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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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. Forthcoming.
  • 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.

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