18 February 2015

Sylvia Plath Memorial Evening

In 1 November 2014, I posted on "Collecting Sylvia Plath". This post was originally part of that, but I decided to break it out for a special occasion. That occasion is today, just after the 52nd anniversary of Sylvia Plath's death.

The following document was acquired from The Poetry Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, and was something also formerly belonging to long-time BBC producer Fred Hunter (obit; another obit).

Truly this is a piece of ephemera: a single-sided leaflet produced by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, for a "Sylvia Plath Memorial Evening" which was (to be) held on 29 April. The full text reads:

INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ARTS
17 Dover Street
W 1

Sylvia Plath Memorial Evening

The ICA are arranging a memorial evening for
Sylvia Plath on thursday, april 29th at 8.15 pm

The speakers will be Ian Hamilton and M L
Rosenthal and Al Alvarez will be in the Chair.

The evening will be illustrated with recordings
of Sylvia Plath reading her own poems.

ICA                                members & students 2/-
17 Dover Street              non-members 3/6
W 1

Initially, I thought this evening was planned for 1963. The archival record suggested that it originally was.  The ICA's archive is held by the Tate Museum in London. On contacting them, I inquired if they had any event materials pertaining to this evening, as well as any possible correspondence. There was no material for the event, and a search of correspondence found just one letter from the ICA's Dorothy Morland (obit) to Ted Hughes dated 26 February 1963 (15 days after Plath's death). In this letter, Morland expresses interest in the ICA hosting the memorial evening. It would feature "readings of her poetry with only a short introduction". She discussed the event with Alvarez who "expressed some doubts"; though Alvarez said he would talk it over with Hughes. The letter also mentions that Alvarez would be absent all of April. There is a chance the event took place, then, in May. But then again, nothing appears to have taken place that year.There was no reply letter from Hughes found in the ICA's archive.

However, as a few people pointed out in emails to me (thank you Paul, Sheila, and Tim), there was a "Sylvia Plath Memorial Evening" held on 29 April 1965. According to WorldCat, UNC at Chapel Hill holds a copy of the ICA Bulletin for April 1965 detailing that the programme would be "illustrated with recordings of Sylvia Plath reading her own poems." The three page Bulletin includes a "brief biographical and bibliographical entry for Plath opposite on p. 2." The failure of the ICA to host this event in 1963 suggests that Ted Hughes did not want them to celebrate her life -- or possibly call attention to her recent death. Instead, the timing most likely coincides with the publication late that winter (11 March) of Ariel.

Plath had a little history with the ICA in London which was discussed a bit in this blog post. The ICA when Plath was living was located at 17 Dover Street (map) London.

My thanks to Allison Foster of the Tate Museum Archives for her assistance with my queries. And, again to Paul, Sheila, and Tim for their emails and helpful information. Initially I thought that the event would have taken place in 1963 and failed to consider that it might have happened in another year.

All links accessed 2 & 8 July, 1 October 2014, 21 January and 17 February 2015. The post was significantly revised on 20 and 22 February 2015.

11 February 2015

Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning: The Story of a Book

Author Talk
Gail Crowther and Anthony Cockayne will be speaking on Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning in locations around England commencing on 18 February 2015 at the Hornsey Library.

Here's the information:

The Story of a Book: Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning
A talk by the author Gail Crowther and artist Anthony Cockayne

Hornsey Library
Haringey Park, London N8 9JA

Wednesday, 18 February, 7-8:30 pm



Additional talks are in the works for Cambridge, Cumbria, Manchester, and Plymouth.



The Back Cover
In 2014, British artist Anthony Cockayne completed the oil painting "The Moon and the Yew Tree" that appears on the back cover of Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning following a suggestion in 2013 by author Gail Crowther, proposing the idea. Cockayne had made a visit to the churchyard of St.Peters in North Tawton in 2012 and so had experience of the poem's setting and fascinatingly had read "The Moon and the Yew Tree" aloud, whilst close to the Yew, to two friends who had driven him there. The experience was incalculable during the creation of the painting. The original oil on linen painting measures 49cm x 49cm, taking its measurements from the lead in Hughes's poem "Fairy Tale " from Birthday Letters, when he states "Forty-nine was your magic number" (159). During the painting's development a further Hughes line and the very last in Birthday Letters had a considerable bearing on its look: "But the jewel you lost was blue" ("Red", 198). The intention was to restore the Blue in the painting.

A pigment print on Canson etching paper,is available in an edition of 49, the image size corresponding with the original work. An unframed print is available through contact at www.anthonycockayne.com. Price 200 GBP. Postage and Packing not included in the price.


A word about the book
It is not my intention to review Elizabeth Sigmund and Gail Crowther's recent book Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning (Fonthill Media, 2014). However, if parts of this post sound like a review it is merely coincidence. Having contributed the introduction "Writing Life" to the book and been a witness to it in all its stages -- from manuscript to proof to the printed form -- the book is in many ways too close. However, having said that, I do not think there is anything wrong with either commenting on Sylvia Plath in Devon or promoting it. And what better day to do it than today, 11 February 2015, the 52nd anniversary since Plath's death. A day to celebrate Plath's life, which Sylvia Plath in Devon does. Though some might say I am biased, I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Sylvia Plath in Devon is written with care and compassion which is a direct reflection on the all-too brief but meaningful friendship between Elizabeth Sigmund (then Compton) and Sylvia Plath. The true nature of the friendship, and just how much it meant to Plath, is evident in the simple act of Plath famously turning to Elizabeth for comfort on the difficult day in July 1962 when Ted Hughes' infidelity was confirmed. Also in Plath dedicating her first novel The Bell Jar to Elizabeth and her then husband, the writer David Compton.

Elizabeth's memoir of Plath is a wonderful read, recalling many of their meetings. What is remarkable is how clear the memories are, how deeply ingrained they are in Elizabeth's being, how even after Plath's death she was a strong and vibrant presence in her life. As well, how Plath's life seemed to connect and intersect with Elizabeth's after Plath's death. These connections might have been illuminated had Plath lived, but I find it truly remarkable that they were made, sometimes decades after Plath's death. The cohesiveness transferred to Gail's full-length chapter on Plath's time in Devon from September 1961 to December 1962. Major works by Plath are discussed, and the narrative reads smoothly, as Gail expertly weaves together a thorough and compelling story of Plath's life and times. Drawn from a careful intertextual assessment of Plath's archives: letters, personal papers, working manuscripts for poetry, radio recordings and broadcasts, realia, and much more, Gail's chapter highlights what mattered most to Plath during this period: her writing, her family, culture, and the development of a country identity and presence.

Sylvia Plath in Devon assumes prior knowledge of Plath's life, of her first 29 years. When necessary, Gail dips both into pre-Devon life and also at Plath's death. It is not an easy book to read, very emotionally charged as the subject seems always to be. But rather than dwell on mistakes and pass judgement on the behavior of people now gone, Gail sticks solidly to Elizabeth's example of exuding tact. Elizabeth has an amazing soul and vivacity, her voice and laugh when I hear it keeps me on a high for days. And I can just imagine how easily Plath took her. As each chapter of Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning was written, and as I worked on the introduction, I felt Elizabeth's strong presence as a guiding force; an unconscious and unstated dictum that this book be about nothing other than her friend Sylvia Plath and her achievements.

Buy it from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or Book Depository today!

All links accessed 30 January and 2 February 2015.

01 February 2015

Sylvia Plath and the BBC Genome

The BBC has recently launched something called BBC Genome (currently in BETA). The site "contains the BBC listings information which the BBC printed in Radio Times between 1923 and 2009. You can search the site for BBC programmes, people, dates and Radio Times editions."

As you might have guessed, I searched for … Sylvia Plath. I also searched Ted Hughes and Frieda Hughes.

The website offers two major ways to access listing information. One is a blanket, standard search (with advanced searching available, too). Another is to browse the separate issues of Radio Times (and by doing so, you can see a select few of the actual covers -- greedily I would love to see them all). I like both methods, but have to admit it is easier to search the Radio Times listings if I know the exact date for the broadcast in which I am interested. For example, Sylvia Plath's "Three Women" was broadcast on 19 August 1962, and thus appeared in the 16 August 1962 issue of Radio Times in the Third Programme section. It is fascinating to see what else was on at the time, and to try to guess whether Plath listened to the other programs on at the time. "Three Women" was re-broadcast on 13 September 1962, which was when she was in Ireland. In browsing the search results, I learned that Plath's novel The Bell Jar was dramatized on the BBC's Radio 3 on 29 December 1974 (and again on 1 February 1976). The adaptation was about 70-80 minutes in duration. Would love to hear it. (Hint hint.)  And review it. (Hint hint).

The data in many of these search results is not as granular as I would like, but I am perhaps unreasonable given the massive breadth of what the BBC would have to do to present all the information. Such as I would love the site to present the poems read by title. Through my own research and consulting published works by Stephen Tabor and Kate Moses, among others, I have captured this level of detail on my website for Sylvia Plath, so at least I feel we are covered from that angle. But, my website really only concerns itself with broadcasts during Plath's life time. And what you see in BBC Genome is the fuller history of Plath herself on the British radio (during her lifetime and posthumously) but also those programmes that she may have listened to during her time at Cambridge, in London, and in Devon. Plath regularly listened, for example, to foreign language programmes in German and Italian, which is noted in her 1962 Letts Calender.

Listing for dramatization
of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar,
from The Listener.
The BBC's other publication, The Listener, is also available online (news about it here). However, unlike the Genome, The Listener Historical Archive is not free. Though some might find access to it as I did through their local public and/or college libraries. Also a terrifically vital resource, The Listener archives should certainly please you. The page images (an example is to the right), are accessed via full-text search capability that is very accurate, are in full color and are downloadable. If you are interested in seeing the covers of Listener issues that featured Plath's poems, please head over to the periodical covers page on A celebration, this is. But, please do not forget to come back.

If you have access to both the BBC Genome and The Listener . . .  well, let's just say you can and should call it a party.

All in all, BBC Genome is a wonderful resource. The website is easy to use and to navigate, and I get a certain thrill being able to browse the Radio Times this way knowing that Plath, herself a subscriber to the Radio Times, browsed it in the original version. Many of the Genome's pages are already cached by Google, so you can always quickly search "Sylvia Plath" "BBC genome" and feel happy about the results. Go on, get lost in history.

Kind thanks to Dr Ann Skea for letting me know about the resource.

All links accessed 8, 20, 28 January 2015.

27 January 2015

Sylvia Plath Collections: Letter to Eleanor Ross Taylor, Vanderbilt

The Special Collections and University Archives of Vanderbilt University's Jean and Alexander Heard Library The Peter Taylor Papers (MSS. 435) holds one letter from Sylvia Plath to Taylor's wife, the poet Eleanor Ross Taylor. The letter is held in Series 1: Correspondence, Incoming Correspondence, Box 4, Folder 12: Page - Plath. The handwritten letter is simply dated Friday by Plath, but the postmark on the retained envelope indicates that it was written and sent from London NW1 on Friday 27 January 1961. However, there is a faint, ghostly postmark stamp underneath from a Kensington post office, dated 1 February 1961 (a Wednesday). I wonder if there was a delay in delivering the letter?

9 Princess Street, London NW1
Speaking of postmarks... a short diversion. Did you know that when Plath lived in Primrose Hill -- at both 3 Chalcot Square and 23 Fitzroy Road -- her post office was located at 9 Princess Street (map)? The current post office is at 91 Regents Park Road (map),

The letter is brief, just two paragraphs of one sentence each and is signed under her married name Sylvia Hughes. The letter politely cancels plans to meet on Saturday night in part because it was Plath's turn to work at the office (The Bookseller) and hopes they can arrange to meet again sometime in the future. The letter was sent to the Taylor's at 25 Kensington Gate, London (map).

If you search the Taylor collections at Vanderbilt, you will also see another finding aid for a different collection of his papers: The Peter Taylor Papers (MSS. 591). This collection, too, has a hit for Plath in Series 1: Correspondence, Incoming Correspondence, Box 6 (O-Q), Folder 8: Pierce - Plath. However, this is the wrong Plath! This one is from James Plath and is dated April 17, 1990. Its subject is the new independent arts journal, Clockwatch Review.

Thanks to Molly Dohrmann of Special Collections and University Archives Vanderbilt University for her assistance.

Eleanor Ross Taylor reviewed Ariel in her article "Sylvia Plath's Last Poems" in January 1967 issue of Poetry (pages 260-262). A couple of years back, some books (maybe all?) from the Taylor's library were sold via Between the Covers Rare Books. Among those books was Eleanor Ross Taylor's Ariel, with her ownership signature on the front free end paper, which I received as a gift from a friend.



All links accessed 3 June 2014 and 27 January 2015.

20 January 2015

Elizabeth Sigmund and Gail Crowther's Sylvia Plath in Devon

Published officially yesterday in the United States, Elizabeth Sigmund and Gail Crowther's Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning is already having difficulty being acquired via sources like Amazon. I understand this is taking place in the UK as well. The Kindle edition is readily available, but do not be afraid to also see if it is available directly from the publisher (Fonthill Media) or other outlets like Book Depository (which offers free shipping worldwide).

I hope the publisher sorts out any issues it has had with distributing print copies of the book. Plath scholars and libraries around the world will get much use from the physical book, and it is still, so far as I know, the best medium in which to read.

Gail and contributing artist Anthony Cockayne are in the planning stages to do author events in the UK. So, check back here for event updates, or also over on Sylvia Plath Info's twitter thing.

All links accessed 20 January 2015.

15 January 2015

Bloomsbury Auction of Sylvia Plath Books - The Results

The two lots of Sylvia Plath books being auctioned today by Bloomsbury in England as part of the Bibliophile Sale, Lot 422 and Lot 423, comprised of eight and seven books respectively.

Lot 422 sold today for £550 (roughly $835).

Lot 423 sold today for £400 (roughly $607).

Here are two images of the books, sent to me by Bloomsbury. I hope it is ok to show them!

Lot 422

Lot 423


All links accessed 15 January 2015.

12 January 2015

Books by Sylvia Plath to be Auctioned

Bloomsbury Auctions is holding a Bibliophile Sale on Thursday 15 January 2015, 11:00am, at Baverstock House, Godalming, Surrey, England.

As you might have guessed, there are a couple of Sylvia Plath lots in the auction!

Lot no. 422 - Contains 8 books by Sylvia Plath/"Victoria Lucas"
[Plath (Sylvia)], "Victoria Lucas". - The Bell Jar
Estimate £150–200

1. The Bell Jar, Contemporary Fiction edition, light creasing to head, light rubbing and surface soiling, 1964;
2. The Bell Jar, first Faber edition, staining to front free endpaper, jacket rear panel stained, very light browning to head of spine, creasing to head, 1966, original cloth, dust-jackets, excellent copies;
and 6 others by the same, 8vo (8)

Updated: 13 January 2015
The six other titles in lot 422 are:
3. The Bell Jar, Harper & Row (hardback with dust wrapper)
4. Crossing the Water, Faber & Faber (hardback with dust wrapper)
5. Winter Trees, Faber & Faber, (hardback with dust wrapper)
6. The Bed Book, Faber & Faber (hardback with dust wrapper)
7. Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, Faber & Faber, (hardback with dust wrapper)
8. Collected Poems, Faber & Faber, (hardback with dust wrapper)

These all appear, from an image seen, to be first editions but I am unsure if in fact they are.

Lot no. 423 - Contains 7 books by Sylvia Plath
Plath (Sylvia) - Ariel
Estimate £150–200

1. Ariel, First edition, ink ownership inscription, jacket spine slightly browned, spine ends and corners a little chipped with minor repairs to verso, 1965;
2. The Colossus, jacket with closed tears to head of upper panel, New York, 1962, original cloth, dust-jackets;
and 5 others by the same, 8vo (7)

Updated: 13 January 2015
The five other titles in lot 423 are:
3. The Bell Jar, Harper & Row (hardback with dust wrapper)
4. Crossing the Water, Faber & Faber (hardback with dust wrapper)
5. Winter Trees, Faber & Faber, (hardback with dust wrapper)
6. The Bed Book, Faber & Faber (hardback with dust wrapper)
7. Collected Poems, Faber & Faber, (hardback with dust wrapper)

As with the above, these all appear, from an image seen, to be first editions but I am unsure if in fact they are. 


All links accessed 6 January 2015.

01 January 2015

Praising Sylvia Plath

Praising Sylvia Plath As a student in Smith College, Sylvia Plath published a number of poems and short stories in Seventeen magazine. Slow to start, receiving scores of rejection letters, Plath's words finally landed her in print as a high schooler with an anonymous appearance in November 1949. Then, a story ("And Summer Will Not Come Again") and a poem ("Ode to a Bitten Plum") August and November 1950, and a story ("Den of Lions") in May 1951.

Plath then saw much success between October 1952 and April 1953, practically owning page-space whilst appearing five times in those seven months (Plath did not appear in either November 1952 or February 1953). In that run of months and appearances, Plath's three poems and two stories were "Twelfth Night" (poem, October 1952); "The Perfect Setup (story, December 1952); "Initiation" (story, January 1953); "The Suitcases are Packed Again" (poem, March 1953); and "Carnival Nocturne" (poem, April 1953). Plath's poem "Sonnet to a Dissembling Spring" was accepted but never printed.

Plath's short story "Initiation" won second prize in the annual short-story contest held by Seventeen. The idea for the story, which was originally titled "Heather-Birds' Eyebrows", came out of Plath's own experiences in high school and was a long time in coming. Andrew Wilson relates a memory of Aurelia Plath's in his excellent 2013 biography Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted: "The [original] title [of "Heather-Birds' Eyebrows"] came from a conversation that occurred while Sylvia, 'carrying out orders during high school sorority hazing, asked people on the bus what they ate for breakfast,' recalled Aurelia. 'When she told me of the delightfully imaginative reply given by an elderly gentleman, I exclaimed, ‘There! You have a story!’'" (81-82)

Another possible inspiration for the story is Seventeen magazine itself. In November 1950, Plath's poem "Ode to a Bitten Plum" appeared; but also in this issue, a story called "Initiation Fee" by Rebecca Shallit (later, Rebecca Turtletaub). The tagline for the story reads, "Nothing in all the world seemed as important to Dodie as pledging the right sorority" (77).

First page of "Initiation Fee" by Rebecca Shallit,
from Seventeen, November 1950.
Even the illustration above is fairly reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, wouldn't you say? I see in particular resemblances to (at least) two photographs of Plath. The first being Plath circa 1950 and the second, as a bridesmaid in June 1955.

 


Shallit's story received many letters of praise to the editor in the months following its appearance. As a reader, as a contributor, and as a studier of the magazine, Plath had the perfect setup herself for being able to write on a similar theme but in her own voice and based on her own experiences.

Plath's 1950 appearances warranted some attention from Stookie Allen in January 1951. In the summer of 1951, Seventeen sent Plath "sent two brief mimeographed copies of eulogistic letters" for her story "Den of Lions" (Letters Home, page 72; please note the letter was written on 6 July 1951 and not 7 July 1951, as the book states). In looking through all the Seventeen magazines for the summer and fall of 1951, I could not find that these letters were ever printed; and the kind people at the Lilly Library were not able to find anything in the massive Plath archive there when asked. However, praise for Sylvia Plath did appear in print in the January, March, and April 1953 issues of Seventeen:

Plath received some praise in the magazine for "The Perfect Setup" and "Initiation". Below are some images of letters to the editor from appreciative early readers and followers of Plath.

On "The Perfect Setup", January 1953, page 4



On "Initiation", March 1953, page 4



On "Initiation", April 1953, page 4



You can see all the covers of Seventeen magazine where Plath's works appeared on the periodicals thumbnail page over at A celebration, this is.

All links accessed 15 November 2015.

21 December 2014

Sylvia Plath 2014: Year in Review

After the chaos of 2013 in the world Sylvia Plath, I think I was not too surprised that 2014 was a far quieter year. In fact, I think a lot of us needed that from what was an over-saturation of stuff.

Unlike last year, there were very few major newspaper articles about Plath, as well as fewer scholarly essays published during the course of this year. At the present time just one new book published about Plath. Squeaking in under the wire, Gail Crowther's and Elizabeth Sigmund's biography & memoir of dual authorship Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning (Fonthill Media) was published in December. The book features some of Elizabeth's memories of her friend, and an excellent, full length biographical treatment by Gail of Plath's time in Devon from September 1961 to early December 1962. It is the best assessment of that amazing year and period in Plath's life I have ever read, and was honored to be asked by both Gail and Elizabeth to write the "Introduction" to the volume. I hope you enjoy the entire book. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning can be purchased via Amazon.co.uk AYTAmazon.com AYT, and other booksellers, and it available both in print and in various electronic formats.


Julia Gordon-Bramer's Fixed Stars Govern a Life: Decoding Sylvia Plath (Stephen F. Austin University Press, Amazon), was scheduled to be published this year but publication has been delayed. Though last reports were that the book had gone to the printers, I do not think it is officially available as of now. Although, I guess maybe there were some books about Plath published as 2013 biographies by Carl Rollyson, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Winder were all released in paperback format. Sally Bayley (contributor to Eye Rhymes and co-editor of Representing Sylvia Plath) is working on seeing published her new book The Private Life of the Diary: From Pepys to Tweets (Unbound Books). Plath necessarily features in this work.

There was only one book by Plath issued this year, and that was late in the year. In November, Faber released The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit and Other Stories. This is a compilation of all of Plath's children's stories which numbers to just three: "The Bed Book", "The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit" and "Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen" and features illustrations by David Roberts. The book was released simultaneously in England and America, both in paperback and in Kindle editions. It is the first time that "Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen" has been published in the US! For purchasing, visit Faber's website, Amazon.co.uk (UK paperback - UK Kindle), or Amazon.com (US paperback - US Kindle).

As mentioned above, highlights and newsworthy events for Plath this year were fewer than last year, but 2014 closes out with a bang. In November we learned of a major Sylvia Plath archive to be sold at Sotheby's on 2 December. In obsessing over this auction, and its original appearance on the block in 1982, I learned much including the existence of four new Plath letters, as well as additional early poems and stories that were largely unknown.

It was also a good year for tours. In February, I flew to London to give a Plath tour to three Americans. that included London, Devon, and Heptonstall. It was timed to be at Plath's grave on 11 February. On that trip, Gail Crowther and I were shown Plath and Hughes' flat at 3 Chalcot Square. In September, I got to tour Yaddo as they opened their doors to the public for a weekend; and in November, I gave a tour of Winthrop, Anne Sexton's house in Newton, and McLean Hospital to Australian scholar Sarah-Jane Burton.

In looking back through each month, certain posts for me stand about among others. The following posts either took a lot of time to research and gave me a sense of accomplishment, or simply the topic seemed more interesting or garnered more attention:

In January, my wife and I made Sylvia Plath's Heavenly Sponge Cake. It was some good.

February 2014: Concluded a 4 month project to highlight Sylvia Plath collections. The three discussed in February were Martin Booth papers, William Heinemann Ltd. archives, and holdings at the University of Tulsa.

March 2014: The unanimous most popular post this year was "Sylvia Plath and the SS United States". Another neat one with lots of good information was Sylvia Plath's Passport, Part 2. This was following in April with a Part 3 and a fun post on "Sylvia Plath: Three Women and The Journals.

In May and June and July, several posts highlighted newly found articles authored by (or very likely authored by) Sylvia Plath. See posts on 20 May; 8 June; and 7 July. Poet and Plath scholar David Trinidad was the featured blogger for the month of June for the Poetry Foundation. All of his posts are wonderful, but concentrated on Plath: "More is More: Sylvia Plath's Letters" and "Collecting Sylvia Plath".

If you missed "Sylvia Plath & the Mystery of the Ad in the Paper" or "The Search for Sylvia Plath continues..." in August, shame on you.

This blog would not be as successful without the guests posts! Deep, sincere thanks to Christine Walde for her fascinating "Signal to Noise: Reading Ted Hughes papers at the British Library" and to Gail Crowther for her "Sylvia Plath, Bell Jars and Bowen" post from September. In October, November, and December there were some fun posts, too, so be sure to check each month out.

For the sake of consistency, I will report on the popular pages on my website for Sylvia Plath, A celebration, this is and give a summary of total hits. I find the metrics behind the website and blog really interest because it helps me to look at how people are finding the site, and also helps me to think about the areas that might need improving (or even removing). Visitors most likely used the keywords "Sylvia Plath", "Sylvia Plath Biography" or "The Bell Jar". The top six pages of the website for the year beginning 1 December 2013 and ending 30 November 2014 are:

1) Biography
2) Poetry Works
3) The Bell Jar
4) Prose Works
5) Thumbs books (SP's prose works
6) Johnny Panic synopses

One improvement to the website this year, and it is still a work in progress, is that on the Works Index page, where known I have added a date, or dates, of composition. As with everything on either the website or this blog, I hope it is useful, and if you notice something missing or wrong, please let me know. And, between the website and the blog, there were a total of at least 90,541 hits. Thank you!

My own blog activity this year was way down from previous years. Why? Mostly because I spent a massive portion of the year transcribing, annotating, and proofing all of the letters written by Plath not held by Smith College (in the neighborhood of 1200), conducting research on these letters for the notes, building the index for these letters, and other duties. This took an enormous amount of time and energy, but I hope that what posts I did do on this blog, and what additions I did make to the website, were useful, interesting, informative, and that they will contribute in some fashion to a better understanding of Plath's life and her creative works. It is a privilege to get to work with these documents so closely and hope when the book is published (when, I'm not sure, so don't ask!) it will be a significant contribution to Plath studies.

Looking ahead to 2015! It will be the 50th anniversary (not another one!) of
Ariel in March. Intentional or not, Faber is releasing a beautifully repackaged edition of Plath's most famous volume of poetry in April as compiled and published after Plath's death by Ted Hughes. (Read their 29 September 2014 announcement on this here.)

I learned so incredibly much about Sylvia Plath this year. Biographically and otherwise. In large part my motivation to research and to try to learn more is because of you, the fine readers of this blog. Thank you all for reading, emailing, and sending me links via Twitter and other means. Thank you also to those who comment and for occasionally discussing some of ideas, issues, and topics brought up in posts. Happy Holidays!

All links accessed 24 October; 21 November; and 4, 8 & 11 December 2014.

15 December 2014

Sylvia Plath scholar Sally Bayley's The Private Life of the Diary

The author, Sally Bayley
Teaching and Research Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford and a Lecturer in English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, Dr. Sally Bayley, contributor to Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual, co-editor of Representing Sylvia Plath, and author of several other articles on Sylvia Plath, is in the process of seeing her most recent bookThe Private Life of the Diary: from Pepys to Tweets (Unbound Books) through to completion. As you might expect from Sally and a book of diary writing, the book features Sylvia Plath who was a dedicated diary writer and journalist for nearly 20 of her 30 years.

Here are some excerpts for you from the book; specially selected and published here with permission from the author and publisher:

"...Plath, on the other hand, wants to be a good witness of life; she wishes to see and tell things as they are, and so her adolescent journals, kept from the age of fifteen, are filled with carefully composed word-sketches of the world around her: the ‘big, beautiful world as it really is’. Plath’s eye is that of an artist-in-training, and her diary entries often read like a lesson in drawing from John Ruskin..."

"...Plath is a chatty diarist. Her tempo and register are rapid and colloquial; she is excited and at times she babbles. Comparing some of her novel drafts to a form of diary writing, she calls it ‘sentimental’ and ‘vain’, too one-sided. It is true that Plath’s diary-voice is repeatedly preoccupied with one subject: herself and her future and an overwhelming fear of compromise. Too many passages spin around mutually exclusive choices: either to sublimate her egotistical self and lead a life in service to others, or to choose to write, for her own sake..."



"...What Plath claims to lack she in fact shows in abundance: endless self-critical diagnoses that turn in upon themselves. The girl who wants to be God has created an uncanny critical persona, a divine being who reads over her shoulder and delivers a short-sighted reading of her self. Nothing seems very accurate or true. The facts of the matter are all submerged – to use one of Plath’s favourite verbs…"
Stills from Suzie Hanna's The Girl Who Would Be God

Unbound is a new independent crowd-sourced publisher and represents a new model of publishing. They "connect authors and readers. Authors present a pitch, you pledge, and when the goal is reached the book is written. It's really that simple." For those interested, and you really should be as the book sounds fascinating, there is a range of ways for you to acquire Sally's book. For just £10 you get a digital copy of the book; £20 will get you hardback copy to hold, covet and cherish, as well as the e-book edition, access to the "shed", and your name in the back of the book. For £35 you get everything that's come before which includes a signed edition. The £50 option trumps what's come before by the inclusion of a digital copy of Suzie Hanna's The Girl Who Would Be God, which was inspired by Plath's journals and created especially for the 2007 Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Oxford University. There are other options too, which really lets you control what you get. An important pledge level involves school workshops. Sally will take diary writing into schools as a means of helping teenagers find a writing and speaking voice that is not necessarily related to social media texting/blurting. See the books webpage for more information.

All links accessed 9 & 12 December 2014.
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Publications & Acknowledgements

Interviews