very personal reflection of her own isolation.

I look forward to reading this and hope it will detail more about Plath's love of the area, her bees and maternal joy than the disintegration of her marriage.

Also interested to see how much of an imprint Sigmund and Crowther think Devon has on the 1963 poems. This is something I have been asking myself in recent months.

Peter K Steinberg said...

It's a fascinating and educational book, Maeve! Having read it and cherished it myself, Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning is the fullest treatment to date of this pivotal period in Plath's life and leaves I don't think any stone unturned. The book is about her life, letters, creative works (poems and stories and children), friendships and does necessarily discuss the breakdown of the marriage. But that isn't its focus as all. Readers are in for a treat!!


Anonymous said...

OhMyGod Peter,that's a really great new for me and my thirst for books about Sylvia (yes because they're never enough) Thank u for this big new and thanks to Gail Crowther & Elizabeth Sigmund,i really can't wait to have the book in my hands..I've read so many biographies abt Sylvia but I haven't loved all of them since some of them written not straight from personal acquaintances/friends of Sylvia therefore full of mistakes,false news,exagerations,etc etc. But THIS!! This is written from people near her and from people who really knew her and knew the real facts.So Im already excited and really can't wait to have it to enrich my knowledge abt Sylvia and to enrich my already quite largely full of books shelves of and about Sylvia-of which collection of books Im proud and jelous of).And couldnt help and notice the date of publication : 14 february ..Valentine Day :-) (coincidence?) I guess it couldnt be chosen better date for Plath's lovers as we are ;-) What a big new, Peter, thank u, u made my day and cheered up my lunch break. Have a great day, Peter xxx hugs from Florence, Alessandra (Alina for friends+family)
p.s. Happy Birthday Sylvia! (where ever u are..U're missed)

Anna said...

OMG!!! I'm sooooo excited! Can't wait! Setting a counter right now!!!!

P.H.Davies said...

How interesting and completely unexpected - I long wondered if Elizabeth would ever write a memoir, and she has! I have pre-ordered my copy already - I can't wait to read it and gain more insight into this pivotal part of Plath's life!

Anonymous said...

Sounds marvellous - what a team! Cath

Anna said...

As excited as I am, I am also a little disappointed that it is only 128 pages, but I if you say there is a 100% "Satisfaction Guaranteed" guarantee that I completely trust you, Peter! ;)

But wait, I just remembered that there already is a seven page memoir by Elizabeth (Compton) Sigmund titled "Sylvia in Devon: 1962" in Edward Butscher's Sylvia Plath: The Woman and her Work (1977). Is the first memoir also part of the book?


Nick Smart said...

I am very excited to get and read this book. Right from the time Elizabeth mentioned in Plymouth that she had decided to share her story, I've looked forward to this. I can think of no one better than Gail to bring this story to us. I have a strong interest in Plath's time in Devon so I can hardly wait.

Sally York said...

Hard to believe Elizabeth Sigmund has anything new to say, given her extensive interviews with biographers over the years and the memoir she penned for the Butscher anthology. But I know Crowther to a fine writer and researcher, and for the few fresh nuggets she's no doubt unearthed, plus the previously unpublished photos, you can be sure I'll buy a copy of the book. Thanks for telling us about it.

Rehan Qayoom said...

How amazing! Only yesterday I was thinking of the lack of material on Plath in England in comparison to that on her early life in the US which has been well-documented, so I anticipate this publication greatly.

BridgetAnna said...

PKS, I do plan on purchasing this book, but as you've already read it, I wonder if you can fill me in--are the three bonfires Plath set mentioned or discussed in the book? Thanks, b

Peter K Steinberg said...


I hope you enjoy the book, but I'm not at liberty to say anything about what is or is not discussed.


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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.