The Sylvia Plath Forum

www.sylviaplathforum.com

July 2003 - September 2003

Patrick
Bradenton, USA
Sunday, September 28, 2003

Marta, that was one of the most original, refreshing, and charming posts I've come across in a long time! I felt I had to write and tell you that. "Feeling like a weirdo" ... he, he, I am sure everyone here has felt like that. I know I did, growing up in a small town, where there was nothing to do except read books (before the vast reaches of the Web changed that landscape forever!) Nobody, but nobody, in my town had ever heard of Sylvia Plath. What a joy to move to a big city and find out there were other people who loved her poetry as much as I did. Even to know that other people disliked her poetry, but had read it and been touched by it in some way, was an amazing experience. I am sure everyone on this forum was as charmed by your message as I was!

Trish
Seattle, USA
Saturday, September 27, 2003

I've visited this clever, amazing forum so many many times, since early 1999, actually, but I never felt like leaving a message here. Why? Maybe because I'm too shy. Not because I had nothing to say, and I must confess that sometimes I was really tempted to discuss and debate, but something deep in me told me to remain silent and just read and enjoy. Now I'm ready to speak, I'm older now. :)

I've got to say that I'm considered as a kind of weirdo in my country, because almost nobody knows a single thing about Sylvia here. She's known here only by English Philology students (and teachers) and by feminists.

How did I happen to discover her? By sheer luck. I was reading Prozac Nation in 1995 and I came across some references and quotes about Sylvia, and I was so awestruck that I ran to an English Bookstore and bought all the few books by Sylvia I found. That decided me to leave my old ambition of being a rock star (he he) and, instead, to study English Literature in college. To be honest, I always loved English and American authors: my favorite since I was a teen was Virginia Woolf... So, I graduated with the class of 2001, and now I'm researching for my undergraduate thesis. I am really happy with my life, now... or almost. But sometimes I feel bad. I mean, all that distorted and propagandistic (pro-Plath, against-Plath) criticism makes me feel sick. That kind of people who reads books about books about books... and who feels not the real core, the heart of literature...

What I want to say is that I'm here to stay, and that I'll be just extra-glad if you count on me for opinions and discussions and everything! :)

Ah, about the question some girl asked about what happens to Esther after sleeping with Irving... She felt it hurted a bit too much, didn't she? Well, poor Esther was injured while having sex with the useless guy: got a bad cut in her vagina, and she started haemorraging badly. That's why blood fills her shoes. That's why she has to go to hospital. Clearer now, huh?

One more thing: I am a bit scared about the film. If it makes her "trendy", a mass commodity (just like Virginia with The Hours, or like Kurt Cobain after his death), I'm going to feel very sad. I don't want her to be "fashionable". If only the movie would make a miracle! Oh, if people would really feel touched and interested! I keep my fingers crossed.

Marta
Barcelona, Spain
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Joelle, there are several rare booksellers in Seattle and you should take your book to them for an appraisal. Don't do a search on Ebay or Abe Books in hopes of using the results as a comparison. You have a rather hard-to-find book and it should be appraised by a competent specialist in that field.

Trish
Seattle, USA
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Hi Joelle - first you have to determine if it is the 'true' first edition, which was published in 1963 by William Heinemann, London - the dust jacket shows a shadowy woman's form under a bell jar. If the dust jacket is an abstract design of lavender, white and black, it's the 1964 Contemporary Fiction edition. Both versions are by 'Victoria Lucas' and both are valuable, but the former is more valuable than the latter.

The Bell Jar was first published under Plath's own name in 1966. The true first - depending on condition -is selling for between $1500-2500+; the book club edition sells from $250-600+. The dust jacket is very important - if the book has no dust jacket it is worth far, far less than the prices I just quoted you. If the dust jacket is in poor condition - tears, stains, etc. - that will bring down the price significantly, as will any damage to the book itself - the spine, covers, pages.

There are a number of book selling sites that offer information on condition of books, etc. You could sell the book yourself on Ebay or on Amazon.com auction or Zshop sites, or offer it to another bookseller who might be able to sell it for you for a commission. Obviously selling it yourself will bring you more money. Good luck!

Kim
Detroit, USA
Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Esther haemorrhages after she sleeps with Irwin, a rare occurrence, which is why the doctor said she was one in a million.

Ciara
Monaghan, Ireland
Monday, September 22, 2003

"Another composer who used poetry to create musical compositions, is John Mitchell."

Thank you, Stephanie. I wasn't aware of his work but I will investigate.

Kevin W.
New Brunswick NJ, USA
Sunday, September 21, 2003

I have just finished reading The Bell Jar and I found it extremely interesting and thought provoking. However, I am confused about the events in Chapter 19. What actually happens to Esther after she sleeps with Irwin? I would be really grateful if someone would help me as I am really struggling to come to any conclusions. Thanks.

Ellie
London, UK
Sunday, September 21, 2003

Joelle!!! I cannot believe you have a first edition and you want to sell it, I would kill for that.

Ciara
Monaghan, Ireland
Sunday, September 21, 2003

I have a first edition copy of the Bell Jar (with Victoria Lucas as author). I would like to sell it, but I'm not sure where to go or how to price it. I received it as a gift from an ex-boyfriend (so I don't really know what he paid for it). Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

Joelle
Seattle, USA
Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Why is it impossible to find pictures of Assia Wevill? Her captivating beauty has been described in many biographies of Plath's life and also in a poem "Dreamers" by Ted Hughes but I cannot find her picture anywhere.

(I have seen a photograph of Assia in Ronald Hayman's book The Death & Life of Sylvia Plath She was indeed stunningly beautiful. I thought that she resembled the young Elizabeth Taylor. EC)

Laurie
Sydney, Australia
Monday, September 15, 2003

Holly, check out one which is run by Emily Pollard. She provides just about every Plath poem imaginable online and also has a huge list of online resources.

Stephanie
Ottawa, Canada
Friday, September 12, 2003

I'm in grade 12 and am doing a unit on poetry. One of the poems our teaher gave us as an example of a poem on death/suicide was Lady Lazurus, and I have to say that it was love at first... erm... read? Sylvia Plath is the best poet ever; she's fully changed the way I think about things, especially poetry. Before I read her poems whenever I heard the word 'poetry' my first reaction was 'BORING'. Now it makes me think of SP and I really admire her individuality and her particular style.

Jess
Brisbane, Australia
Thursday, September 11, 2003

As a student of Stanford University in California, I am seeking to connect the poem Metaphors to the life of Sylvia Plath. Poems, intended for the experience in which they can offer, are in many cases misunderstood. A poem cannot simply be read and understood but a particular amount of analysis must be used. I have come to the conclusion, Metaphors contains connotations regarding pregnancy (ie:9 syllables, 9 lines) although the experience or the references made to her own personal life I am still seeking.

If there is an analysis in which one might be able to relate to her life or be able to deconstruct more thoroughly to uncover the true meaning and purpose of the poem, I humbly ask for advocation and help deciphering this undoubtedly great poem;.

Jared Creech
ToPalo Alto, Californiawn, USA
Thursday, September 11, 2003

This may be slightly off subject but I think some Forum participants may be interested: in the August 13th issue of the Times Literary Supplement, there is a review of David Wevill's recent poetry collection "Departures", which contains a number of poems invoking the memory of his ex-wife Assia. Elaine Feinstein, in her bio of Ted Hughes, refers to Wevill as a "young Canadian poet". Up to now I have never seen any of his work. But the TLS reviewer has piqued my interest to the extent that I will be ordering this collection for the library where I work. While acknowledging that Wevill is not, as a poet, of the calibre of Hughes or Plath, still it is a very favorable review, comparing his work, in terms of style and influence, with Hughes'. I thought some on the Forum might be interested. It is available from amazon.com.

Jim Long
Honolulu, USA
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Why is it that anyone who has ever had lunch with Sylvia feels the need to write their own "telling" memoir?

Ciara
Monaghan, Ireland
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I would like to have a big poster of a photograph "Sylvia on the beach" by Gordon Lameyer. Where could I get it from? I am also interested in photos and posters of Anne Sexton and Virginia Woolf.

Susanna
Espoo, Finland
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I'd like to write my thesis on the subject of theatricality and self-dramatisation in Sylvia Plath's Ariel-poems. Any ideas or tips on secondary literature or other possible sources are most welcome and highly appreciated. Thanks.

Ulli
Haarlem, The Netherlands
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A review in the Philadelphia Inquirer of Jill Becker's Giving Up, her memoir of her interaction with Plath those last days leading up to Plath's suicide.

Pamela
Boston, USA
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I just wanted to say that I am new to the work of Sylvia Plath work, I am studying her work for my A level in English Language and English Literature. I am looking forward to reading her work, and plan to start reading The Bell Jar. Could any one please tell me any good web sites to find more about Sylvia Plath, as I am looking for information on her background / life, as this is an inportant part for my exam and also she sounds really interesting.Thank you

Holly
UK
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

This article "The Death and Rebirth of Sylvia Plath" appeared in yesterday's Boston Globe. The journalist, Alex Beam, wrote an interesting history of McLean Hospital last year. Beam writes about the upcoming film, Diane Middlebrook's new novel, and the play The Edge.

Did anyone else see the trailer for Sylvia on Entertainment Tonight yesterday?

Kate
Boston, USA
Friday, September 5, 2003

Thanks also to Stephanie for sending this link

Another composer who used poetry to create musical compositions, is John Mitchell. He not only used Sylvia's poetry, but such greats as Blake, Millay, and Keats.

Stephanie
Woonsocket, RI, USA
Wednesday, September 3, 2003

It is interesting Andrew, that you feel she grew in confidence between 1958 and 1962. I would have though her confidence along with her mental health would have deteriorated, perhaps she would be more inclined to put a brave face or rather voice on in public.

The recording of Daddy was very powerful and the last line is so venomous, hearing her voice is so strange; the sound of a dead voice among the living.

This may seem a trite question but what is everyone's favourite poem?

Ciara
Monaghan, Ireland
Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Does anyone else find it strange or just plain irritating that schools continually use Plath's structured earlier work on their courses instead of her more passionate and violent later work? Her early poetry perpetuates the idea that she was this timid and soft spoken poet, which as we all know, is rubbish. Is it a subtle way of supressing the idea of violent, lustful women or is it about teaching poetry by numbers or am I just being pedantic?

Ciara
Monaghan, Ireland
Wednesday, September 3, 2003

I was just listening to Aribert Reimann's "Five Pieces On Poems By Sylvia Plath". I'm interested in music inspired by SP and her work, especially avant-garde classical and jazz. Does anyone know of anything? Also, I've heard rumors that a recording exists of Anne Sexton's rock band ("Anne Sexton And Her Kind"). Would anyone know how to obtain this? Thanks.

BTW, Ciara - I thought SP sounded very much older on the recordings than I expected.

Also BTW, this forum is one of the politest and most interesting and has the highest relevance-of-discussion-to-site's-raison d'etre I've ever seen.

Kevin
New Brunswick NJ, USA
Monday, September 1, 2003

Holbrook--you're right again, Elaine. I hate it when that happens, but there you are...

Kenneth Jones
Berkeley, USA
Monday, September 1, 2003

I was interested to read Ciara's comments about Sylvia's recital of 'Lady Lazarus'. I think that the October 1962 recordings are a lot better than the poetry recitals Plath recorded in 1958. She seems to have grown in confidence in the intervening four years, and her recital of the poetry is lot more dramatic.

Andrew
Wakefield, UK
Sunday, August 31, 2003

Skimming through Letters home by Sylvia Plath - Correspondence 1950-1963 I came upon an interesting note from Dec. 21 1962. In the letter we are told that Sylvia had Doris coming over to babysit so that she could go out and see a new wonderful Ingmar Bergman movie. She doesn't mention the name of the movie, but I have a feeling that it must have been Bergman's Oscar-winning masterpiece Through A Glass Darkly from 1961. I find the fact that she saw this movie only months before committing suicide very crucial. For Plath-fans who haven't seen it I recommend it (and every other Bergman movie of course!).

The story: A young woman and her doctor husband, along with her adolescent brother and her father, are on holiday on a remote island. The young woman undergoes a psychological crisis, which may or may not be due in part to her father's egocentricity and her husband's lack of sensitivity.

Beatrice
Stockholm, Sweden
Sunday, August 31, 2003

There's a book by David something, Hollowell? Holloway?--something like that--called, "Sylvia Plath; Poetry & Existence," complete with a deleted verse from "All the Dead Dears", that addresses this question--you should read it... where he discusses some of his experiences teaching Plath. It came out within the decade after Plath's death.

The question of empathy and emulation re Plath is a critical one, because it's entirely possible to carry the imitation of flattery entirely too far--I remember being at a reading by Anne Sexton's daughter where Tillie Olson, from the audience, got very angry about this...Choose Life, quoth she...

Incidentally, has anyone read C.S. Lewis on Myth? His dicussion of myth relates very interestingly to Plath-as-icon.

( I think the author you're referring to is David Holbrook, Kenneth. Elaine Connell)

Kenneth Jones
Berkeley, USA
Sunday, August 31, 2003

Was anyone who listened to the BBC recording of Lady Lazarus (my personal favorite) really shocked by her voice? I realise that it was just a recording but it sounded different to what I expected, it was deeper I think. I know it isn't a major point but I just wondered if anyone else felt the same.

Ciara
Monaghan, Ireland
Thursday, August 28, 2003

For any Minnesotans on the Forum, the Pangea World Theater in Minneapolis is staging Ted Hughes' Tales from Ovid in September. For more info, go to www.pangeaworldtheater.org.

Amy Rea
Eden Prairie, USA
Sunday, August 24, 2003

Stephanie - Last month you wrote about the new edition of Ronald Hayman's, "Life and Death of Sylvia Plath." I just saw on Amazon that it will be available in the US next month. According to the description, it has eight new photos and an updated text. I also saw this curious blurb about the content, "When Hughes began seeing other women and finally separated to live with Assia Wevill, Sylvia - burdened with two children, drugged, depressed, schizophrenic, gushing razor-edged new poems in the midst of London's worst winter in a century - gassed herself." Most intriguing, of course, are the first few words. Assia wasn't the first? There were more? Yikes.

[A few words of intro...I used to visit this forum regularly about 4-5 years ago (only posted once) and have been a Plath fan for about 15 years. I'm glad to see this forum still going strong...and some of the same informative folks still contributing.]

Nancy
Sacramento, CA, USA
Sunday, August 24, 2003

I could not resist a line to Peter Clayton's tirade of July 27th. although he seems to have disappeared from the forum so it is doubtful he will ever read my message.

Along with others I do not believe Peter knows the biography of the poets very well. It has already been pointed out to him that Ted Hughes was not married to Assia whom he (Peter) refers to as Ted's wife, and Shura the tragic little girl, was his daughter not his step daughter.

To be indirectly, (however indirectly) responsible for the deaths of three women (his mother is included here) and one child, is quite a cross to bear foor a human being with a conscience. Ted Hughes was a very troubled man, (he had a lot to be troubled about). He played on weaknesses, enjoying the enormous power he had over Sylvia while playing the part of the hen-pecked husband to perfection in front of his friends. There is no doubt about it, he had a strong psychological hold over her, it is recorded that he hypnotised her regularly.

Ted knew Sylvia was tantalized by a death wish and played with it to effect, pushing her to the edge, daring her and urging her on.

It was a culmination of circumstances rather than just the infidelity or psychological influence of Ted Hughes that finally drove Sylvia to the gas oven. Her own sense of drama played a large part in it also, as with the writing of her journals which were definitely written for public consumption!

Ted Hughes however gifted, had a part to play, in fact he not only played the leading man, he directed the drama of the demise of Sylvia Plath, she produced it of course.

They both wanted it that way. It had been written, the drama had to be played out to the end.

The character of Ted Hughes, the substance of the man, is suspect. Peter is right he will be remembered, but I think he will always be more remembered as the villian in this drama rather than for his artistic merit.

Cressida Hope-Bunting
Alabama, USA
Sunday, August 24, 2003

Hi. Just a quick post. Does anyone know what year Sylvia graduated from Smith? I think 1954 or 1958 maybe? I'm just guessing though- it depends on how far she went there- did she get just her BA or also her masters there? Thanks.

Stefania
Boston, USA
Saturday, August 23, 2003

Isabella, thank you so much for the information on Jane Kenyon--I, too, find parallels between Jane and Sylvia's work. I love how one poet can lead a person down many new roads; to so many new poets, new experiences, new ways of seeing the world and most importantly, new friendships. Erica Jong says when she opens a book of poems "a chill wind blows from eternity"~and certainly this could be said for both Sylvia and Jane. Thanks again for sharing and your insights between the two poets.

Claudette Coulter
Dayton, OH, USA
Saturday, August 23, 2003

Having studied Plath's work as part of an English course for exam purposes, I find I have unintentionally become drawn, not just to her work but to the reasoning behind it. For the time I spent studying her poetry, I found myself not just sympathising, but in some ways empathising with her. I find her work and life fascinating. To date I have read most of Plath's poems, The Bell Jar, and her unabridged journals, hence my entry here.

I wonder if anyone is in a similiar position, or if anyone could recommend where I should go from here? Perhaps there are particular books or works that I could read in priority, as I am still at the beginning of this road. I would greatly appriciate input from anyone. Plus, would anybody know where I would obtain a recording of recited work by Plath herself? I live in Ireland so maybe it would have to be ordered and shipped. Many thanks.

Aly
Dublin, Ireland
Saturday, August 23, 2003

The Poetry Book Society (PBS) recently published the results of its 50th Birthday Poetry survey. There were four categories and Sylvia Plath featured in three of them. She was joint second with Ted Hughes in the 'Favourite Poet from the last 50 years' category (Philip Larkin was first). 'Daddy' was joint 8th in the poll for Favourite Poem (Larkin's 'The Whitsun Wedings' won). 'Ariel' was the third favourite poetry collection behind Larkin's 'Whitsun Weddings' and Neil Astley's 'Staying Alive' anthology. (Hughes' 'Birthday Letters' came sixth.) The voting was restricted to poems, poets and collections from the last 50 years. The other category, Favourite Poet Writing Now, was won by Carol Ann Duffy. If you wish to learn more, you can visit the PBS website at www.poetrybooks.co.uk.

Andrew
Wakefield, England
Friday, August 22, 2003

Whatever one might choose to think of Hughes, he is (was) an important exponent of Plath in his introductions to her work; whether or not you believe him to be unassailable in his comments, or even justified in making them, he gives invaluable insight into Plath's gifts and ambitions -- what better introduction to the latter than his foreword to Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams? Hughes was witness to, in his words, "the strange conflict between what was expected of her and what finally was exacted." Come to think of it, Olwyn may have been the answer to the strange conflict between what was expected of Hughes and what was finally exacted! But it's hard to imagine Plath criticism without Hughes's contributions, which seem to me to be the essential starting point. And even, arguably the ending point, with Birthday Letters, whose very syntax is a poignantly tortured homage to Plath and testiment to her osmotic reach.

Melissa Dobson
Bristol, RI, USA
Friday, August 22, 2003



Trish, you are absolutely right...I'm sorry, I should have addressed my comment to Carlson Fitch, whose posting appeared just above yours, and which I misread as being part of yours. My apologies.

Jim Long
Honolulu, USA
uesday, August 19, 2003

I have enjoyed reading Sylvia Plath's work since I was ten years old, am 34 years old now. I wanted to share with others the work of Jane Kenyon. Jane Kenyon's work has enhanced my reading of Plath's works. I found the late Jane Kenyon's book of Poetry, "Otherwise", which was put together after her death at 49 years of age, to thread well with Plath's work. I often refer back to Kenyon's book, using it as a dictionary of patience for Plath. Kenyon was a great translator of Russian poetry and a poet from New England. She suffered from severe depression. She was allways looking for cures, and found most of them in nature. Many call Kenyon's work, Nature inspired. I do not accept that. I found Kenyon's work veins beautifully with Plath's work. It led me to read Plath's work differently that I had been doing. Because I am recommending a reference book to Plath's work I won't go into detail about how I began to understand and see verification that Plath also found great comfort and inspiration from nature in the same way that Kenyon did. The simiarities are very apparent between both poets. Kenyon's work slowed down the words of Plath and opened a new way of sensing the sharp jaw-like nature of Plath's work. I feel Kenyon was the most modern translator of Plath's work through her own poetry. I do not know if Kenyon had an opinion of Plath's work but clearly both poets shared the cinematic visual and shadow boxing mind, mood, and technicality of an unaccountable New England academic work horse fem writer. Plath was the black tap shoe sounding over the complete battlefield while Kenyon was the rainbow reflected in the black shoe resounding over a now quieted battlefield.

Kenyon's work, and especially the work in "Otherwise", is worth a look see if you get Plath-I-Tiss(over-dose of bummers). Kenyon's writing skills bring you home safely, while Plath's writing is the animus of constant conflict and tension. No matter which one you choose both writers expose the beauty of female battlefield bleakness. On the ocean's waves I often recite Plath's poem "Getting There"; it is for me the only way to sneek in Plath's love of the ocean and to see her structual abilites in writing. Kenyon translates with this same device. Well. The south shore is expecting a swell, so time to wax up the short board. Nice to meet you all. I am out of here. Write On!

Isabella T. Brando
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Monday, August 18, 2003



Crystal, "The Bed Book" is up for auction right now on EBAY. EBAY always has Sylvia related items, and is constantly being updated.

Another superb website that I would recommend is alibris.com. They offer out of print and rare books. I even saw several paintings done by Sylvia for sale.

I hope this was of some help to you.

Stephanie
Rhode Island, USA
Sunday, August 17, 2003



I have been searching for a long while for several Sylvia Plath books I desire with no success. I would greatly appreciate any information on the following books; Sylvia Plath:Last Encounters and The Bed Book by Sylvia Plath. I have been informed that these books are both out of print however, the first of the two has seemingly disappeared all together. I am having great difficulty obtaining any information on it at all, if anyone has any details, I would be grateful for your knowledge.

Crystal
Canada
Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Jim Long, I haven't posted anything about Warren Plath, Sylvia's attempted suicide, or whether it was Warren or Sylvia who actually foiled the suicide. You say you 'don't want to nit-pick me to death' -- thank you for that -- so I am assuming you have me confused with someone else.

Trish
Seattle, USA
Saturday, August 9, 2003



I don't think, Maggie, that is so much tsk tsk as you say...more then it is that some people are only interested in the suicide and have no appreciation or understanding of Plath's work. Also, being "interested" in someone's life is certainly not unacceptable...since we all feel that way about different people who are in the public eye (that is the nature of being in the limelight). I have a problem with those who constantly seek to turn Ted Hughes into a monster...when, in fact, he was a human being who made mistakes...just like everyone else in the world.

I agree that having Olwyn Hughes be a representative (not "the" representative which would imply that she was the only one who made decisions concerning permissions and that type of thing) was definitely a little bizarre considering Plath's relationship with Olwyn. Why Ruth Fainlight or Elizabeth Compton? Neither one of them were that close to Plath to make it logical that either one of them would be the executors of her estate. Besides, having Ted Hughes as the executor allowed for her children, rightfully, to become the subsequent executors after he passed away. If not Ted Hughes, then the next very likely candidate would have been Aurelia Plath (although with her as executor probably a lot of Plath's work wouldn't have been published) and then after that, Warren Plath (who obviously likes living the quiet life away from all the chaos over his sister's work and so on).

To Trish, I think the point you are missing is that he was under absolutely no obligation to publish any of Plath's work (I hate to repeat myself but some things just seem to need repeating). We are lucky we have the vast array of materials we do have. Not to mention the wonderful collection of Plath's manuscripts and so on that Hughes contributed to at Lilly and Nelson Libraries. I would think, considering Hughes was the one still standing at the time the journals were published, that it would make sense for him to edit out parts that might embarrass him and facts and stories about other people who were still living at the time. In reality Hughes didn't destroy any of Plath's "work"...the work is the poems and short stories and not her journals (they may seem like a work of art to us reading them but they were still her personal journals regardless).

Really, the only people who truely have any kind of "monopoly" on the truth of the Plath/Hughes relationship...is Plath and Hughes and whatever the truth about their relationship is...died with them. I don't think Kathryn was trying to monopolize anything so much as she was stating her opinion, which is the point of this Forum. Basically, the Forum would be awfully boring if we all agreed on every aspect of Plath....the more differing opinions we have the richer the tapestry of this board will be

.

Stephanie
Ottawa, Canada
Saturday, August 9, 2003



It is worth pointing out that Ted Hughes put his own career as a poet on the back burner in the mid-sixties whilst he arranged for the publication of 'Ariel', which came out in 1965. Most of the poems in Hughes' third volume of poetry, 'Wodwo', had been completed by the late summer of 1962, but the book was not published in 1967. Having said that, I think it was regrettable that in the published version of 'Ariel', Hughes decided to break up the famous 'Bee Meeting' sequence, by omitting 'The Swarm', the fourth poem in the sequence of five. (It eventually turned up in 'Winter Trees' in 1971). I think it was also a mistake not to place the 'Bee Meeting' sequence at the end of 'Ariel' as Sylvia had originally intended. The sequence would then have served a similar role to the 'Poem for a Birthday' sequence at the end of 'The Colossus'. 'Wintering' would have also ended the collection on a much more upbeat note than 'Words'.

Andrew
Wakefield, England
Friday, August 8, 2003

I have to agree with Trish. Ted Hughes was a poor choice for controlling his wife's work. It's true that she died intestate. But, handing the entire body of Plath's writings over to Olywn was surprising. Sylvia's friends Ruth Fainlight and Elizabeth Compton, her own mother, even Olive Higgins Prouty would have made better choices. Alvarez would have been a better choice. I also agree that the discussion of Sylvia's private life should not be off limits for discussion, both in terms of how it impacted her work or in terms of interest. As was been noted by another poster, Plath's work was deeply autobiographical. I personally cannot discuss Edna St. Vincent Millay's poems without noting details of her own life. Same situation with May Sarton, Mary Oliver, and other 20th century poets. Why should we have to censure ourselves? It's fine to be interested in poets' lives. That doesn't make me a 'peeping tom'. There is no proper and improper way to view a poet's life and work. Such tsk-tsking is unseemly on an open forum.

Maggie
Nevada, USA
Friday, August 8, 2003

2. name:

Trish, I don't want to nit-pick your statements to death, but in the interests of accuracy I want to point out that Warren Plath, Sylvia's brother, did not "foil" Sylvia's suicide attempt. She had been in hiding under the house, unconscious, for 3 days. Early on she became sick from the pills she had taken and vomited, thus lessening the impact of the drugs on her system. On the third day, she began to awaken and moan and move around; this is what Warren heard that caused him to look in the crawl space under the house. At this point Sylvia was past the danger point and would not have succumbed to the drugs even if Warren had not found her at that point. Presumably, she would have awakened fully and alerted the family to her presence, either intentionally or unintentionally, as it happened. Sylvia foiled her own attempt, in effect, by taking too many and taking them on an empty stomach.

Jim Long
Honolulu, USA
Friday, August 8, 2003

Kathryn, you have also sidestepped the issue of Hughes giving Olwyn control over Sylvia's work...knowing his sister's huge dislike. That is unaccountable! Re: publication of the journals: Again, I will state my view: Hughes left in passages that would have been embarassing to Sylvia, but carefully deleted passages that embarassed him. And, whether you like it or not, destroying this remarkable poet's work is absolutely unconscionable. I believe you need to step back, take a deep breath, and acknowledge that other people do not share your sentiments.

Kathryn, I neglected to add: I believe it is you who needs to study a bit further the actual facts concerning Hughes and Plath's financial relationship, as well. You stated that Hughes paid for an entire year's worth of rent at the Fitzroy Road flat. Not true. He may have contributed something (we have only his word for that), but Sylvia's mother, her aunt, and her supportive Mrs. Prouty gave Sylvia a considerable sum of money, much of which she used to not just pay for the flat's rent, but furnish it. I will say this again: You do not have a monopoly on the truth about their relationship. You deplore other people's lack of understanding about the pair. But face it, much of it is open for interpretation. Including your own viewpoints.

Trish
Seattle, USA
Friday, August 8, 2003



I agree with Stephanie regarding Plath's Journals. The debate is a very sensitive one. Hughes was defaulted as executor of Plath's estate because she died without leaving a will (the legal term is "intestate"). There are arguments one can make about that, as well, but I'll stick to the subject. Have you ever lost a lover or a friend and destroyed letters or photographs and later maybe wished you hadn't? Or, have you ever known anyone that has done that? This is, in effect, why Hughes distroyed the one journal, because he "regarded forgetfulness as an essential part of survival."

Hughes's less than consistent publishing history of Plath also warrants some sympathy. Stephanie is right to suggest he needn't publish anything. But, in addition to sorting out future volumes of Plath's poetry and prose, Hughes was continuing to write his own poetry and seeking publication. Being a poet was his main job; publishing his late wife's work came secondary. I cannot see fault with this.

It would be really very lovely to ignore, from here on out, the 1982 abridged Journals. It is almost as though in publishing them Hughes righted a wrong. The value of the Journals is in their mere existence and that we can read, study, and learn from them

The play Edge has been receiving more critical interest in recent days, with generally universal praise for Angelica Torn's portrayal of Plath. In a recent radio interview, Torn disclosed that the play was written at her request, a request first made ten years earlier after reading Alexander's Rough Magic. Alexander's biography of Plath has often been criticized for being biased against Ted Hughes. This is an arguable point, but you don't need to be a radical feminist to find fault with Hughes. Alexander probably took a cheap shot claiming Hughes tried to choke his wife on their honeymoon (it was based on an undisclosed source). But He's a competent biographer and he did the required research. His book was published two years after Bitter Flame, the biorgraphy written by Anne Stevenson with Olwny Hughes as an acknowledged 'shadow' co-author. This biography tried to justify Hughes's desertion of Plath for another woman on the grounds that Plath was impossible to live with. It was a classic case of blaming the victim. I've always thoght that Alexander's book added some balance to the discussion.

Paul Snyder
New York, USA
Thursday, August 7, 2003

Hi All, Just to play the devil's advocate here: Most people keep journals for private eyes only, but many writers keep them with an eye toward publication--Virginia Woolf (someone whose diary Plath devoured), for example. And Plath's journals are often more "literary" than "gossipy." More often than not, her journal reveals a poetic writer practising her craft rather than a young woman simply recording quotidian events, which I believe she did in a separate notebook. I'm not sure we can conjecture that the journals were meant for private eyes only. The letters home, however...

Pamela
Boston, USA
Thursday, August 7, 2003

Peter K Steinberg
Boston, USA
Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Trish, I think you will find both Plath's Juvenilia and mature work(including uncollected miscellanea such as Mad Girl's Love Song) in the Collected Poems which won the Pulitzer in 1982 - so it's been available to you for over twenty years.

Oh dear. Much of what you are saying is simply not true. Hughes got Ariel into print in the first place after a good couple of years of trying unsuccessfully(there are many unbiased accounts of this - look on the net or in your local library). Yes, shocking it may be to you, but as documented for the nth time on this forum, Plath was not famous in her lifetime - despite her moderately well-received first tome, The Colossus - and no publishers were initially interested in Ariel. It was Hughes who established her now impressive bibliography, following up Ariel with Winter Trees and Crossing the Water. There was no room for a few other poems which seemed slightly outside of the tone of those collections and which instead appear in the Collected (nothing sinister there, I assure you). Cavalier attitude? Get real.

I echo Stephanie's sentiments when she talks about the Journals. Why should you have more right than Plath's family to Plath's inner thoughts, feelings, desires and humanity? Why do you talk about a person's life as if it is open season? What do you know about what Plath would have wanted??? I think it's in poor taste and not relevant to poetry appreciation or academic study when it goes beyond the remit of illuminating the poems themselves. Having read the Journals and Letters, I have to say they have not added anything to my understanding of Plath's oeuvre (in contrast, say, to what Larkin's letters add to his), but rather given me a nasty dose of Peeping Tom fever. Rather like going through someone's knicker drawer. More and more, I get the uneasy feeling that's what a lot of people are after, though. They don't want Plath's poetry, so much as Plath herself or maybe they want to be or assimilate Plath to themselves? Well, sorry but there are limits - hell, there must be limits somewhere.

What you say about Hughes is not true, groundless and historically inaccurate. You are plain wrong. Sorry, to get shirty, but I am infuriated by people sounding off about Hughes and Plath when it's patently obvious they haven't taken the simple time and effort to find out the facts...Even indignance is something you have to earn!

Kathryn
London, UK
Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Stephanie, thanks for taking the time to reply to me personally. I have given very careful thought to what you wrote, and I agree...it would be extremely disconcerting (to say the least) to read in a journal what the subject REALLY thought of you. However, my concern is that journal publications are by their very nature revelatory. And yet, Hughes left in passages that he knew would doubtless prove distressing to Sylvia. Fair enough. At the same time, he took care to delete any that would embarass himself, or tarnish his own image. I am not bashing him as a human being, mind you, only as the executor of his wife's work ... a man from whom she was estranged at the time of her death.

Disturbing too, was his appointment of Olwyn as his successor. Hughes knew very well of the animosity between the two women; how could he let Sylvia's enemy have control of publication over her entire body of work? Could he have chosen any other executor, short of Dido Merwin, who would have caused Sylvia greater distress? It is an odd choice indeed, unless he was deliberately thumbing his nose at his wife. I'm afraid I have to disagree with you about the journals that Hughes admitted destroying. I, too, hoped for many years that they existed still. I've given up hope. Hughes would have published them, and made a mint off of them, if they were still in his posession. His deliberate destruction of this work is unconscionable, and cannot be justified in any way. Think of it: Access to Sylvia's thought processes over the last year of her life, and her triumphant growth as an artist. As Anne Sexton would have said, "The loss of it, the sheer loss of it!" is lamentable.

Trish
Seattle, USA
Wednesday, August 6, 2003



While I can understand your frustration, Trish, at the same time the Plath estate had no obligation to publish any of Plath's personal writings (namely, her journals). Had Plath still been alive and had been as successful as she has been in death...her journals would probably still be tucked away in a drawer somewhere for Plath's eyes only (since most people don't write journals with the explicit purpose of them being read by anyone other then family members...and most people don't even want family members to go sticking their nose in their journals for that matter).

There is no doubt that some of Plath's estate was mishandled and I think the worst thing Hughes could have done was have his sister, Olwyn, have any part in the running the estate...especially considering her rather mercurial feelings towards Plath (and I'm sure Olwyn would have been the *last* person Plath would have wanted handling her personal affairs).

Say you had been a "subject" written about in Plath's journals...you probably wouldn't want every little detail of your dealings with Plath (especially intimate details or otherwise) published for millions of people to read and pass judgement on (and again, only seeing it from the writer's point of view). So in that way, I can understand why, initially, Hughes might have chosen to over-edit Plath's journals for publication. I think it had more to do with personal embarassment and wanting to keep some things sacred rather then his desire to "silence" or "censor" Plath in any way. Had that been his motive, I'm sure none of her work would have been published at all and then of course, none of us would have had the priviledge of being exposed to Plath's brilliant writings and this excellent forum wouldn't exist either.

No one knows if Hughes really did lose one journal and destroy another. It has been said that he knew too well the literary value of those journals and merely said one was lost and the other destroyed because he wanted to keep them out of the public eye (of course he would have been worried about what people might think about the things written about him in those final journals....who wouldn't?). They might turn up at some time or another but likely, they would never be published with permission by Frieda or Nick Hughes.

Stephanie
Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, August 5, 2003



Here is a link to an article about Plath and the play Edge. Typically, Paul Alexander being the author of this play, Hughes is once again demonized. Apparently, according to the author of the article "Edge" has Plath say this about Hughes:

"This was one of the most selfish and self-centered men I had ever met," Plath says, going on to describe Hughes as angry, hurtful and belligerent, and to accuse him and his Yorkshire mother of witchcraft and unrealized incestuous yearnings. Most hurtful of all, she doesn't care for his poetry: "In the end, as a writer, you were a bore, Ted."

As far as I know Plath always thought Hughes was a brilliant poet......I guess this is Alexander's way of getting back at Hughes for not wanting to give an interview for "Rough Magic" (which, in my opinion, is so completely tabloid).

Stephanie
Ottawa, Canada
Tuesday, August 5, 2003



Last night I saw the Sylvia Plath play by Paul Alexander entitiled, Edge. Angelica Torn is playing Sylvia on the last day of her life. After the play, on Monday night performances, Angelica has a talk back. I asked her if she had an thoughts about Sylvia. Other than saying she has heard it is problematic, and how she knows Gwyneth has had to pull out of two movies because of depression, she seems to detest the choice of Daniel Craig for Ted Hughes. Her preferred choice for Ted if she ever were to do a film playing Sylvia would be Christopher Eggleston.

Paul Alexander will also be doing a first...interviewing Warren Joseph Plath (who, by the way, foiled Sylvia's suicide attempt after her Mademoiselle stint.) Angelica said Nicholas lives in Alaska (as far away from Ted as was possible) and has a Biology degree like his grandfather, Otto. Frieda lives in London, although I thought I recently read she was living in New Zealand or Australia.

Look for my post regarding some insights into Edge, which I will be writing soon. Angelica is a Plathphile, so I urge everyone to go see her at the DR2 Theatre on E. 15th St. in Manhattan.

Carlson Fitch
New York, USA
Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Ted Hughes, by his own admission, destroyed one of Sylvia's journals. The other, "disappeared". How then, can I not take Hughes to task for being so careless of this magnificent poet's work? Not only were he and Olwyn Hughes excessively stingy with Sylvia's poems, her journals were edited to a degree which I consider appalling. I do not believe he edited passages to protect her reputation. He left in passages (such as her description of nose picking and other personal habits) that Sylvia herself would doubtless have edited out, before she could consent to publication. Yet, anything close to criticism of Hughes or his family, he was careful to delete. As you all know, only decades after Sylvia's death were we able to view the uneditd journals! For shame! Some of Plath's poems have still not been published, as far as I can tell. "Mad Girl's Love Song" is one that comes to mind.

How could he have been so cavalier of this woman's writings? How can I not retain vestiges of anger at this treatment of one of the greatest poets of the last century? Hughes's poetry is magnificent, I wholeheartedly agree. But please, I cannot stomach the notion of him as a worthy executor of his dead wife's work. I had hopes that Frieda Hughes might be more respectful of her mother's work, being a poet herself. I am hoping still.

Trish
Seattle, USA
Tuesday, August 5, 2003



I think one of the reasons why the discussion of the private lives of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes features so much in this forum is because so much of their work is autobiographical. Sylvia's only novel, The Bell Jar, is a fictionalised account of the events surrounding her suicide attempt in 1953. Several of her most famous poems are based on events in her life. Morning Song celebrates the birth of her daughter Frieda; The Disquieting Muses chronicles her uneasy relationship with her mother; and Fever 103 describes a real illness she suffered in the autumn of 1962. Similarly, a lot of Hughes' best work is autobiographical, such as Moortown Diary, his wonderful sequence of poems about his experiences of farming in Devon in the early 'seventies, and Birthday Letters, his book of poems about his relationship with Sylvia. The lives and the work of Huighes and Plath are inextricably linked. However, I can't understand why people like Peter Clayton think we should choose to side with either Hughes and Plath as if this was a popularity poll in which the two writers are in competition. They were both excellent poets. It shouldn't be a question of either/or, you can appreciate the merits of both.

Andrew
Wakefield, England
Monday, August 4, 2003

In his first message, Peter Clayton compared the work of Plath to Hughes in a negative way, claiming that Hughes was Wordsworth, Shakespeare and Tennyson in comparison to Plath's Coleridge, Jonson and Longfellow. I am not exactly sure what this comparison is meant to suggest, though if it is a quantity (high vs. low) of writing argument then I will have to disagree. Poets are not judged by the quantity of work they do alone; they are judged on the quality of the work as well. It is interesting to see how many poets that have lasted and even grown in popularity since their deaths have collected or even complete books of poetry that are not that voluminous; not to mention poets who were not known at all during their life, except by a few, who were published much later to great acclaim. And it is just as likely that poets who are famous in their time will fall out of fashion almost immediately after their death, only to be repopularized by a biography or a movie or just by time, and then be republished and reconsidered. Savage Beauty has caused great interest in Edna St. Vincent Millay's life and work, for instance. Robert Lowell's Collected Poems is now out and getting good reviews; and Ted Hughes's own Collected Poems is due out this fall, which may serve as a way to talk about his work, and not his life, as you wish it to be.

However, it is hard to see how Hughes and Plath's lives together will ever be separated from their writing. It is not just through the unfortunate events of 1962-3 that these two have such closeness. Plath and Hughes met in 1956 and immediately began to have an effect on each other's writing; and Plath went right on influencing Hughes until he died.

Now, to Plath. It is beside the point to argue that she sold well after her death, because the whopping majority of her writing was published then. Yes, the feminist movement was definitely growing in the times when these books first appeared, but I tend to think that if her work was buoyed up by this alone then they would have not become as famous as they did, nor last as long. It is Plath's own life and work that have made her name, her life perhaps outdoing her work for the average person - who knows her as the woman poet who killed herself, and Hughes as the man who was married to her - though this shorthand version of Plath will change over time, just as Hughes's will.

Lena Friesen
Toronto, Canada
Saturday, August 2, 2003

I don't understand Peter Clayton, if you are trying to say that Sylvia Plath's works had no value before feminist movement. First of all I wanted to inform you that her work were precious before of it. The problem is that Sylvia's death attracted more people then her works only because few of them were able to appreciate poetry. I don't agree with the ones who elected Sylvia's voice as the scream of a victim. She wasn't a victim, neither a victim of her husband. Also Van Gogh died before becoming popular, but no-one is asking if his painting had an artistic value or not. We don't treat Sylvia¤s work this way: we are concentred on her private life, on Hughes's private life, what he made after Sylvia's death ecc... How many of you tried to understand her work, his work? I read the last three massages and I saw that you're always speaking about their own private lives. My attention goes to the substance of their works, to what they tried to communicate, and I can say only this: no-one is able to make me feel as Plath's and Hugh's poetry. All their poetry is touching.

Sylvia
Udine, Italy
Saturday, August 2, 2003

2. name:

The only issue I can agree with you on, Peter Clayton, is that Ted Hughes has been unfairly blasted for his adultery. The group which you are lashing out against, the feminists, had every reason in the world to dislike him. Your opinions, of course, have been developed somehow, but your argument on the Sylvia Plath Forum, is defensive and unnecessary.

I have not read everything that you wrote. No, I couldn't. Most readers of Plath's poetry also read Hughes'. The competition existed when the two were married. However, when Plath took her life, the game was over. The longevity of Ted Hughes' writing career is virtually unparalleled. That is why he was honored as Poet Laureate of England. It is a position that he was somewhat suspicious of taking, but because he was a great teacher and supporter of poetry, he accepted. Perhaps you should read The Epic Poise for a wonderful tribute to the man and the poet (it is largely Plath free, so I imagine you won't get and residual Plath-cooties).

Ted Hughes made mistakes; so did Plath. It is what I like to call: being human. The only problem with making mistakes, is that one must live with them. I am sure Hughes felt extremely guilty for Plath's suicide, but it was her act alone. Not all Plath supporters hate Hughes; that is a nasty generalization which unfortunately perpetuates the archiac arguments. After all, Hughes is responsible for publishing, posthumously, nearly all of Plath's mature writings. Rather, disregarding the tainted publshing history, I feel most of "us" are grateful.

Neither poet, because of all the sensational publicity they have received, can be fairly considered the greater poet. Rather, at the Sylvia Plath Forum, we admire and discuss the life and works of Sylvia Plath. Hughes is mentioned because the poets are inseparably linked. Perhaps you should start a Ted Hughes Forum?





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