25 December 2018

Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar Translations

The truth is, I really thought I was done buying the property, or former property, of Frieda Hughes. Turns out, I was wrong.

Back on 29 August 2018, there was an auction for seven boxes of books in translation by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes via Halls Fine Art in Shrewsbury, England. The winner of the lot was a gentleman in every sense of the word called Norman Macdonald. He started listing his new stock online via ABEbooks and included images of many of the books. The provenance to these books is Ted Hughes to Frieda Hughes, and some of the books include letters from Faber passing on the copy/copies of the book(s).

I love translations of The Bell Jar, so I was particularly focused on these as I browsed the collection, which is only partially listed so far through Norman's ABE page. I selected five that wound up being Christmas presents from my wife which fill in missing languages. They are:

Croatian edition, 1991

Dutch edition, 1981

Korean edition, 2013

Serbian edition, 1976

Slovakian edition, 2015

The Slovak translation included one of these aforementioned letters from Faber to Frieda Hughes. A couple of these were new to me and so are now on the Non-English book covers page over at A celebration, this is. And as well, some of the books now have better images, if they were already represented.

These books join other translations: Norwegian, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Swedish, Spanish, Catalan, Turkish, Japanese, Macedonian, Estonian, and Slovenian. And I have an edition in Braille, too.

I highly recommend you all view Normal Macdonald's Collection of Sylvia Plath's and Ted Hughes' books and acquire something for yourself. Norman's pricing is fair and his customer service is professional and expedient. It is a unique opportunity to own something with a rich, significant, and unimpeachable provenance.

My parents gave me this Arcturus edition of The Bell Jar for Christmas, too.  It us really lovely.

All links accessed 19 November 2018.

15 December 2018

Sylvia Plath Year in Review 2018

2018!!! To quote Tori Amos, it was a "pretty good year"!! In fact it seems the last few years have been filled with Sylvia Plath! That is a good thing. This is, as usual, a blog post recapping the year of Sylvia Plath as it appeared in this blog and in my life and I hope that somehow there is a confluence with how you perceived Plath in yours.

In December 2017, I found out about the big Bonhams auction but was asked to stay quiet on it. Which was difficult, but necessary. So to keep that at bay I decided to post right off the bat about the 43 newly located articles on Plath's first suicide attempt. I just can't stop looking for Sylvia Plath. In January I helped to proof the Bonhams sales catalogue, found out that Smith College was going to get the Ruth Beuscher letters, and started the first round of proofing of the second volume of Plath's letters. I guess you could say that the year started out on fire!

At the Belfast Plath conference in November 2017, I met Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and we began collaborating on two blog posts about the famous Ted Hughes trunk at Emory. After doing some investigating, drafting and correcting some blog posts, and even getting some photographs of the famed trunk we decided to post about it in February, which is generally a "big" Plath month. The first post revealed that the trunk had been opened more than a decade earlier; and the second post included thoughts on the news from a random selection of Plath and Hughes scholars.

Towards the end of February, we (Karen V. Kukil and I) received word that we could use the Ruth Beuscher letters in volume 2 of The Letters of Sylvia Plath. Karen transcribed the letters and then sent them to me for proofing and annotating. It did require some moving around of footnotes but this was a happy thing to do for these letters fill in massive gaps in Plath's (auto)biographical record. And it was an intense, emotional experience.

Also in February the full list of items in the auction was released and the counting of pennies commenced. And it continued until the auction itself was held on 21 March 2018. It was appointment viewing and as cliche as that sounds, it really is true. I flirted with staying home from work that day to watch online, but then feared a snow storm, freak loss of power, etc. and decided to come into where the connection is only marginally somewhat more reliable. I do not think I breathed for several hours. It was a stunning event and I walked away the winner of one lot and the loser of many others. A big article was written on the auction by Kate Bolick called "Who Bought Sylvia Plath's Stuff." Around this time, Plath was also given a very overdue obituary in the New York Times. Meanwhile, proofing continued on the Letters into early March and by the end of the month we were indexing.

In early April, my winning item, Plath's fishing rod was delivered. I immediately went to New York City to participate in a Letters related talk with Karen. After the event I took a train home and before the next sunrise I was in the emergency room with something wrong with me. Someone obviously did not like my talk and put a hex on me. While recovering from this I continued indexing the majority of the Letters, and then prepared to go to Columbia College in Chicago to talk about the Letters there, and then sat in and participated in a glass taught by my good friend David Trinidad. While in Chicago, I met a fellow-Plath reader Kelly Coyne and had a lovely coffee with her, continued to index and also proof the front matter for the Letters. I felt very happy with the way things went and am now the proud owner of David's worksheets (on pink paper) for his poem "Nothing in the Box" which was his response to the Ted Hughes trunk story. It is a prized possession.

In April and May I started trying to trace where various Bonhams auction lots went and even got a guest blog post about Frieda Hughes's blue coat. In addition to Tammy's blue coat (which Plath mentions in a couple of letters!), David Trinidad won Plath's cane table (see also "Sylvia's Table"), and I acquired two books: White Horses and Black Bulls, signed and inscribed to Plath by the author Alan C. Jenkins and an unbound proof copy of Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams with a couple of corrections by Ted Hughes. In the course of time I have traced about 56 lots. Many went to booksellers who have either sold or are trying to sell the individual books from multi-item lots. And I have gotten to see a few things held privately, too.

In early May we finalized and finished The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2: 1956-1963 and at the end of that month I had a surgery I had been putting off. And it actually helped me recover from the fatigue of the project by forcing me to have some down time! But... as I am stubborn I was still at work because by this point Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and I had started formulating a book project and were soliciting publishers. So while that was going on, I was transcribing some of the letters and journals that will go into our The Selected Writings of Assia Wevill, which the LSU Press will publish. We signed the contract in August. At the end of the month, the Daily Mail of England serialized the letters and the book was published by Faber on 6 September in England.

Throughout the year various other blog posts were done such as one looking at the publishing history of Plath's poem "Mad Girl's Love Song"; Ted Hughes' scrapbook at Emory; and a bibliography of movies, plays and the like that Plath saw. Also over the summer, the BBC aired Sylvia Plath: Inside The Bell Jar, a one-hour documentary which featured, for the first time in video, Frieda Hughes and many of Plath's friends talking about Plath and the novel.

October brought with it some excitement as is usual for Plath's birth month. There ended up being, I think, two big things. First was the British Library event called "Triple-Threat Woman: The Letters of Sylvia Plath" which included Karen, Heather Clark, Mark Ford, and myself talking about Plath's letters and wonderfully chaired by Elizabeth Lowry. The above photo of the stage and participants was taken by Gillian Groszewski (source: Twitter). The event was a warm one, I feel, and it was wonderful to see familiar faces and meet a lot of new people as well. Then for/on Plath's birthday Faber announced they would be publishing a short story by Plath in January 2019 entitled "Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom". I was lucky enough to work with Faber on the press release, as well as with Richard Lea of The Guardian on their article: "Unseen Sylvia Plath short story to be published in January". HarperCollins will publish the story in the US. At the eleventh hour, just about HarperCollins had to delay publication of their edition of The Letters of Sylvia Plath by one week from 30 October to 6 November. Within a month, however, the book was already into a second printing which is simply astonishing. The reviews have generally been very good.

In November I attended the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair and on the Saturday, sat at Jett Whitehead's booth to talk Plath, sign books, and breathe in the lovely atmosphere of rare books. On Sunday, I gave a talk on the Letters and signed some more books. It was a really neat experience. The highlight for me was the honor of speaking to friends and peers. In terms of books, the crowning moment was handling Plath's own proof of The Bell Jar in Jonkers Rare Books booth that was particularly magical.

My twitter friends voted for immediate access to two long-term projects that have been ongoing for years, so I skipped a few scheduled blog posts to get you good people access to the Sylvia Plath Archival Documents Hub and a bibliography of Articles about Sylvia Plath. Enjoy!

On 5 December, a letter from Sylvia Plath to Katherine Benion sold at Bonhams for $8,000. It was a six-page handwritten letter and is a lovely one. Congratulations to the winner.

Also in December, Plath's adolescent home located at 26 Elmwood Road went on the market. The current owner purchased the house directly from Aurelia Plath in the 1980s. That's just two owners from October 1942 until the end of 2018/early 2019. Impressive. I have been privileged to be inside the house twice in 2012 and 2016.

In addition to Mary Ventura and Ninth Kingdom coming out (Faber & HarperCollins), there are reissues to look forward to in 2019 including the Carol Ann Duffy version of Selected Poems (Faber, March) and Ariel (Faber, September). Also, probably in the autumn, will be The Letters of Sylvia Plath in paperback. More information on those when I have it! We have some books on Sylvia Plath to look forward to in the coming years. First up in 2019 should be Sylvia Plath in Context, a collection of essays edited by Tracy Brain to be published by Cambridge University Press. Also on the horizon are Carl Rollyson's The Last Days of Sylvia Plath and Heather Clark's The Light of the Mind: A Life of Sylvia Plath. Both promise to reveal new details and insights into Plath's biography and I am sure you are just as impatient as I am to see these in bookstores.

Well, this is just about all I can think to point out about this year in Sylvia Plath from my perspective. How about yours? What are your impressions for this year of Sylvia Plath? I'm sorry if I forgot something or overlooked something; it was purely accidental. A year is a long time and they can be tricky to summarize. Remember that the blog archive of more than 1,150 posts is there; I hope some of the older posts are still relevant! And please do not forget about my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is.

Unless I get something Plath-related for Christmas, this will be the last Sylvia Plath Info Blog Post of the year.  I have an exciting post all set and ready for 1 January 2019 and am looking forward to some down time with family. Thank you all, as usual and with all the genuine sincerity I can express, for reading these blog posts, for your comments and support, for your emails and your friendship. I would like to ask that for any content which you may have enjoyed or benefited from, please consider sending me a tip via PayPal. There are expenses associated with the work I do on Plath and while it is something I enjoy, it is starting to take a toll. Thank you for at least considering! All funds will be put towards making Sylvia Plath Info better.

This has been the most vigorous period of my Plath-life and I know I would not have gotten through it without your support and words of encouragement. So, thank you sincerely for that. The year ends much as it began as we are finalizing a list of corrections and updates for the paperback issue(s) of The Letters of Sylvia Plath. Be safe, be merry, be Plathy!

All links accessed on 8, 16, and 24 November and 1 and 12 December 2018.

Please note: The post was slightly revised on 17 December 2018 to include a paragraph of the sale of 26 Elmwood Road. ~pks

10 December 2018

Sylvia Plath Collections: University of Kansas

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas holds a portion of the Critical Quarterly Archive (summary of contents). It was purchased in 1968 from Argosy Books in New York and contains: "584 Letters (including 9 retained copies of letters from CQ), Manuscript fair copies of poems, reviews, essays, and proofs." The abstract to the collections says:
Archives (letters received; some texts and proofs): of literary magazine. Submissions of material to Critical Quarterly; friendly personal news; literary gossip; academic life. Some polite notes from famous names. Some material concerning Cox or Dyson rather than the Critical Quarterly.
As you might imagine, they contain Sylvia Plath archival materials... There are ten letters from Plath to the journal's editors A. E. Dyson and C. B. Cox from 1960 to 1961. I learned of the collection first through Linda Wagner-Martin's wonderful Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life (1999, 2nd ed. 2003).

I have withheld posting on this Sylvia Plath collection for many years as the ten letters formed an integral part of an essay I selfishly wanted to write on the poetry supplement Plath edited for the CQ in 1961 entitled American Poetry Now. I was able to write the essay, "'What's been happening in a lot of American poetry': Sylvia Plath as editor and reviewer", for the book I co-wrote with Gail Crowther, These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath (Fonthill), where it appears as Chapter 7. Another reason for not posting this was that the letters were to be printed in The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2.

This is one of those intricate archival stories where pieces are scattered and where sense can only be made once all those pieces are discovered, assembled, and studied. Papers relating to Plath's work on the American Poetry Now pamphlet are spread between at least five repositories: University of Kansas, Indiana University, Smith College, Emory University, and the University of Manchester. It is possible other materials are held elsewhere, too!

The correspondence at the University of Kansas is just part of the story. The letters are dated 16 January 1960; 22 February 1960; 1 January 1960 [1961]; 3 May 1961; 17 June 1961; 25 June 1961; 24 August 1961; 17 October 1961; 14 November 1961; and 12 December 1961. While it is evident that Plath received letters, it does not appear that she kept them (and the journal did not apparently retain carbons).

The initial letters from 1960 deal with publication of Plath's poetry. Namely her verse "Medallion" which was awarded a best poem prize as well as submissions. The eight 1961 letters all relate to American Poetry Now.

If you are interested in the other holdings outside of Kansas, you will find them in the following:

Emory University: Sylvia Plath: Subseries Prose
Indiana University: Plath mss
Smith College: Sylvia Plath Collection, Series XVI: Writings of Others Collected & Edited by SP
University of Manchester: Critical Quarterly Archive

All links accessed 20 April 2017 and 6 December 2018.

05 December 2018

1951 Sylvia Plath Letter at Bonhams

A six-page handwritten letter that Sylvia Plath wrote to Katherine Benion on 3 March 1951 appeared at auction today at Bonhams, New York. Lot number 212 was estimated to sell for $7,000-$10,000 dollars, which averages to a minimum of $1,166.6666666667 per page!

The lot sold for $10,000 which includes the buyers premium. Hammer price was $8,000.

Images from Bonhams

From the catalog description:
Autograph Letter Signed ("Sylvia Plath"), to Miss Katherine Benion, concerning how she got started in writing, 6 pp (on 2 pairs of conjoining leaves), 8vo, [Northampton, MA], March 3, 1951, in ink on blue-bordered patterned stationery, folded, light handling smudges.
Provenance: Family of the recipient, by descent.

A remarkable early Plath letter discussing her budding career as a writer, written when she was just 18 years old and attending Smith College. "... that's the total of my 'published' record — two poems, a story, an article and a story to appear in May." The recipient was a teacher and freelance writer, who was a young mother at the time. Responding to an inquiry about her writing, Plath seems unsure about whether it is her true calling: "I read one choice little article about me titled 'Born to Write.' That, I think, was rather too bad, because I just happened to get a few little things published, and I was born for reasons other than writing, I'm sure." She seems a little surprised to have anyone ask about her, saying "... I don't consider myself anything unusual...." and "When I am asked to talk about myself, I always stop with a start and wonder — Who am I anyway? I am afraid sometimes that I am writing about a fictional character that exists only in my mind." On the last page she talks about her development as a writer, saying "As I grew older, I found that I could sustain a story mood for more and more pages. I could assimilate more experiences with a greater depth of feeling, and so here I am, now eighteen, hoping that I have something worthwhile to say...."
Sylvia Plath received a letter from Benion on 17 February 1951. Plath replied in this 3 March letter and received a second letter from Benion on 24 March 1951. Both letters from Benion are stored in Plath's High School Scrapbook held by the Lilly Library. (See a catalog of the scrapbooks contents.) Benion sought information about Plath for a proposed article on a young writer but it is not clear whether said article was ever written or printed.

All links accessed 26 November and 5 December 2018.

01 December 2018

Articles about Sylvia Plath: A Bibliography

One cannot deny that reading Sylvia Plath's works fills each of us with immense pleasure. It is also a thought-provoking activity which often leads to writing about Plath. Many of us have done it and will continue to do it. Articles about Plath show how she was viewed at the time of their publication as well as reflect the education and (potential) biases of the writer. They are a rich history of perspectives and form the foundation upon which our current interpretation(s) and understanding(s) of Plath's works and life are built. And they potentially forecast how Plath scholarship will develop in the future, too. Or, at least, in some instances, show us how far we have come.

I have been at work for about fifteen years or so on an updated bibliography of articles about Sylvia Plath that is built from Stephen Tabor's Sylvia Plath: An Analytical Bibliography (1987). Additional bibliographies by Meyering (1990), Lane and Stevens (1978), and Northouse and Walsh (1974) are other books the assembled lists of articles. I have limited my scope largely to articles in English as that is the only language I can read, and it is also the predominant language in which Plath is discussed. I am particularly excited to publish this list now as 2018 is the 20th anniversary of my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is.

The Articles about Sylvia Plath link is now active on the bibliography page of my website. It joins other lists of articles such as reviews of Plath's books and articles on her first suicide attempt. Before I converted the document to HTML, the list of articles stretched to more than 160 pages.

The document is imperfect in many ways. For example, there are citations lacking some information. Dates and titles may even be "incorrect". The internet has in some ways wreaked havoc on the art of bibliography because not only do articles appear online both before, concurrently to, and after they are printed, but oftentimes the title in one format is different from the other. So what can you do? The best you can! I prefer the information refer to printed sources, but in some instances it was impossible for me to ascertain the preferred details. I have not numbered the entries either. This may disappoint some, but it is far easier not to do this. My apologies.

For online articles, there are no url's/links and this is because at the beginning of this project url's were finicky, often broken, and sometimes just simply gone a short time later.

The document will be updated periodically throughout the year. If I have omitted an article, please do not take it personally! But, please do email me the citation in the format that matches those on the page.

All links accessed 16 and 26 November and 1 December 2018.
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