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.

2 comments :

A Piece of Plathery said...

Hurrah on a fabulous year of Plathing despite all the craziness of COVID

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you, Plathery! I hope that you and your family are all very well.

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