21 December 2020

"Merciless churn": Sylvia Plath Year in Review 2020

2020 started off with an absolute Sylvia Plath bang with the news that Emory University purchased the Harriet Rosenstein papers related to Sylvia Plath. A few of us knew about it in late 2019, but when the collection would open for research was unclear. Well, they were opened up first thing. I hired Emily Banks, a graduate student at Emory, to take photographs of the papers. Throughout January and into very early February, Emily sent me daily files and it was kind of a mad flurry new information. It resulted in a streak of blog posts that I hope conveyed what it was like for me to read the files and try to process all the information. The best way to see these posts would be to look at the January and, respectively, February blog archives. 


There are other blog posts in there, too. For example, I was privileged to join Janet Badia, Heather Clark, and Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick in Seattle for an MLA conference panel on Plath studies and Assia Wevill. It was great fun, though our panel was effectively screwed because it was at a bad time of day. I posted my talk, "The Indefatigable Sylvia Plath", and small versions of the slides on the blog. Later, I interviewed Gail Crowther about her forthcoming book on Plath and Anne Sexton and wrote on Plath's funeral. In very early March, we had a guest post on a slim file of Plath materials held by Newnham College written by Di Beddow. Absolutely lovely! 

And then the world kind of stopped.

But Sylvia Plath and the blog did not. Because Sylvia Plath is like "the hooves of the horses". Sylvia Plath has a "merciless churn." In fact, at 83 posts this year, it was the busiest blog year since 2013. How do you like that?

After a very important blog post appeared in early April about men who may need a... boost, Gail Crowther and I launched an idea to hold some talks via Zoom. So we organized a series of three Zoomposiums that featured a total of 30 Plath scholars. They were recorded and made available via this blog's YouTube channel. We were so thrilled by the response to them: thank you again and again to all participants: both speakers and viewers. To prepare for them, we did a series of pre-talks to test out the technology and, in general, the interest. I did a talk on the Letters of Sylvia Plath and this was followed by Gail and I reading the first chapter of These Ghostly Archives.

In May there was another guest post, this one by Eirin Holberg which was a very interesting update and response to a previous blog post on John Malcolm Brinnan and Bill Read's The Modern Poets (1963). And then, in June, there were blog posts on what Plath did in New York City on 18 June 1953, two posts on Plath's Bell Jar, and the first of three (that continued into July) which looked at postcards Plath sent her mother from France in June and July 1961. 

For no particular reason, I took most of August off, but still did three posts. One of which was about a good number of new articles that appeared on Plath's disappearance in August 1953; including one in Canada. This takes my search for Sylvia Plath into the realm of the international! In August and September there were two posts regarding the Letters of Sylvia Plath and how I spent some of the downtime this spring organizing my Plath stuff. As well as a post on Plath's marginalia. 

In late September, I learned that because of the pandemic, Emory University was allowing remote access to the digitized Harriet Rosenstein interview tapes, so I spent more than four weeks straight listening and re-listening to the interviews. And I listened to them off and on throughout November and into this month. 

In October, this blog was particularly active as it tends to be each year in this month. It is Plath's birth month after all... Heather Clark's Red Comet led to a flurry of book reviews and a virtual book tour and I was even privileged to speak with her on the 23rd of the month in an event hosted by Politics and Prose, an independent bookstore in Washington, D.C. The day following, the recently formed Sylvia Plath Society hosted a Zoom birthday party with four panels of speakers. 

Things began to wind down as they always do in November and December. On the 9th and 16th of November I did a couple of posts on the Rosenstein audio tapes, digitized by Emory, that I hope users will find useful. And in December... That is this month! I meant to post on some ex-libris books at Yale in March but time and the post itself slipped through my hands like so much water until December. Prior to that I showed off a view of Chalcot Square from inside Plath's flat at number 3. It is the view she mentioned in her story "Day of Success". And recently Amy C. Rea contributed a review of Heather Clark's Red Comet.

New books about Plath this year were Carl Rollyson's The Last Days of Sylvia Plath; Dave Haslam's slim My Second Home: Sylvia Plath in Paris, 1956; and Heather Clark's monumental-colossal-gargantuan-Brobdingnagian Red Comet: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath. Granta Publications reissued Janet Malcom's The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, too, in April. In later November, Susan E. Schwartz published The Absent Father Effect on Daughters which features a chapter on Plath. Congrats to all!

New books by Plath in 2020 were all but non-existent (in English) Barnes & Noble "Collectible Editions" of The Collected Poems and The Bell Jar in a single volume. There were several editions of Plath's work published for the first time or reissued in non-English languages. 

Over on A celebration, this is, I revamped both the bibliography and thumbnail gallery of covers of the translations of Sylvia Plath after years of unintended neglect. This page is particularly robust because of some help that I have received from Anna of Loving Sylvia Plath whose passion for translations is almost unmatched. Other book covers were added as they were found, both in translation and as well as in English. General other improvements and changes were made, too. 

Metrics! The blog had more than 35,000 visitors and the website had more than 21,000. The metrics are measured vastly differently than before so I have no idea what this means. The top pages his on A celebration, this is were: Biography, Synopses of stories in Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, the bibliography of articles about Plath, the poetry works page, and The Bell Jar page. 

Looking forward to 2021? After such a strange 2020, how could one not be? I know I am excited for 2021 because we will get to read Gail Crowther's Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton set to be published by Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) on 21 April (May in the UK). This is Gail's fourth book. Just before this, on 2 March, is a book on The Barbizon by Paulina Bren. Later on in the year, in the autumn, LSU Press will be publishing a book co-edited by Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and me: The Collected Writings of Assia Wevill. The Bloomsbury Handbook to Sylvia Plath may be out late in 2021. Very excited to see all these in print.

2020 was the year of Zoom. And, as well, it was the year of Harriet Rosenstein finally getting some kind of recognition for her early work on Plath. Much of it is to be commended, though her nearly fifty years of selfishness has delayed irreparably biographical study and understanding of Sylvia Plath.

Thank you all sincerely for visiting the website and the blog and for your interactions and support on Twitter and elsewhere. Thank you for your friendship and encouragement. I would like to ask that for any content which you may have enjoyed or benefited from, that you 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 love, it does have its expenses. Thank you for at least considering! All funds will be put towards making the website, the Sylvia Plath Info Blog, and Twitter better.

All links accessed on and after 12 October 2020.

16 December 2020

Amy C. Rea Reviews Heather Clark's Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath

Here’s a thing about me: I’m a voracious reader, but very rarely have a physically based emotional response to something I’m reading. I don’t laugh out loud, I don’t cry, both of which I do when watching movies. It’s not that I don’t find things funny or sad when I read, but apparently I need more of a visual cue.

So it’s telling that when I got to the end of Dr. Heather Clark’s new biography of Sylvia Plath, Red Comet, I cried. It’s not as if I didn’t know how the story ended. But the level of detail and analysis Clark brings to her study of Plath is so detailed, and her examination of those brutal last weeks so deeply explored, that it broke my heart.

Clark has done some tremendously important and much-needed work with this biography. It would be remiss of me not to note the aid she received from Peter K. Steinberg and the work he did compiling Plath’s Letters. Clark clearly spent a great deal of time studying these source materials, as well as others that were not available to other biographers. There’s meticulous research for endless small pieces of information that contribute to the bigger picture. She has countless quotes from people who knew Plath at every stage of life, including a haunting set of discussions of their reactions to her death.

Another aspect of the book that is so valuable is the careful line Clark keeps to in terms of presenting information with as little bias as possible. Presumably someone who has made the commitment of years and toil to write a book like this has interest and respect for the subject, and certainly Clark approaches Plath from a place of respect. But she doesn’t trip into being an apologist, or, as some biographies have done, canonize Plath while demonizing anyone who didn’t acknowledge that sainthood.

In fact, some of the most remarkable work in this book comes around her treatment of Plath’s mother, Aurelia Plath, and Plath’s husband, Ted Hughes. Biographers have long pointed to Plath being obsessed with the death of her father when she was young as a root of her mental illness. But Clark explores the relationship Plath had with her mother, the difficulties it may have caused, and yet also how Plath herself may have unfairly maligned her mother at times. She points to popular books of the time that were quick to blame mothers for everything wrong with children and how mothers became an easy target. At the same time, Clark notes that Aurelia’s favorite book was Little Women—a book famous for its borderline preachiness and constant recommendations of looking for silver linings and reminding people that the birds still go tweet tweet—and that she was furious that Plath died intestate, leaving her work in Ted’s hands.

Which, of course, is another can of worms altogether. But following his conversations and letters around Plath and her work, it seems likely that we’re fortunate Plath did not name her mother as her literary executor—while Hughes certainly censored things, in the end, a lot of things that were vilifying of him were published, because he understood their worth. Clark is very clear about Hughes’ complexities and failings—she’s not suggesting that his behavior in the last year of Plath’s life was beyond reproach. But neither does she suggest that Plath was also beyond reproach. They were living, breathing, extremely complex people, reacting to situations, politics, and the times they lived in in complex, often unpredictable ways.

Clark examines Plath’s literary output with an eye to how early work predicted later success. She treats Plath’s early works, as well as her prose, with respect and thoughtful commentary. In doing so, she makes it clear that Plath may have had breakthroughs once her life with Ted began, but by no means should that early work be ignored or discounted.

Another valuable aspect of the book is her close examination of the time Plath spent at McLean, and the role of Dr. Beuscher. Clark says she was influenced by Hermione Lee’s foundational biography of Virginia Woolf, in which Lee did a deep dive into the various medications and treatments Woolf received and how we view those today. Clark in turn uncovered the fact that while McLean became a topnotch mental health facility, it wasn’t there yet during the time Plath spent there. Dr. Beuscher herself was at the very beginning of her career, and later admitted that she might not have used the best protocols in her treatment of Plath.

As new resources continue to be discovered, it seems likely that scholarly research and writing will continue. But Red Comet moves us far ahead of where we’ve been in terms of learning about Plath and her work. Yes, it’s a long book—and yet after hearing Clark talk on a Zoom event about how much longer the early drafts were, I’d love to see what was left out.


09 December 2020

Sylvia Plath's Ex-Libris at Yale

Yale University's Beinecke Library recently acquired four books from Sylvia Plath's library.

Three of the books originated in that big March 2018 auction held by Bonhams. Two are by R.S. Thomas:


Both have birthday inscriptions by Ted Hughes from October 1961. Please note a presentation copy from R. S. Thomas to Plath and Hughes is held by Emory.

The third is The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1949).

Another book now at Yale, and likely from the auction, is About Sylvia produced by Enid Mark, Plath's former classmate at Smith College.

The fourth book is The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, formerly belonging to the late Elizabeth Sigmund. This book sold via Bonhams auction in June 2019. The winner was Peter Harrington Rare Books in London, who flipped it to Yale.


In sum, the Beinecke has a very strong collection of Sylvia Plath books. Each of these has been updated in Sylvia Plath's Library, hosted by LibraryThing.

The Beinecke catalog also lists Winter of Artifice: Three Novelettes by Anais Nin held in the Henry Miller papers as being inscribed to Sylvia & Ted. However, I am not sure this is Plath and Hughes and neither is the library as their surnames are in brackets with a question mark. The papers were part of the Roger Wagner collection. Does anyone know about this? When would Plath and Hughes have met Nin or received this volume?

All links accessed 3 March 2020 and 8-9 December 2020.

01 December 2020

A View from Sylvia Plath's "Day of Success"


Sylvia Plath wrote her short story "Day of Success" sometime in 1961. Most likely between February and August. She was living at the time in 3 Chalcot Square (based on the address on a typescript held by Smith College), the building that later thirty-nine years later was awarded a special English Heritage Blue Plaque. 

The seeds of the story had been fertilizing for some time as the story features a young married couple with a baby. The baby is six-months old. But it would be false, as I once did, to think that the story was composed circa October 1960 when Plath's daughter Frieda was that age. The story expertly merges events over several months, which is something Plath employed, also, in writing The Bell Jar. But it likely cannot have been written then because of a later scene in which Jacob Ross returns home very late from a business meeting with Denise Kaye to discuss a play of his. The even this may have been famously modeled from is the one where Ted Hughes returned home late from a meeting with Moira Dolan of the BBC. Hughes returned home to find his Shakespeare and manuscripts shredded to bits. Plath changed the ending to something much happier as this was a story written expressly for the women's magazine market. 

As time goes by and I think about this story, I think it may have been composed in late July or early August 1961 for the simple fact that it involves the couple, at the end, deciding to move out of the city into the deep country. Lots of people dislike reading Plath's creative works biographically, but I am not one of them. 

The typescript of the story, held by Smith College, has the Chalcot Square address typed in the top right. The typescript at Emory appears to be a copy, possibly typed after Plath's death.

In the story, Ellen Ross (possibly a name derived from her acquaintance with Eleanor Ross Taylor) stops for a moment to look out of her window at the square. 

from Bananas (1975)

I was privileged to see the inside of the flat on three occasions. This is the view she was seeing (photograph from 8 February 2014).


23 November 2020

New Book with Sylvia Plath Chapter

Susan E. Schwartz, who has published a number of essays on Sylvia Plath, has a book coming out with Routledge entitled The Absent Father Effect on Daughters: Father Desire Father Wounds. Chapter 14 is called "Sylvia Plath's 'Daddy'". The publication date is scheduled for next Monday, 30 November 2020. 

The book description, from the Routledge website, reads:

The Absent Father Effect on Daughters investigates the impact of absent – physically or emotionally – and inadequate fathers on the lives and psyches of their daughters through the perspective of Jungian analytical psychology. This book tells the stories of daughters who describe the insecurity of self, the splintering and disintegration of the personality, and the silencing of voice.

Issues of fathers and daughters reach to the intra-psychic depths and archetypal roots, to issues of self and culture, both personal and collective. Susan E. Schwartz illustrates the maladies and disappointments of daughters who lack a father figure and incorporates clinical examples describing how daughters can break out of idealizations, betrayals, abandonments, and losses to move towards repair and renewal. The book takes an interdisciplinary approach, expanding and elucidating Jungian concepts through dreams, personal stories, fairy tales and the poetry of Sylvia Plath, along with psychoanalytic theory, including Andre Green's 'dead father effect' and Julia Kristeva’s theories on women and the body as abject.


Examining daughters both personally and collectively affected by the lack of a father, The Absent Father Effect on Daughters is highly relevant for those wanting to understand the complex dynamics of daughters and fathers to become their authentic selves. It will be essential reading for anyone seeking understanding, analytical and depth psychologists, other therapy professionals, academics and students with Jungian and post-Jungian interests.

Susan E. Schwartz is a Jungian analyst and clinical psychologist in Arizona, USA. As a member of the International Association of Analytical Psychology she has taught and presented at conferences and workshops in the United States and worldwide. She has several articles and book chapters on these aspects of Jungian psychology.

ISBN: 9780367360856. Hardback: $155.00. Paperback: $38.95. Kindle edition: $29.49.

All links accessed 9 August 2020. 

16 November 2020

Sylvia Plath Collections: The Rosenstein Tapes

The Rosenstein tapes are getting use which is wonderful. I hope everyone accessing them is enjoying them and learning new information about Sylvia Plath and her life, times, experiences, and acquaintances. 

Many of the tapes are showing, right now in Emory's The Keep, as undated. This blog post addresses that by presenting the dates listed on Rosenstein's typed interview notes. Email the Rose Library if you want to eavesdrop, too. 

I am offering the interview date information two ways, first is alphabetical by last name of the interviewee. The second way is in date order. If so chosen, the latter way allows you to learn information in just the same fashion that Rosenstein did. It is interesting to see revelations, corrections of errors, and the like. 

Alphabetical

Alvarez, Al: 1970 August 8

Avery, John: 1970 August 3

Axworthy, Nancy: 1973 December 5

Bailey, Norman: circa 1975 February 1

Baskin, Leonard: 1971 December 16

Beuscher, Ruth: 1970 June 16

Blackwell, Connie Taylor: 1974 April 20

Booth, Susan O'Neill-Roe: 1973 December 5

Brody, Sally: 1971 December 30

Burton, Kay: 1973 December 11

Compton, David: 1973 December 7

Davies, Winifred: 1970 August 8

Davison, Jane: 1973 November 6 and 1974 August 4

Davison, Peter: 1973 November 6

Fainlight, Ruth and Alan Sillitoe: 1970 August 9

Gibian, George & Smith folks: 1971 December 15

Hayes, Ildiko: Undated, probably circa 1973 December 11-13

Horder, John: 1970 August 12

Jacobson, Dan: 1973 November 10

Jenkins, Alan and Nancy: 1973 December 4

Kane, Marvin: 1973 November 27

Klein, Elinor: 1971 October 11

Kopp, Jane Baltzell: 1974 July 16 and August 2

Lameyer, Gordon: 1974 May 12

Levy, Lisa: 1974 April 18

Lucie-Smith, Edward: 1970 July 28    

Macedo, Helder and Suzanne: 1973 November 27-December 1, and undated

Merwin, W. S.: 1974 April 15-16

Meshoulam, Iko & Felicity: 1973 December 3

Murphy, Richard: 1974 April 19

Norton, Perry & Shirley: 1974 April 12

Orr, Peter: Undated, circa 1970 July 28-29

Plath, Aurelia Schober: Undated (Mrs. Plath is giving a public talk on her daughter)

Pratson, Patricia O'Neill: 1972 February 2

Roche, Clarissa: 1973 November 20

Roche, Paul: 1973 November 21

Rosenthal, Jon: 1971 December 1

Rosenthal, M.L.: 1971 November 9

Secker-Walker, Lorna and David: 1970 July 25

Shook, Margaret (interview and lecture): 1971 December 16-17

Sigmund, Elizabeth: 1973 December 3-4

Steiner, Nancy Hunter: 1971 October 10

Stern, Marcia: 1972 January 20

Thwaite, Anthony: 1973 November 21

Weldon, Fay: 1973 November 19

Wertz, Richard: 1971 September 29

Wober, J. Mallory: 1973 December 7

Woody, J. Melvin: 1972 January 1

Zorn, Carl: 1976 October 27

Unidentified friend of Assia Wevill: Undated circa 1970 July 28-29

Unidentified English couple (possibly the Frankforts or Secker-Walkers): Undated

Chronological

1970 June 16, Ruth Beuscher

1970 July 25, Lorna and David Secker-Walker

1970 July 28, Edward Lucie-Smith 

1970 July 28-29 (circa), Peter Orr

1970 July 28-29 (circa), Unidentified friend of Assia Wevill

1970 August 3, John Avery 

1970 August 8, Al Alvarez 

1970 August 8, Winifred Davies 

1970 August 9, Ruth Fainlight and Alan Sillitoe 

1970 August 12, John Horder 

1971 September 29, Richard Wertz 

1971 October 10, Nancy Hunter Steiner 

1971 October 11, Elinor Klein 

1971 November 9, M.L Rosenthal 

1971 December 1, Jon Rosenthal 

1971 December 15, George Gibian & Smith folks 

1971 December 16, Leonard Baskin

1971 December 16-17, Margaret Shook (interview and lecture) 

1971 December 30, Sally Brody

1972 January 1, J. Melvin Woody 

1972 January 20, Marcia Stern

1972 February 2, Patricia O'Neill Pratson

1973 November 6, Jane Davison 

1973 November 6, Peter Davison 

1973 November 10, Dan Jacobson

1973 November 19, Fay Weldon 

1973 November 20, Clarissa Roche

1973 November 21, Paul Roche

1973 November 21, Anthony Thwaite

1973 November 27, Marvin Kane 

1973 November 27-December 1, and undated, Helder and Suzanne Macedo

1973 December 3, Iko & Felicity Meshoulam

1973 December 3-4, Elizabeth Sigmund

1973 December 4, Alan and Nancy Jenkins

1973 December 5, Nancy Axworthy

1973 December 5, Susan O'Neill-Roe Booth 

1973 December 7, David Compton

1973 December 7, J. Mallory Wober

1973 December 11, Kay Burton

1973 December 11-13 (Undated, probably circa), Ildiko Hayes 

1974 April 12, Perry & Shirley Norton 

1974 April 15-16, W.S. Merwin 

1974 April 18, Lisa Levy 

1974 April 19, Richard Murphy 

1974 April 20, Connie Taylor Blackwell 

1974 May 12, Gordon Lameyer

1974 July 16 and August 2, Jane Baltzell Kopp 

1974 August 4, Jane Davison 

1975 February 1 (circa), Norman Bailey 

1976 October 27, Carl Zorn 

Undated, Aurelia Schober Plath (Mrs. Plath is giving a public talk on her daughter)

Undated, Unidentified English couple (possibly the Frankforts or Secker-Walkers)


Click here to see the collection's finding aid.  

One gets the impression that some tapes were lost or that some tapes were damaged irreparably, or that, even, some tapes were recorded over at some point. There are a lot more interview notes than there are tapes. And for some, like Ildiko Hayes,  there is an interview tape but no typed notes. Also, I guess one (me, and maybe others) gets the impression that material is missing from these papers. Where, for example, is Rosenstein's collection of Plath's publications? Are we to believe she was doing all this work and did not have a file of poems, stories, and other works? 

All links accessed 12 and 13 November 2020.

12 November 2020

Sylvia Plath's Mutual of Omaha Insurance Card

One of the items in the Big Bonhams auction back in 2018 was a wallet containing seven membership cards (Lot 330) to various organizations such as the Boston Public Library, her drivers license, the Poetry Society of America, and an insurance card with Mutual of Omaha (see this post, if interested). The winner of the lot has been selling the cards off one by one. They have appeared in various auction houses (Nate Sanders last December for $1500), Barneby's for $7,500!, and ebay) and formats since that time. At one point some where being offered for obscenely unrealistic prices. Most have sold, I believe. 


Minutes ago, Plath's insurance card with Mutual of Omaha was offered for sale via Heritage Auctions. It is signed "Sylvia P. Hughes" and Plath has also filled in her husband's name. The back of the card was filled out by Aurelia Schober Plath as the emergency contact person and includes Sylvia Plath's religious affiliation and blood type which was O. As a straight-A student, I'm sure she was happy getting an O on her blood type, than a B. 

The card sold for $1,300 ($1562.50 including buyer's premium). Congratulations to the winner. 

My thanks to Jett Whithead for alerting me to the auction.

All links accessed 12 November 2020.

09 November 2020

Sylvia Plath Collections: The Rosenstein Tapes

A few weeks back, Gail Crowther and I discussed a bit the Rosenstein audio tapes which have been digitized by Emory and are available to listen to from the comfort of your home or office. It was mentioned, as well, in my talk with Heather Clark and in this blog post

All one needs to do is write to the Rose Library, sign a waiver, and you will receive a login to access the materials in The Keep. The tapes are really interesting but must be listened to with the volume on high, but beware that occasional shouts and laughter and other noises (phones, babies, toddlers, airplanes, cars, motorcycles, sirens, matches being struck) frequently appear and thus you could blow out your eardrums. Please note there is Ted Hughes material in this as well. And, bonus material is digitized home video from Gerald Hughes' Christmas 1964 visit to England. There are two: one is centered in London and features, very briefly, Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill. Another one is from North Tawton, Yorkshire, and Ireland and features many Court Green, Hughes family members, The Beacon, and more. Elizabeth Sigmund (then Compton) appears twice. As well as Plath's cats Tiger-Pieker and Skunky-Bunks. 

Upon listening to nearly all the tapes now, it is evident that the finding aid to the collection is wanting. As critical as that sounds, the finding is still very useful and it takes Plath specialists, sometimes, to really sort things out. Especially since it is clear the tape labels by Rosenstein are, well, fairly inaccurate. The following is a list of actual interviewees. It is organized by Emory's ID number for the audio recording. I have passed this along to them so hopefully the finding aid will be updated too. What is misleading is that though there are two tapes, for example, of Winifred Davies and one with Al Alvarez, there is no indication under their names (as of today) that there is any digital content for them. So please read the finding aid very carefully. I have been listening to the tapes in alphabetical order, but part of me wishes I had listened to them in chronological order. And frustratingly, most of the interview tapes are showing as "undated"; yet Rosenstein's typed notes are dated. The staff really should work with the paper part of the collection to enrich the audio part of the collection.  

I recommend strongly supporting the Rose Library if you take advantage of this opportunity to get archives fever remotely. Even a small amount of money can help and there are several bucket that are appropriate including Digitization (MARBL Fund for Excellence/Linda Matthews fund) and literary acquisitions (Literary Collections Fund).

OK, so, it might be kind of confusing and I am sorry about that, but below is a list of corrections. 

id v5zq0 & id v6mpw are Dr Ruth Beuscher, or, Barnhouse as is listed in the Finding Aid. Dr. Beuscher further exemplifies how dodgy she was as a psychiatrist by reading her therapy notes to Rosenstein. We know she read the McLean files into a tape (that tape was sent to Frieda Hughes), too.  In the finding aid, v6mpw is listed as "Miss Morton" which I think must be intentionally misleading. 

id v48t8 Nancy Axworthy also briefly features Elizabeth Compton Sigmund (who stopped by). Not sure this is worth adding but just thought I'd mention it.

id v79g6 is the second part of Winifred Davies (it continues v48qv).

id v549v is Norman Bailey Part 2. At 57:54 it ends and a couple of seconds later it begins the interview with Dan Jacobson to the end of the tape, about five minutes. 

Then, confusingly, v54jt continues the Dan Jacobson interview for nearly two minutes... but then switches to the beginning of the Norman Bailey interview. Very peculiar... I don't envy the cataloger who has to explain that in the finding aid! 

idv54jt concludes Dan Jacobson; but at about 1:46 in changes to Norman Bailey.

id v62p7 is Edward Lucie-Smith, not Peter Orr.

"Alda" Macedo is Helder Macedo.

In the finding aid under Roche there is an AV listing that reads "interview recording, part three, undated" but there is no [Digital/digitized copy] notation underneath it. Will that be digitized sometime? It's situated in the finding aid just above Box 3 Folder 14.  (It was determined that this tape was blank the whole way through.)

id v76xp is M. L. Rosenthal.

id v54c4 is Nancy Hunter Steiner (Part 1).

id v54b0 is Nancy Hunter Steiner (Part 2) to 3:57; then Richard Wertz to 38:03; then Lorna and David Secker-Walker to 39:06; then "Rudy" & HR making a test telephone recording to 45:57; and then an English man and woman to end.

idv77r3 is Marcia Brown Stern for the first 29 minutes; the rest of the tape is part of Sally Brody.

id v75v9 is definitely Faye Weldon.

id v78dt is J Melvin Woody to about 19:45 and then switches to a completely-unrelated-to-Plath Group Conversation.

id v7b52 is Carl Zorn.

id v7b4x is Carl Zorn until about 38:17 and then switches to a (probably bootlegged?) recording of Aurelia Schober Plath talking about Letters Home and The Bell Jar with an audience. Rosenstein and another woman listening to the recording and commenting.

Also, in the finding aid under Merwin, the reference number for the Lameyer portion of the tape reads id z52r4 but it should be v5zr4. Or vice versa.

And, under Peter Orr, id v6mq7 should be v6mq1. Or vice versa.

All links accessed 5 and 9 November 2020.

06 November 2020

Sylvia Plath in TLS

Sylvia Plath published two poems in the 6 November 1959 issue of TLS (Times Literary Supplement). They appeared just at the end of her time at Yaddo, and mere weeks before she sailed from New York back to England, for good. The TLS is a large format periodical printed on newspaper paper. Back in 1959 the issues were very big, certainly much bigger than it is today.

This title is harder to come by, and indeed I believe its format also makes it more difficult to find in the original. But I was able to locate and acquire a copy recently with the help of some "tip" money a few kind people sent. See, I told you I would use it for Plath stuff! How I am going to store it is a question since it is a bigger item and the paper rather more fragile (acidic, brittle) than the kind used in magazines and journals.

The two poems were "The Hermit at Outermost House" and "Two Views of a Cadaver Room". Plath submitted them sometime in 1959; just when is not known. They were accepted, however, in a 6 July 1959 letter to her from editor Alan Pryce-Jones. When the letter was received, Plath and Hughes were on their cross country trip of North America; and it must have been welcome news when she received it (as were all publication acceptances).

See a gallery of covers of publications in which Plath's work appeared on A celebration, this is.

All links accessed 24 February 2020.

01 November 2020

Collected Writings of Assia Wevill manuscript submitted

 

Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and I are very happy to say we submitted our manuscript for The Collected Writings of Assia Wevill to the published, LSU Press, last Monday, 26 October. We are very excited to see it in their hands. 

The manuscript, including more than twenty photographs and scans of documents we will use for illustrations, stretches to 298 pages. In it, you will read Assia Wevill's life and experiences in her own words with contextual annotations that bring color and information to her texts.

We began this project with a vision to assemble Selected Writings back in the spring of 2018 and it is so thrilling to see it to this point, where we of necessity had to elevate it to something as comprehensive as a Collected Writings

It was an honor and a privilege to work on this project---Julie's third book; my fifth book (the sixth is done, nearly, too)---with Julie, and our contacts at the Press have been marvelous. Thank you, Julie! And, as well, thank you to any who have an interest in this book. 

If all is fair and equal the book should be published in about a year.

Books authored by Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick:

 

Modernist Women Writers and War: Trauma and the Female Body in Djuna Barnes, H.D., and Gertrude Stein (LSU Press, 2011)

Reclaiming Assia Wevill : Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, and the Literary Imagination (LSU Press, 2019)

Books authored/edited by me:

 

Sylvia Plath (Chelsea House, 2004)

These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath with Gail Crowther (Fonthill Press, 2017)

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume I: 1940-1956 with Karen V. Kukil (Faber, 2017)

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume II: 1956-1963 (Faber, 2018)

27 October 2020

Heather Clark's Sylvia Plath Biography Red Comet Published in the US

Heather Clark's Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath is published officially in the US today by Knopf. 

The ISBN is 978-0307961167. The cover price is $36.The book is an outstanding 1,152 pages, with a comprehensive index and exhaustive, not to be missed notes.

The reviews have been appearing since the summer. Due to delays in printing because of the world situation, the publication was pushed back several times. But now the book is officially out and readers will now get up to date with the most current life details on Sylvia Plath. 

Here is a list of reviews:


Red Comet has been mentioned, also, as an anticipated Fall publication in the the Boston GlobeWall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, Minneapolis Star Tribune, USA Today, LitHub, Bustle, Entertainment Weekly, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and other news sources. 


All links accessed 12, 16, and 26 October 2020.

24 October 2020

Last Night's Sylvia Plath event with Heather Clark

Last night I was privileged to have a conversation with Heather Clark, author of the imminently published (in the US) Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath hosted by Washington D.C. independent bookstore Politics and Prose

The event was recorded and broadcast live on YouTube and is available now for consumption. Hope that you enjoy the hour long program. I really lovely every moment of it. I did not have the chance (or concentration ability) to see the full list of attendees but thank you to all who attended, and, as well, to all who watch it now.

Buy the book from Politics and Prose!

One of the topics we discussed was the Harriet Rosenstein archive which is held by Emory University. You may remember in January and February this blog featured a lot of posts about the recently opened collection. Between then and maybe the summer, sometime, Emory was digitizing the audio cassette tapes that came with it. Due to the times, with a lot of places being closed or with limited abilities, Emory is offering online access to these recordings. Contact the Rose Library for access instructions. 

The medium of the cassette tape is fairly stable, but the quality of the recordings takes some getting used to what with muffled voices, background noises, dogs, tea cups, cars honking, etc. In fact the recording of Al Alvarez appears to be literally have been conducted in the flight path of Heathrow Airport. One of the more amazing things about this is hearing the younger voices of Plath's friends and acquaintances like Elizabeth Sigmund, Winifred Davies, Nancy Axworthy, Lorna and David Secker-Walker, Elinor Klein, Perry Norton, Marcia Stern, and many, many more.

I have listened to most of the tapes at this point and have sent a list of corrections---which I am sure is annoying---to Emory that I hope they make to the finding aid. There are about 76 hours or so.

If you do take advantage of this opportunity, I recommend considering sending Emory's Rose Library a financial donation of appreciation.  

All links accessed 24 October 2020.


20 October 2020

Sylvia Plath Collections: Poetry at the Lilly Library


The following post was drafted in 2018! As October is American Archives Month is seems rather appropriate to dust and thus polish this post off in the middle of it. 

The Poetry archive is split between the University of Chicago and the Lilly Library. At the same time, the journal's headquarters in Chicago maintains an archive itself of documents and books that are likely very valuable resources. This post is specifically about the holdings at the Lilly Library, which I received copies of as part of some of the last minute and tangential work I was doing on The Letters of Sylvia Plath. The post from 2013 about the holdings at the University of Chicago can be read here.

The Poetry materials at the Lilly Library can be broadly classed into three categories: correspondence, typescripts, and proofs. First up, the correspondence, with brief annotations about the content of each letter:

1. Henry Rago to Sylvia Plath, 27 December 1962: accepting three poems "Eavesdropper", "Fever 103°", and "Purdah".

2. Ted Hughes to Henry Rago, circa late January/early February 1963: Written at 110 Cleveland Street, sending corrections to "Heatwave" and "Era of Giant Lizards" and submitting additional poems. Published in December 1963 Poetry along with "Poem to Robert Graves Perhaps", "On Westminster Bridge", "After Lorca", and "Small Hours".

3. Henry Rago to Ted Hughes, 12 February 1963: Thanking TH for sending new poems and saying they'll publish them with some other poems already accepted.

4. Julie McLauchlin to J A McLaren, 23 April 1963: Providing biographical and bibliographical information about Sylvia Plath.

5. Waddell Austin to Elizabeth Wright, 6 May 1963: Asking permission to reprint poems in the Borestone annual volume, including SP's "Face Lift".

6. Elizabeth Wright to Waddell Austin, 8 May 1963: Granting permission.

7. Julie McLauchlin to Ted Hughes, 24 June 1963: Enclosing proofs of SP's three poems for the August 1963 issue of Poetry. Sent to 110 Cleveland Street.

8. Sherman Conrad to Henry Rago, 3 September 1963: Commenting favorably about SP's poems in the August issue of Poetry as well as The New Yorker.

9. Ted Hughes to Henry Rago, circa November 1963: Asking about payment for SP's poems from the August issue and sending in some corrected proofs. Sent from Court Green.

10. Henry Rago to Ted Hughes, 20 November 1963: Replying to TH's undated letter above confirming they had sent a check for SP's poems on 6 August 1963. Asking that TH check very carefully for this check, sent to Court Green.

11. Charles Cox to Henry Rago, 10 August 1964: Asking about permission to print Hughes' "After Lorca" in a Critical Quarterly shilling anthology.


The typescripts are Plath's original poem submissions with editorial markups throughout: "Face Lift", "Heavy Women", "Love Letter", "Stars Over the Dordogne", and "Widow" and then "Eavesdropper", "Fever 103°", and "Purdah".

The proofs take various forms and shapes and are for Plath's poems in the March 1962 and August 1963 issues, and for Hughes' December 1963 appearance. Included are Plath's author's proof corrections for the March 1962 issue with her corrections and signature.

All links accessed 4 and 21 May 2018 and 19 October 2020.

18 October 2020

'My Second Home': Sylvia Plath in Paris, 1956 by Dave Halsam

This post is about a new book by author and DJ Dave Haslam: 'My Second Home': Sylvia Plath in Paris, 1956.

Sylvia Plath was in Paris during Easter 1956, alone in a hotel near Notre Dame. She’d grown to love the city after spending Christmas there with Richard Sassoon and she’d hoped he‘d be with her for Easter too, but he hadn’t answered her letters. She’d met Ted Hughes a month earlier; Ted was also in her head, and within ten weeks they’d be married.

In 'My Second Home': Sylvia Plath in Paris, 1956, Dave Haslam explores this key period in Sylvia Plath’s life. We discover how she filled those Paris days, including dinner with an Italian communist, embracing the idea of drunken afternoon sex with a friend of a friend, sketching in the park, and lying on her yellow bed in an attic room listening to the sound of the rain as she considered decisions and future plans: in her phrase, ‘the fatal dance’ of choices and alternatives.

Art Decades is a series of small format limited edition books by writer, and former Haçienda DJ, Dave Haslam. Book four in the series explores three intense and life-defining visits to Paris made by Sylvia Plath.

Published on 20 October 2020 by the Manchester-based independent publishers, Confingo. ISBN: 978-0-9955966-7-2. £7 in UK, £9.50 outside UK (inc. p&p).

All links accessed 4 October 2020

15 October 2020

Heather Clark's Red Comet Biography of Sylvia Plath Published Today

Heather Clark's long-anticipated biography Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath is published as of today in the UK. Order from Amazon or support your local bookshops to get your copy.

The book is published by Jonathan Cape. It is a behemoth: 1,152 pages. The ISBN is 978-1787332539.

From Amazon.com's description:

The highly anticipated new biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art.

With a wealth of never-before-accessed materials--including unpublished letters and manuscripts; court, police, and psychiatric records; and new interviews--Heather Clark brings to life the brilliant daughter of Wellesley, Massachusetts who had poetic ambition from a very young age and was an accomplished, published writer of poems and stories even before she became a star English student at Smith College in the early 1950s. Determined not to read Plath's work as if her every act, from childhood on, was a harbinger of her tragic fate, Clark evokes a culture in transition, in the shadow of the atom bomb and the Holocaust, as she explores Plath's world: her early relationships and determination not to become a conventional woman and wife; her conflicted ties to her well-meaning, widowed mother; her troubles at the hands of an unenlightened mental-health industry; her Cambridge years and thunderclap meeting with Ted Hughes, a marriage of true minds that would change the course of poetry in English; and much more. Clark's clear-eyed portraits of Hughes, his lover Assia Wevill, and other demonized players in the arena of Plath's suicide promotes a deeper understanding of her final days, with their outpouring of first-rate poems. Along with illuminating readings of the poems themselves, Clark's meticulous, compassionate research brings us closer than ever to the spirited woman and visionary artist who blazed a trail that still lights the way for women poets the world over.

Heather and I will be discussing Red Comet (and more?!) on Friday, 23 October 2020 at a virtual event hosted by Politics & Prose. Please join us if you can!


Red Comet
 will be published in the US on the 27th by Knopf. The ISBN is 978-0307961167. 

All links accessed: 20 September 2020.  

12 October 2020

Elizabeth Jennings' copy of Sylvia Plath's The Colossus


On the 1st of the month, I blogged about an auction taking place on the 8th. Because I am nice. Because I am thoughtful, I wanted to briefly follow-up to report that the copy of Sylvia Plath's The Colossus (Heinemann, 1960) that was owned by Elizabeth Jennings (and which was accompanied by a first Knopf edition, 1962). The book was in Lot 187 and it sold for a very handsome $3,500 (including buyer's premium). This was $2,000 over the high estimate of $1,500. Bravo.

All links accessed 12 October 2020.  

10 October 2020

Sylvia Plath Society to Host Zoom Party


The Sylvia Plath Society will host a Zoom Birthday party on Saturday, 24 October 2020. The event starts at 13:00 New York Time; or 18:00 London time. Registration is required.

Four panels comprise the event:

I. Plathoween: Occultism, Tarot, and Witches
Speakers: Giulia Listo, Julia Bramer, Dorka Tamás
Chair: Sarah Corbett

II. Plath and Menstruation
Speakers: Emily Van Dyne, Maria Rovito, Eilish Mulholland
Chair: Nick Smart

III. Writing about Plath: Challenges and Pleasures
Speakers: Peter K. Steinberg, Gail Crowther, Dave Haslam
Chair: Kitty Shaw

IV. Plath and Parties: Celebrating Plath, Plath and Celebrations
Speakers: Julie Irigaray, Trish Grisafi, Jenna Finan
Chair: Dorka Tamás

For more information, please visit the program page.

All links accessed 8 October 2020.

05 October 2020

Event with Sylvia Plath's newest biographer Heather Clark


On Friday, 23 October 2020, at 8 PM, Heather Clark, author of the new biography Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, and I will have a conversation about her book courtesy of Politics and Prose, a Washington, D.C. based independent bookstore. 

The event is free, you just simply have to register

All links accessed 28 September 2020.

01 October 2020

Two Sylvia Plath Auctions

On 8 October 2020, Elizabeth Jennings' copy of Sylvia Plath's The Colossus (Heinemann) will be offered for sale (along with a Knopf, 1962 edition) via Hindman Auctions out of Chicago, Illinois.  It is sale number 759, lot number 187. Starting bid is $500 and it does not take much imagination to realize that is low for a gorgeous looking copy of the book with this poetical association. 



And catching up on a missed auction from 7 November 2017, in Lot 197 Doyle sold an extremely rare copy of A Winter Ship, which was published by the Tragara Press in 1960. The This was initialed by Plath "sph" and included a note/inscription. It was sent to Ruth Geissler. The final price including buyer's premium was a very reasonable $6.875. I had the pleasure of seeing this gorgeous item in person when I met Ruth in November 2015.



Image sources: Hindman Auctions (top); Doyle (bottom). 

All links accessed 28 September 2020.

 



20 September 2020

Organizing my Sylvia Plath Periodicals

This has been a strange year, no? I took advantage of the extended period that I at home in the spring and spent some time organizing some of my Sylvia Plath stuff. In particular, the magazines in which Plath published her verse and prose.




These were largely in order to begin with but the folders were unlabeled. Which made finding anything pretty frustrating. Now, they are labeled and in proper date order, with title of magazine, date, title of Plath's work, and page number. So I should be able to find anything I need in a jiffy. Above are larger format magazines; below are the smaller format journals.


If you are interested in seeing a more or less complete bibliography of Plath's publications, just go to A celebration, this is! Thanks and have a nice day.

All links accessed 18 April 2020.

11 September 2020

Sylvia Plath's copy of Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot

Sylvia Plath's copy of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (London, Faber and Faber, 1956) is another of the books from her personal library held by Smith College and open for research. Her copy was the second impression, February 1956. Her ownership inscription on the front free endpaper reads, "Sylvia Plath, 1956".

The play debuted in London at the Arts Theatre on 3 August 1955 and shortly thereafter transferred to the Criterion Theatre, which is where Plath saw in on 20 September 1955, mere hours after landing at Southampton earlier in the day. Her pocket calendar, held by the Lilly Library that likely no seconds were wasted in exploring her new city and country:

Breakfast at 7 on board the ship; photographed in a group by Evening Standard; customs; train to London (Waterloo); bus to Regents Park; attended speeches and teas; dinner with Carl Shakin, her "shipboard romance"; and then Waiting for Godot.

In her 25 September 1955 letter to her mother, Plath says, "We’ve seen a magnificent and peculiar existentialist play about a man’s dilemma in the midst of nothingness" (Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 960). Two days later she ranked the play the "best" she had seen to Gordon Lameyer (964). In all she mentioned the play six times in her letters, per the index.

Another of Plath's pocket calendars indicates she saw Waiting for Godot a second time, in Cambridge, with Ted Hughes, on 31 May 1956. She commented that it was "flatter than London".

Below is a table of page numbers and the kinds of annotations that appear on each page respectively. There are not many annotations to her copy but it is clear she bought it very soon after it was published and read it carefully.


Page 
 Annotation type (underline, star, marginal line, text)
Ffep
Inscription by Sylvia Plath
42
Underlines
43
Underlines
44
Underlines
48
Underline
51
Underline
52
Underlines
53
Underline


All the books that we know Plath owned, read, used for papers, mentioned, etc. are catalogued on LibraryThing,.

All links accessed 31 July 2019.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...