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.

 Annotation type (underline, star, marginal line, text)
Inscription by Sylvia Plath

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

All links accessed 31 July 2019.

01 September 2020

Footnoting the Letters of Sylvia Plath

One of the aspects of the footnotes of The Letters of Sylvia Plath that I most enjoyed was cross-referencing to letters to which Plath responded. There are very few instances where we have both sides of the letters--the most complete being the letters between Plath and Gordon Lameyer and Plath to Lynne Lawner. Periodically, Richard Norton and Eddie Cohen, to name but two, would quote Plath's words back to her in her letters which was always illuminating. Particularly as these original letters no longer appear to be extant.

My intention in doing this work in the footnotes was to help readers in pinpointing those letters to Plath in an archive; to save them time, perhaps. But overall, just to try to get anything relevant to the letter on the page. You will see them each at the bottom of the page, usually formatted the same in the attempt to be both consistent and predictable. For example,

"See Richard Norton to SP, 3 March 1953; held by Lilly Library."
"See Lynne Lawner to SP, 7 December 1958 and 21 January 1959; held by Lilly Library."
"See Alan Ross to SP, 12 October 1960; held by Smith College."

The rest is up to you if you want to see the correspondence Plath received.

Another aspect of trying to add value to the Letters, which I fear was done less consistently and comprehensively than ought to have been done, were cross-references to episodes or content that appear in Plath's journals. I can make excuses for the layers and levels of complexity that went into the construction and production to Plath's Letters but I do not believe anyone wants to read any moaning. (However, if anyone does want to know about it...) But, be that as it may, there are some cross-references to the Journals. For example,

"According to SP's journal, she mailed 'The Trouble-Making Mother' to the Saturday Evening Post by 25 July. Journals of Sylvia Plath: 290."
"The idea for 'Changeabout in Mrs Cherry's Kitchen' appeared in SP's journals on 4 January 1958; Journals of Sylvia Plath: 304. Published as 'Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen' in Sylvia Plath, Collected Children’s Stories (London: Faber & Faber, 2001)."

I hope this is helpful!

24 August 2020

More articles on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt

As I routinely do, I continue to search for articles on Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt in August 1953. Earlier in the year, I found a number of new articles and these are all now on the bibliography page of Articles on her disappearance and recovery.

Articles were found in the following newspapers:

The Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida)
The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Wilkes-Barre Record (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania)
The Birmingham News (Birmingham, Alabama)
The Miami Herald (Miami, Florida)
Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)
Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania)
The Millville Daily Republican (Millville, New Jersey)
The York Dispatch (York, Pennsylvania)
Daily News (New York, New York)
The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania)
Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin)
The Morning News (Wilmington, Delaware)
Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
St Josephs News Press Gazette (St. Joseph, Missouri)
Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia)
The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)
The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)
The Morning Call (Paterson, New Jersey)
Rutland Daily Herald (Rutland, Vermont)
The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts)
The Bangor Daily News  (Bangor, Maine)
St. Albans Daily Messenger 
 (St. Albans, Vermont)
Burlington Daily News 
(Burlington, Vermont)
The Kansas City Star
(Kansas City, Missouri)

In total, there are now 306 articles.

And, did you see that? Go back and read through those titles and cities again...

The Windsor Star (Windsor, Ontario, Canada)!

This is the first article from another country! Sylvia Plath's disappearance was not just national news. It was international news. Confirmed. That is amazing.

All links accessed 13 July 2020.

15 August 2020

Letters of Sylvia Plath: A Footnote

When Sylvia Plath visited Richard Norton at the Ray Brook tuberculosis hospital in Saranac Lake, New York, after Christmas in December 1952, she broke her leg. During that visit, Plath met a Dr. William Sanford Lynn and his wife Mary Elisabeth Lynn. They had a young boy, William Sanford Lynn, III. Plath seemed to get on very well with the Lynn family.

A late decision I made in editing Plath's Letters was to include the letter excerpts that had appeared in Plath's journals. I felt that they would add a certain something to the book, particularly the many letter excerpts to Richard Sassoon. But, there were other letter excerpts to Eddie Cohen and Richard Norton. Including them all meant they would be annotated to the same standard that the rest of Plath's letters were.

Plath's letter excerpt from 8 March 1953 to Richard Norton is one such example and was done in reply to his three letters written on 4, 6, and 7 March. He had related how the Lynn's young boy Sandy had accidentally died. A notice of the death appeared on page one of the 6 March 1953 Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

This was an example of an emotionally difficult footnote to investigate.

All links accessed 5 August 2019.

01 August 2020

The Sylvia Plath Zoomposium III Now on YouTube

On Saturday, 25 July 2020, Gail Crowther and I hosted our third and final Sylvia Plath Zoomposium. The featured speakers were: Janet Badia, Marsha Bryant, Emmeline Downie, Olivia Foster, Gillian Groszewski, Natalie Hurt, Craig Johnson, Jeremy Lowenthal, and Laura McKenzie.

We are proud to announce that the recording is now available on the Sylvia Plath Info YouTube Channel. Please note Gillian Groszewski's presentation was removed.

We are grateful to all thirty total speakers for their generosity and willingness to prepare talks on such short notice, to help feel a sense of community during a strange period in our lives. And thank you, of course, to all the people that registered for and attended the events.

All links accessed 28 July and 1 August 2020.

22 July 2020

The Sylvia Plath Zoomposium III Schedule

The Sylvia Plath Zoomposium III, to be held Saturday, 25 July 2020, will start at 10 am NY Time (3 PM London time).

Gail Crowther and I thank you all so much for registering and for your attention throughout the hours you will spend in front of your computer or other device. The interest in these Zoom events has been so wonderful. Very warm.

The following shows the order of speakers. As with the first two Zomposiums, we will plan to start at 10 am EDT/3PM BST sharp and proceed straight through each speaker with no breaks.

The order of the speakers will be alphabetical by last name, so: Janet Badia, Marsha Bryant, Emmeline Downie, Olivia Foster, Gillian Groszewski, Natalie Hurt, Craig Johnson, Jeremy Lowenthal, and Laura McKenzie.

Interested in the event? Click here to see registration information.

All links accessed 21 July 2020.

19 July 2020

Sylvia Plath's Pod steklyannym kolpakom

If you know anything about me, it is that I enjoy foreign editions of Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar. So recently I saw for sale a copy of the novel in Russian, a language I previously did not have, for a reasonable price.

You may be able to see some tape and label on the spine. This is an ex-library copy of the novel, withdrawn from circulation from the Boston Public Library. This particular edition dates from 2000.

Having a Russian edition makes me really happy given Esther Greenwood's envy of the Russian interpreter who knew so many idioms and her foray with Constantine.

This cover has been added to the Translations book cover page of A celebration, this is.

Here are the rest of my Bell Jars.

All links accessed 18 January 2019.

10 July 2020

Sylvia Plath's Postcards: 10 July 1961, Dordogne, France

The last picture postcard that we know Sylvia Plath sent went from the Dordogne, France, to her mother at 3 Chalcot Square, London.

Dated 10 July, Plath wrote the postcard which depicts "Montignac-sur-Vézère (Dordogne). Grotte de Lascaux" and send it from Saint-Céré, France, and was postmarked 12 July 1961. A subcaption on the card reads, "Diverticule (paroi droite): Vache rouge et premier des chevaux dits 'Chinois'." It was published by Serv. Commercial Monuments Historiques. Gd. Palais. Av. Alexandre III. Porte G. Paris. There are two stamps on the postcard. One for .25 Francs depicting a woman, designed by Posyes. And another for .05 Francs depicting the Coat of Arms of Oran (Algeria). Aurelia Plath added "Stars Over Dordogne" in blue pen in the top middle of the page.

Plath addressed the letter:
Mrs. A. S. PLATH
3 Chalcot Square
London N.W.1

Plath and Hughes were toward the end of their holiday and she reported in her letter that they were "eager" to get home.

The full text of the postcard appears on page 631 of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume II, 1956-1963.

Here is a video from inside the cave.

All links accessed 7 August 2019 and 9 July 2020.

02 July 2020

Sylvia Plath's Postcards: 2 July 1961, Mont St. Michel, France

The second picture postcard Sylvia Plath sent to her mother from France, which is also the second to last one she sent that we know about, depicted "LE MONT SAINT-MICHEL (Manche) Ensemble Sud par Grande Marée."

Dated Sunday, 2 July 1961, the postmark was illegible because the cancellation stamp mostly did not cover the postage stamp. Thus, it is unclear on which day it was sent. It was published by Service Commercial Monuments Historiques Grand Palais -- Avenue Alexandre III -- Paris. The stamp was .50 Francs and depicted Tlemcen Grande Mosque. I believe it may have been designed by Pheulpin. The postcard is numbered "2" in pencil in the top right, just to the left of the stamp.

Plath reports they are at a "crêperie” in Douarnenez. Oddly, she spelled Frieda's name wrong, which is something I checked and re-checked dozens of times during the project.  Aurelia Plath annotated the postcard, translating "Grande Marée" into English, "high tide".

Plath addressed the postcard:

Mrs. A. S. Plath
c/o Hughes
3 Chalcot Square
Londres N.W.1

Plath reports they expected to be to the Merwins by the 5th of July and reminds her mother about her Living Poet programme on the BBC on Saturday the 8th.

The full text of the postcard appears on page 629 of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume II, 1956-1963.

01 July 2020

The Sylvia Plath Zoomposium III

Gail Crowther and I are doing it again! We are very excited to announce The Sylvia Plath Zoomposium III has been scheduled. We have another line-up of quality international presenters who will all speak on a variety of topics. We are thrilled so many people have an interest in speaking about their research on Sylvia Plath.

The event will be held on Zoom, again. The details:

Date: Saturday, 25 July 2020.
Starting time: 10 am EDT/3 pm BST.

Registration for the event will be required.

Click Here To Register!

The presenters, listed here in alphabetical order, are:

Janet Badia (US)
Marsha Bryant (US)
Emmeline Downie (UK)
Olivia Foster (UK)
Gillian Groszewski (IE)
Natalie Hurt (UK)
Craig Johnson (UK)
Jeremy Lowenthal (US)
Laura McKenzie (UK)

All links accessed 22 June and 1 July 2020.

29 June 2020

Sylvia Plath's Postcards: 29 June 1961, Rouen, France

Sylvia Plath sent three picture postcards to her mother when she and Ted Hughes visited France in June and July 1961. The purpose was a holiday, but also to go to the farmhouse of Dido and W. S. Merwin in Lacan de Loubressac. This post is about the first card; the other two will be highlighted in a bit. These are the last three picture postcards that we know Plath sent. Meaning, she might have sent others, but if she did we did not have access to them for The Letters of Sylvia Plath project.

The first picture postcard that Plath sent to her mother depicted "ROUEN (Seine-Maritime) Le Gros Horloge (1389) L'Arcade (1151)."

Dated Thursday, 29 June 1961, the postmark was from Rouen, Seine Maritime, France, on the same day. The postcard was published by Les Editions d'Art, 15 rue Martel, in the 10th Arrondissement. The stamp was .30 Francs and depicted Jean Nicot designed by J. Combet. The postcard is numbered "1" in pencil in the top right corner above the stamp.

Plath and Hughes were waiting for their cafe au laits having crossed over to France the previous day, the 28th. They had been to a "superb beach" (Berck Plage) where they swam and collected shells for Frieda.

Plath addressed the postcard:

Mrs. A. S. Plath
3 Chalcot Square
Londres N.W.1

The postcard is mis-dated in pencil as '[1961, July 13]" in an unknown hand. However based on internal evidence and careful scrutiny of the admittedly complicated postmark, the letter was undoubtedly written on the 29th of June.

The full text of the postcard appears on page 628-9 of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume II, 1956-1963.

25 June 2020

Reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar

In 2019, Faber and Faber issued two new editions of The Bell Jar. They were discussed in this September 2019 blog post. As some of you may know, I read Sylvia Plath's lone published novel twice a year and have done so since 1995. I read it in June because that's the month that Plath was a guest editor for Mademoiselle in 1953 and it is also the month in which a lot of the setting of the novel takes place. And I read it in December, because that is the month in which I first read it in 1994.

This blog post is drawn from my most recent read, and that is of the 90th Anniversary edition, pictured left, and published last year. It is the first time that I have read a modern (post-1990s) edition in well more than a decade. Why? Because before then, Faber had used the same typesetting of the novel that Heinemann used and thus it would have been the exact text that Plath herself saw when she received her copy of her novel in December 1962.

I spotted two typographical errors in the novel and I had the feeling that there were more. However when I was reading it I did not take the time to make notes either in the book or on a sheet of paper. Which frustrates me I did want to look them up. The first typo is on page 5. The original reads, "but Doreen wore these full-length nylon and lace jobs you could half see through, and dressing-gowns the colour of skin," but the typo make it read "colour of sin". Sin, I am sure, has a color; but I suspect it is quite a different color than of Doreen's skin. I dug back a bit in my Bell Jar collection and found that this typo first appeared in the 1990s, in this edition. Strangely, it is "colour of skin" in the 1999 edition. I bought that one in Australia in 2000 and it is possible that even though it is a Faber book, it may have used a different text? I do not know; that is above my pay grade.

The second typographical error is newer. And I was sad to see it as it is one of my favorite lines in the novel. When Esther is suffering from ptomaine poisoning, she passed out in the bathroom. When she wakes, she is taken by the hotel nurse to her room and told, in the original, "The doctor's given you a ninjection" in the original edition. However, on page 43 of the 90th Anniversary edition, the grammar of the nurse is cleaned up to "an injection." I do disagree with this editorial futzery because Plath's intention, I think, with the nurse, is to have her speaking in the dialect of perhaps a lower-eductated New York immigrant. She developed a looser vernacular in some of her Boston stories such as "The Fifteen Dollar Eagle", "The Daughters of Blossom Street", and "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams". This breakthrough really freed Plath when she came to write The Bell Jar. It was more recent, as I said. It also appears in the simultaneously issued Liberty Edition. However, it is "correct" in the editions published in 2015 (Faber Members) and 2013 (black and gold hardback).

Update 12:01 pm, 25 June 2020: I have just learned that both of the things discussed in this blog post---the "colour of sin" and "an injection"---are updates to the text sanctioned by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. So my calling them typographical errors can be considered inaccurate.---pks

All links accessed 16 June 2020.

21 June 2020

Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar: Esther and Doreen and Men and Bloody Cheeks

When I read The Bell Jar it is my hope to see something new. To make a connection within the novel itself or perhaps some connection to Plath's own lived life and experiences.

In this particular read in June 2020, I was giddy when I noticed the parallels between Doreen's first meeting with Lenny Shepherd and Esther Greenwood's decidedly different first meeting with Marco. In fact, Esther's "I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I'd never seen before in my life" feels like foreshadowing. So, let us begin...

Doreen is dressed in white. She is so white "she looked silver". Esther dresses in black.

Lenny approaches Doreen (and Esther) in the cab; Esther is brought to Marco by Doreen.

Lenny's skeevy friends laugh from their safe distance under the awning of a bar. Laughter is heard through the door when Esther arrives to meet Marco; and someone laughs when Marco suggests he might "perform some small service ... worthy of a diamond."

Lenny slid his arm hand around Doreen's arm in a flirtatious gesture; Marco intentionally and forcefully grips Esther's arm hard enough to leave bruising impressions.

There are drinks involved. Lenny asks what Esther wants; Marco orders for her.

There is dancing. Lenny and Doreen jitterbug (even between songs). They dance willingly and as unit. Marco and Esther tango, though Esther does not believe she is a full participant in the movements. She is, after all, told to "pretend you are drowning" (advice she tries to take later in the novel). Heck, maybe Esther should have danced with Frankie?

When dancing, Lenny gets Doreen up on his shoulder and her breasts surge out of her dress. Esther has her shantung sheath torn off her by Marco who bites it away, exposing her "bare skin".

Doreen's drink flies through the air as she and Lenny get a little more aggressive and intimate. Marco chucks Esther's drink intentionally and then forces her to the dance floor.

Doreen presumably has sex with Lenny and returns super drunk; Marco attempts to engage in coitus with Esther but she fights him off.

Lastly, Lenny ran over a jack rabbit; Marco is a jackass.

It is possible there are more similarities (or I should say differences!) than what is in this blog post. But, all said, the scenes are generally similar though each Guest Editor obviously has quite an opposite experience with their respective counterparts.

Bloody Cheeks*

When Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes she was drunk, very drunk. Famously, as we all know, they were at a party, there was dancing. There was biting, too, and when Hughesdescribed as "big, dark"left the room "blood was running down his face" (Unabridged Journals 211, 212).

When Esther Greenwood met the "tall, but dark" Peruvian Marco they went to a dance at a country club "somewhere in the wealthy suburbs of New York" (The Bell Jar 110, 113). There was alcoholEsther had four daiquirisbut she does not appear to have been too drunk.

I think there are several parallels between the night of 25 February 1956 and what Plath does just over five years later in Chapter Nine of The Bell Jar. Plath draws blood from Hughes with her teeth. Esther Greenwood smashes Marco in the nose with her fist; but in a slight reversal of the story, it is Esther's cheeks that are "stained" with Marco's blood (The Bell Jar 115).

There are many things about the scene with Marco, in fact, that remind me of Plath and Hughes' first meeting. The violence is one, although that first meeting with Hughes was all about instinct and passion (and alcohol and poetry). In The Bell Jar it is turned around: it is not violent passion between Esther and Marco, but the violence of rage and fear and hate and control. These I think are all similar emotions.

The scene in the novel is based on a dance held on Saturday 20 June 1953 in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York, most probably at the Forest Hills Country Club.** At the dance a Peruvian delegate from the United Nations (Jose La Valle) got a little cheeky with her. The name of the delegate and location of the dance can be found at the Lilly Library .(See "Guest Editor Schedule" with annotations by Plath in Plath Mss. II, Box 12, Folder 7: Mademoiselle Materials as well as in Plath's 1953 calendar. For more on the dance, Elizabeth Winder's Pain Parties Work (2013) is the most authoritative resource.)

Another way in which the scene reminds me of Plath's first meeting with Hughes is with Marco's diamond stickpin. Famously, Plath recited a line of Hughes' poem "The Casualty" when they first met, the line "most dear unscratchable diamond" being particularly memorable. Some of the words in this Hughes poem litter the scene in the novel, like "smashed," "snake," and "handkerchief." It is possible there are more examples and ways in which the scene in the novel reflects or relates to the poem.

Esther keeps Marco's bloody streaks on her face "like the relic of a dead lover" (119). Not a one-to-one parallel, but consider these lines from another Hughes poem written much later, this time the Birthday Letters poem "St. Botolph's":

"You meant to knock me out
And the swelling ring-moat of tooth-marks
That was to brand my face for the next month.
The me beneath it for good." (15)

Hughes here is writing back both to Plath's novel and to the memory of their first meeting, remembering the "swelling ring-moat" relic bestowed to him by his dead lover.

One other thing sticks out and it is one of those strange harbinger things at which Plath was eerily adept. Toward the end of The Bell Jar, Buddy Willard comes to visit Esther Greenwood at the hospital where she is recovering. He asks her, in a beautifully funny way, "Do you think there's something in me that drives women crazy" (252)? He mentions that first Esther tried to kill herself, then Joan. And the "strange harbinger" thing about this involves Plath and Assia Wevill in relation to Ted Hughes... First Plath went, and then Wevill... Art imitating life imitating art...

*This part of this blog post was drafted in January 2012.
**This was the day after the Rosenberg's were executed.
Citations from The Bell Jar from the Heinemann, 1963 edition.

18 June 2020

Sylvia Plath OTD: 18 June 1953

This was going to be a simple tweet about what happened "On this day" in Sylvia Plath's life, but it soon unraveled to be too much for a tweet...

On this day, 18 June 1953, Sylvia Plath was more than half-way through her stint as a Guest Editor at Mademoiselle magazine. She was just a day or so through her traumatic ptomaine poisoning which wiped out her schedule for a day or so. This post includes some of the information I acquired and used during the project to publish The Letters of Sylvia Plath.

On that particular Thursday, Plath toured the United Nations and had lunch and coffee there with Gary Karmiloff, whom she met through the Norton family. In the afternoon, Plath was scheduled to tour John Frederics Hats (then at 29 E. 48th Street, New York) but opted to, in stead, attend the UN trusteeship session. Here is an article from the Wellesley Townsman showing that Karmiloff stayed with the Nortons.

Kamirloff at the time lived on the 12th floor at 95 Christopher Street, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York. The building is now called The Gansvoort.

Later that evening, at 7 pm, she met with Mark von Slosmann for steak dinner and listened to him read "bad poetry". Von Slosmann was a friend of Bob Cochran, whom Plath met during her time in the summer of 1952 nannying for the Cantor family on Cape Cod. von Slosmann spent some time in 1953 submitting poetry to various places and a small archive of his letters is held in the Katharine Sergeant White Papers at Bryn Mawr College. Here is his signature.

But the point of this point is to perhaps provide some context on what Sylvia Plath heard at the UN. The New York Times reported on page 13 the following day on the proceedings of the 18th:

The entire "Index to Proceedings of the Trusteeship Council" is available online. It was the 12th Session and took place from 16 June to 22 July 1953.

And of course many of these events appeared in The Bell Jar.

All links accessed 18 June 2020.

15 June 2020

Books about Sylvia Plath For Sale

I have extra copies of the following books about Sylvia Plath that I would like to see in new homes. Proceeds will go directly into my Sylvia Plath work.

Prices include shipping. US only at this time. 

The Cambridge Introduction to Sylvia Plath. 2 copies available. $15 each. (Retails for $28.99)

The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath. 2 copies available. $15 each. (Retails for $37.99)

Critical Insights: Sylvia Plath. 1 copy available. $30. (Retails for $105)

Representing Sylvia Plath. 1 copy available. $35.  (Retails for $113)

Thank you!

08 June 2020

The Sylvia Plath Zoomposiums I & II

When Gail Crowther and I starting planning for the Sylvia Plath Zoomposiums I think it is safe to say we were nervous. What if no one signed up? We figured an audience of five was better than nothing, and so we tried to line up solid groups of presenters that might attract a decent group of listeners. I am not sure I can speak for Gail, but strangely enough the more people that registered the less nervous I truly was.

How would the technology work? The thought that things could go weird or horribly wrong were more prevalent than that they might just go smoothly. Happily, the events went relatively well. It all felt warm and collegiate and supportive. Though I know some people had connectivity issues and could not stay logged in for which I am sorry. However, this is why we recorded it and why we are very happy to make both available on the Sylvia Plath Info YouTube channel.

Zoomposium I (recorded 30 May 2020) featuring: Mona Arsi, Heather Clark, Sarah Corbett, Amanda Golden, Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick, Gary Leising, Maeve O'Brien, Nic Presley, Maria Rovito, and David Trinidad. Please note Heather Clark's presentation was removed.

Zoomposium II (recorded 6 June 2020) featuring: Di Beddow, Gail Crowther, Eva Stenskar, Peter Fydler, Peter K. Steinberg, Julie Irigaray, Dorka Tamas, Emily Van Duyne, Carl Rollyson, Kitty Shaw, and Giulia Listo.

All links accessed 7 June 2020.

01 June 2020

Sylvia Plath Zoomposium II Schedule

The Sylvia Plath Zoomposium II, to be held Saturday, 6 June 2020, will start at 10 am NY Time (3 PM London time).

Thank you so much for registering and for your attention throughout the hours you will spend in front of your computer or other device. The interest in these Zoom events has been so wonderful. Very warm.

We are working to schedule additional Zoomposiums and have a number of speakers interested. So look for more on that in the future.

The following shows the order of speakers. As with the first Zomposium two days ago, we will plan to start at 10 am EDT/3PM BST sharp and proceed straight through each speaker with no breaks.

Di Beddow

Gail Crowther

Eva Stenskar

Peter Fylder

Peter K. Steinberg

Julie Irigaray

Dorka Tamas

Emily Van Duyne

Giulia de Gregorio Listo

Kitty Shaw

Carl Rollyson

27 May 2020

Sylvia Plath Talk: Proof of Plath

The last YouTube talk I plan on posting is a reading of my article "Proof of Plath" which was published in Fine Books & Collections (Spring 2011).

The subject is uncorrected proofs of Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar which is a topic that fascinates me. It is under seven minutes in duration and I hope you enjoy the video.

All links accessed 27 May 2020.

25 May 2020

Sylvia Plath Zoomposium I Schedule

The Sylvia Plath Zoomposium I is next Saturday, 30 May 2020. The start time is 10 AM NYC time, 3 PM if you are in London. Outside of those two time zones, we shall leave it to you to sort it out!

We wanted to post the schedule so that you can budget your time accordingly, though we naturally hope all will be present for the entire event. Thank you all for registering, the link to the event is in your confirmation email. And thank you for your patience, too, with the technology. It is our honest endeavor to have a fun, warm few hours together listening to some of the most interesting scholarship on Sylvia Plath.

The following shows the order of the speakers and the expected start time for each. However, we are going one after the next and plan only to be ahead of schedule, not behind.

Mona Arshi: 10:05-10:20/15:05-15:20

Heather Clark: 10:25-10:40/15:25-15:40

Sarah Corbett: 10:45-11:00/15:45-16:00

Amanda Golden: 11:05-11:20/16:05-16:20

Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick: 11:25-11:40/16:25-16:40

Gary Leising: 11:45-12:00/16:45-17:00

Maeve O'Brien: 12:05-12:20/17:05-17:20

Nic Presley: 12:25-12:40/17:25-17:40

Maria Rovito: 12:45-13:00/17:45-18:00

David Trinidad: 13:05-13:20/18:05-18:20

The schedule for the Sylvia Plath Zoomposium II will be posted next Monday, 1 June.

20 May 2020

Doubletake: Sylvia Plath’s two different biographies in The Modern Poets (1963)

The following is a guest blog post by Eirin Holberg, a Norwegian archaeologist and writer. Thank you Eirin! ~pks

Two years ago on this day I read an interesting blog post on Sylvia Plath Info Blog about an anthology from 1963 I had not heard about before, containing two of Plath's poems. It was The Modern Poets: An American-British Anthology, edited by John Malcolm Brinnin and Bill Read, published by McGraw-Hill Book Company. The poems were "Black Rook in Rainy Weather" and "The Colossus". What interested me especially was that the anthology was released soon after her death, and that she may have been involved in the planning of it sometime during the last year of her life. It seemed like a fine selection of poetry, so I ordered an inexpensive copy of the same, hardback first edition described on the blog, a former library book from Stanford University Library, and a few weeks later it arrived in my mailbox in Norway.

It is a beautifully produced and broad collection of poets contemporary with Plath, presented in alphabetical order. They range from seniors of modern poetry like T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore to the younger, prominent figures as well as many up-and-coming poets of Plath's own generation, several of whom she knew well. The portraits taken especially for the book by Rollie McKenna are fascinating, very relaxed and natural, showing these writers as they would have looked when Plath met them. I also enjoyed reading the short biography of Plath next to her photo, describing her living in North Tawton with her husband and their two children.

It was not until I recently reread the blog post from May 2018 that I noticed something which puzzled me. Peter mentioned that the mini-biography of Plath included the detail that she died by suicide. I didn't recall having read this, and checked my copy to find out what I had missed and where it could be in the book. I couldn't find any mentioning of her death anywhere. In my copy Plath was still alive:

Sylvia Plath, born October 27, 1932, in Boston Massachusetts, lives in the village of North Tawton, Devonshire, with her husband, the English poet Ted Hughes, and their two children. She was educated at Smith College and at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she met her husband while she was spending a year abroad on a Fulbright fellowship.

I looked up the copy available at Archive.org, and found the text referred to in the blog post. It was on the same page, accompanying the same portrait. It told that she had died, and that it was a suicide:

Sylvia Plath, born October 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts, died in London in 1963 by suicide. She was married to the English poet Ted Hughes by whom she had two children. Her death abruptly ended a brief and brilliant career as a poet that began at Smith College and continued at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she met her husband while she was spending a year abroad on a Fulbright Fellowship.

Hughes' biography was different, too. The lines 3 and 4 in my copy says that he "lives with his wife, the American poet Sylvia Plath, in Devonshire". In the later version, these are replaced by two new lines, carefully chiseled to fit into the remaining text on the limited space above his portrait: "[he] was the husband of the late Sylvia Plath by whom he had two children".

How can two copies of the same, first edition of the book contain different texts? The first version was in ordinary sale as early as March 1963, according to a reviewer of the anthology on the website LibraryThing which mentions having inscribed the book as bought that month. The reference made to Plath's biography in this review fits with the earliest version. So, the book seems to have been released very soon after Plath's death, with the first version sent out to bookshops and libraries in March, if not earlier.

A probable explanation for the differing biographies would be that the first print was done in a limited number, as is often the practice, and when the editors were made aware of her death, they had time to make the changes before the next print. Usually, contributing authors are among the first to receive copies of a newly printed book. If Ted Hughes received his copy in May, two months later, it could mean that he never got the first version. Maybe the publisher delayed sending a copy to Hughes until the update had been made? The changes may even have been done in agreement with him. If so, the decision to mention that she died by her own hand could have been approved by him or done in accordance with his wish.

The explanation may be simple and logical, but I still find this fascinating. I look at the two, identical books before me: the same bright, orange binding, the same portrait on the same page and the biographies beginning the exact same way before parting. In one version she is dead; in the other she is still alive. It is like being presented with two alternative realities, mirroring the ambiguity and complexity of her life and her writing, her interest for and repeated use of mirrors and reflections, the double self and being in-between life and death. It is also a reminder of how quickly everything changed the last months of her life. In some strange way this small irregularity between the two books seems to hold exactly this moment of time, the unsettled space between what could have been and what was.

13 May 2020

New Sylvia Plath Info Talk: Sincerely Yours

In October 2012, at the Sylvia Plath Symposium at Indiana University, I presented on a number of things. One of them is this talk: "Sincerely yours: Sylvia Plath and The New Yorker". (Another of them will be presented in Zoomposium II on 6 June.)

In many ways this essay continued my interest and exploration in Plath's business correspondence which was first featured in the essays that went into These Ghostly Archives (those were the letters to and from the BBC). The correspondence is such a fascinating look into how a poem gets accepted and published, and the back-and-forth that sometimes takes place.

At any rate, this talk is now up on the Sylvia Plath Info YouTube channel and I hope that you enjoy it.

Note: While I am happy to present that talk (and its slides), I must inform you that this talk was significantly revised and published in Sylvia Plath in Context (2019).

All links accessed 13 May 2020.

10 May 2020

Sylvia Plath Archives Reading on YouTube

On Saturday 9 May 2020, Gail Crowther and I read Chapter 1 "'Riddled with ghosts': Absence and presence in the archive" from our book These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath (2017). We had a rather nice turn out which lead to a great question and answer session following the talk.

We are happy to make our talk available to you now via my YouTube page. So, please enjoy! And thank you for listening.

If you are interested in reading the book, please consider buying a copy if you have not already done so.

All links accessed 10 May 2020.

06 May 2020

New YouTube Video: "I should be loving this": Sylvia Plath's "The Perfect Place" and The Bell Jar

Back in 2007, I gave a talk "'I should be loving this': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar" at the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Oxford in October 2007. I was lucky enough to have a second opportunity to read a slightly revised version of it the following spring at a weekend Symposium at Smith College.

Here is a Loom recording of the talk which is now on YouTube. Additionally, the talk was further revised and published later in 2008 which you can read in the the Articles and Essays section on my Resources page on A celebration, this is.

All links accessed 6 May 2020.

01 May 2020

The Sylvia Plath Zoomposiums

Gail Crowther and I are happy to announce that registration for the both Sylvia Plath Zoomposiums are now open.

The details are coming! The details are coming!

Sylvia Plath Zoomposium I
Date: 30 May 2020
Time: 10 am EDT/3 pm GMT
This event has ended.

The speakers for this first event are:

Mona Arshi (UK)
Heather Clark (US)
Sarah Corbett (UK)
Amanda Golden (US)
Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick (US)
Gary Leising (US)
Maeve O'Brien (UK)
Nic Presley (UK)
Maria Rovito (US)
David Trinidad (US)

Sylvia Plath Zoomposium II
Date: 6 June 2020
Time: 10 am EDT/3 pm GMT
Click here to register for Sylvia Plath Zoomposium II

The speakers for this first event are:

Di Beddow (UK)
Gail Crowther (UK)
Peter Fydler (UK)
Julie Irigaray (FR/UK)
Giulia de Gregorio Listo (BR)
Carl Rollyson (US)
Kitty Shaw (UK)
Peter K. Steinberg (US)
Eva Stenskar (SE/US)
Dorka Tamas (HU/UK)
Emily Van Duyne (US)

The Zoomposiums will be recorded. Each speaker will present consecutively with no breaks other than to introduce the next person.

P.S.: Reminder! 

Gail and I will be reading from our 2017 book These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath on Saturday 9 May at 10 am EDT/3 pm GMT. Registration is open now. Sign up, please! It is the first time we have ever read from the book!

All links accessed 28-30 April 2020.

29 April 2020

New YouTube Video: The Search for Sylvia Plath (Talk, 2007)

I have posted the talk---the first talk I ever gave---"The Search for Sylvia Plath" on Plath websites at the 2007 Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at University of Oxford on my YouTube page. Please go check it out. All the information in there is remarkably dated, but yet, some of it might actually hold true even today, about 13 years later.

All links accessed 29 April 2020.
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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.