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!
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