24 August 2016

New Sylvia Plath Info Content

As you know, or should know, I post on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt every year on 24 August. Or, I try to. In the past, such blog posts have detailed newly found articles from cities and towns across the United States. This got me thinking: It is fine and dandy to write about them, but how about sharing visuals with you all? Well, I have seen to that.

Over on my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is, visitors can now see and download PDFs or JPGs of all the articles that I have found on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt in August 1953. It is my eternal hope that by seeing the list of articles and now the articles themselves, that the sensation this story was, and the concern and chaos and confusion, can be truly grasped.

So, please head over to the "Bibliography of Newspaper Articles on Sylvia Plath's First Suicide Attempt in August 1953" and click around and save some files. Most of the articles come from microfilm either held by the Boston Public Library or obtained through their Interlibrary Loan service, several come from either databases or archives such as Smith College or Cambridge University. Additionally, a few articles were found on the rich and incomparable Old Fulton Postcards website.

The quality of some of these is admittedly wanting improvement. As I can, I will rescan and re-upload better, brighter, and clearer versions. New articles will be posted as they are found, if they are found. If you live in or near a town or a city not on this list, please do consider visiting the local or college/university library and looking at microfilm for 25-28 August 1953 for additional articles. If you find something, your contribution(s) to this bibliography will certainly be acknowledged and will as well be very much appreciated.

All links accessed 18 and 22 July 2016.

10 August 2016

Sylvia Plath in Benidorm

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes traveled to the end of Spain for their honeymoon in the summer of 1956. After getting married, they went from London to Cambridge to London to Paris to Madrid, where they rested before moving on to Alicante and, ultimately, Benidorm. They left Spain via Barcelona on 22 August 1956, stayed in Paris for about a week, and returned to England on 29 August 1956. In all she had been one the continent for more than two months.

This post is about Plath's time in Benidorm and was inspired by Gail Crowther's finding and sending me the following two videos in April: Benidorm in Color, 1950s and Antique photographs of Benidorm. These, in congruence with a long paper on Plath's time Benidorm "De quan Sylvia Plath va vindre a Benidorm" by Pasqual AlmiƱana Orozco, were positively revelatory in my understanding more clearly than ever Plath's time there.

Of course, one cannot consider Plath's time in Benidorm, also, without use of the rich record of documents from her time there: her letters, journals, personal pocket calendars, artwork, poetry, and fiction. As well, one should consider what Ted Hughes wrote in his own letters and in poems such as "You Hated Spain", "Moonwalk", "Drawing" and others. It is possible to read and observe output in each of these mediums and gain much insight into her time there. Benidorm itself has changed so dramatically since 1956 that some might say it would be impossible to trace Plath. However, the videos linked above, which I hope still work, capture the Spanish fishing town as a very undeveloped and sleepy village, seemingly sparsely populated, and very much as Plath herself saw it, lived in in, and documented it.

In viewing the videos in April, I took screenshots of various scenes that, either from my memory or via research conducted in the interim, evoked Plath's works. I will try to give accurate information to each screenshot to help to contextualize it. Plath's journals were the starting point for placing the scenes in the films, in particular, journal entries from 15 July and 18 August 1956 (Appendix 10).

15 July 1956
"Widow Mangada's house: pale, peach-brown stucco on the main Avenida running along shore, facing the beach of reddish yellow sand with all the gaily painted cabanas making a maze of bright blue wooden stilts and small square patches of shadow."
Plath's 15 July 1956 journal entry is so close to her short story "That Widow Mangada" that it seems like the entry might have been notes or a draft of the story. Plath herself knew that the widow's name wasn't "Mangada", for on two letters held by the Lilly Library she lists her return address as being in care of "Enriqueta Luhoz Ortiz". However, according to Plath's pocket calendar, the idea for the story did not come to her until 3 August 1956, well after they had left this abode facing the ocean for another house just up from the center of the town. Perhaps Mangada was a nickname she, Ortiz, gave to herself? It does not appear to be a Spanish word, though "Manga" means "sleeves" and "da" means "gives". Perhaps it's "That Widow Gives Sleeves"?

In the images below, I've drawn arrows to the the house that I believe was Widow Mangada's based on Plath's descriptions and information contained in the paper by Orozco linked above. By the way, if anyone is brave enough to try to translate document into English I will send them something in gratitude.

"Out in the middle of the bay juts a rock island, slanting up from the horizon line to form a sloped triangle of orange rock..." Not much else to say about the blow image: Plath nailed it.

18 August 1956
"The houses of Benidorm cluster along the top of a rocky headland jutting out into the bay." By the time Plath wrote this on 18 August 1956, she and Hughes were living at 59 Tomas Ortunio. They enjoyed their time there as they had an entire house to themselves and were very self-sufficient.  The subsequent quotes say pretty much all there is to say about the images captured in the films.

"The blurred words "Hotel Planesia" are printed in faded black letters on the long windowless side of the building."

"Below the buildings of the hotel, a staircase cut in rock zigzags down to the beach..."

"...the fluted blue dome of the Castillo..."

Sylvia Plath: Drawings features the houses clustered on the rocky headland (p. 37) and Carrero del Gats (p. 38), both of which appear in the film. Plath also drew the sardine boats and their very distinctive lights (p. 35; published first in the Christian Science Monitor). Seeing the boats and lights in the film and then looking at Plath's drawing was a very awesome experience and I hope that you feel the same way.

Carrero del Gats (these images include some map and other views, as well as those taken from the videos):

Sardine Boats:

How do you feel about seeing these long, gone places and scenes captured contemporaneously, in color, to Plath's time in Benidorm? It fairly blew my mind. Thanks thanks thanks to Gail for finding these on YouTube and for sending them to me (us).

All linked accessed 29 April and 8 August 2016

01 August 2016

These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath

Gail Crowther and I have, today, submitted the manuscript of our book of essays, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath, to our publisher Fonthill.

The authors mirroring Plath & Hughes in 3 Chalcot Square, London
As many of you may know, Gail and I co-wrote a series of five papers entitled "These Ghostly Archives" which appeared in Plath Profiles from 2009 to 2013. While we encourage you to re-read these papers (linked here), please do not memorize them or anything as they have all be revised and expanded extensively. We did this as the narrative of the book is necessarily different to the way they were presented in their annual publications in the journal.

The Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington
The book has an introduction and eight chapters (5 conversation chapters in the vein of the original papers, two solo chapters, and one jointly written chapter). In addition, we have submitted a number of photographs of Plath (many previously unpublished), of places she lived and wrote about, and archival documents among others.

Court Green, North Tawton, Devon
We will keep you posted on this blog and on Gail's website with any updates that we can and hope to see the book in print sometime in the late Spring of 2017.

Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
In the meantime, please do get yourselves ready for Gail's excellent new book: The Haunted Reader and Sylvia Plath, which will be published by Fonthill in 24 days (Amazon.co.uk).

All links accessed 1 August 2016.

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