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


Peter K Steinberg said...

I would like to thank Hélène sincerely for her PayPal gift. I am beyond expression at her generosity. Thank you!! ~pks

Peter K Steinberg said...

Eva! Now you too! Thank you so much for your generous gift. Hugs! ~pks

Katarzyna Maicher said...

Bravo, Peter :)

A Piece of Plathery said...

What a fabulous year of Plathing and much to look forward to next year. Merry Christmas!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you Plathery! Happy holidays to you & yours.

I'd also like to thank Nancy and Suzanne for their very generous "tips". Thank you thank you thank you. ~pks

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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.