Blaming women for failed marriages has always been easy. Somehow it is a way to stop questioning what is the real reason. There is a woman, the other woman, who is evil, a whore, a witch, a temptress. Men are something similar to passive animals who cannot control their instincts, but otherwise innocent. There are decent women, the ones who get married and have children, and indecent ones, the ones who don't get married and don't have children. This way the system works. But apparently most women hate being lovers in the long run. It is not easy to share a man, to let him go back to his family, to live on the wild side. The lover wants to be a wife and here we have a broken marriage. Who is to blame? I think we should stop putting the blame on individuals and start analyzing the true nature of the relationship between men and women. The true nature of love.
Elaine, thanks for the fascinating info. about Fay Weldon, one of my favorite writers. That is news to me that she worked in the same ad agency as Assia. I wonder how much of that world Fay incorporated into her unforgettable She-Devil? Interesting, too, that Fay Weldon was a single mother herself, and struggled to survive after her first husband left her. I hope Fay bestowed some of that indignant compassion upon Sylvia Plath, too. In the rush to defend Assia and Ted, too often Sylvia Plath is labeled "difficult" and their behaviors excused.
Theressa, I'm sorry that you were subjected to such a scolding on this board. I believe you're entitled to think whatever you like about Assia; and I'm grateful for the heads-up about the upcoming book.
Amy, you're right, one of the subplots of Down Among the Women does have a fictionalized account of the Hughes, Plath, Wevill triangle. The Hughes and Plath characters are called X and Y who are artists rather than writers and the Wevill one Z.
Fay Weldon worked in the same advertising agency as Assia for a time. I have seen interviews she has given in which she recalls Assia with much fondness, stating that she didn't deserve the treatment she received at some people's hands and recounting her utter horror when her friend killed herself and her small daughter.
Stephanie B, if memory serves me correctly, Fay Weldon's novel Down Among the Women included a fictionalized account of Assia Wevill. The whole book isn't about her, but it's one of the subplots.
Therresa Kennedy must have misunderstood me completely. In my email exchange with her, I never said or implied in any way, that my research into Assia's life, found her to be a conniving woman, the evil party in the Hughes-Plath story. On the contrary. People are quick to pass a sentence on Assia and condemn her, distorting even the basic facts. Assia's voice has never been heard, her life story never been properly and fully told. The account that emerges from the study I'm doing with my partner, Yehuda Koren, will also shed a new light on the last 18 months of Sylvia Plath's life, and on the six years that Ted Hughes spent with Assia, until her tragic death with their daughter, exactly 35 years ago.
It is my belief that calling Assia Wevill an "evil", "conniving woman"; stating that she was "the woman who destroyed SP and stole her man" is totally unrealistic and unfair. It is this type of comment that has led to the vandalizing of SP's and TH's tombstone; it is these types of comments that have created a myth surrounding TH where he is often depicted as a monster with women.
Any grown intelligent adult who has had relationships should know that these type of situations happen, are frequent and do not necessarily mean that some persons are out to destroy others.
It is known that SP had her problems, it is also known that TH might not have been the most faithful husband, but going with the concept that what happened was all Assia Wevill's fault would be unfair to good judgement. As a final thought, all the participants in this "love triangle" are no longer with us therefore the real truth might never come out and judging one of the participants over another cannot be done and should not be done.
I have to disagree that Sylvia was apolitical. Prior to 1959, she wrote very movingly in The Bell Jar about her disgust at the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. True, that is a novel, but Sylvia certainly shared Esther's horror at the execution. Sylvia railed at her mother for voting for Eisenhower and spoke ardently in favor of Eisenhower's opponent, Adlai Stevenson. And there's much more. Even in one of her earliest poems written at Lookout Farm, entitled "Strawberries" I believe, Sylvia makes her feelings about the threat of nuclear annihilaton very clear. And in Wilbury Crockett's class, she and her classmates regularly discussed the growing threat of annihilation. Later, Sylvia wrote proudly of joining a march "against the bomb" in London, and spoke movingly of her feelings of solidarity with the other marchers. Letters in Letters Home depict how much Sylvia despised the growing military-industrial complex in the U.S. So I'm astonished how anyone could possibly think Sylvia was apolitical. Though the phrase "feminism" was not in wide use at the time, Sylvia certainly shows an awareness of women's struggle for freedom.
I am currently writng an assessment concerning Alvarez's criticism of Plath's poetry: It has been said of Plath: ëIt is this sense of threat, as though she were continually menaced by something she could only see out of the corners of her eyes, that gives her work its distinctioní (Alvarez).
How far do you think this is true of the poems you have read? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated- Thanks!
Assia is Evil: pul-ease! The split was no one's fault obviously there were problems if Ted had an affair. It's just another broken marriage.
Thank you for the valuable information Therresa.
You say that Assia was "evil", but it must be reminded that she herself suffered from mental illness. I'm quite interested in learning about her upbringing and life experiences as arguments for (her) later actions.
I would like to share the news that there is a new biography being written by the Israli writer Eilat Negev about Assia Wevill, the woman who destroyed Sylvia Plath and stole her man back in 1962. I have exchanged three emails with this woman and am very excited about the up-coming book which she says will present "stunning" new information on how the whole love triangle will be perceived.
I think it would be great if the truth of the situation came out, that neither Ted nor Sylvia was to blame in any real capacity, neither one was evil, Assia was evil. The person who without a doubt did the most damage was in fact the conniving woman Assia Wevill. I am hoping this book will present an honest picture of this woman and won't paint an unrealistically symapathetic portrayal. She was not a nice woman and her involvement in Sylvia Plath's suicide is perhaps a great deal more convoluted than many people have thought. Look for this book to be published in late 2004-early 2005, it will cause quite a stir!
In my own opinion, the poem "Mushrooms" is strictly an exercise in style, an entertaining and well done one but strictly an exercise. It should be noted that at the time Sylvia and Ted were at Yaddo and often (see the Journals) they were walking around the country side. It is very probable that the idea of the exercise came from Ted.
I failed to see any feminist view in this poem, the sexual revolution and the woman's lib movement had not just yet at the time made any progress or in other words had not really started. Sylvia's feminism in my opinion as been read into her poetry, she did not suggest through her work, her journals or her letters that she would have been a great activist had she lived through the sixties.
As for the view that the poem might be associated with certain political ideas, in late 59, the only movement really starting was the decolonization movements mainly in Africa and again, no signs seem to exist that Sylvia was greatly involved in any of these ideas that were just starting.
The poem should simply be read for its movement, and its structure not for underlying meaning. In very few lines, the poem makes you live through an invasion where the invaders are victorious through their ways but also, very important through their number. The poem uses your senses to make the reader feel the invasion, sounds and vision; it also makes you feel an increasing sense of violence (softfists, hammers, rams); through the invasion, the physical world takes more and more shape until the ultimate climax where "we shall inherit the earth".
One final thought, about the feeling of the poem, when reading it you get the feeling that it just gets louder and louder throughout the invasion.
Just some ideas for the debate.
Does anyone know whether a novel was written based upon Assia Gutmann's life?
The Atlantic Monthly link to Christina Nehring's article "The Domesticated Goddess".
This is in response to Betsey's question regarding "Mushrooms". This poem was written around the time Plath's voice was really developing in the late 1950's. It's a highly original poem that I think, lightning strike me down, has feminist undertones. That being said, I have to disagree with you that it is not just an entertaining poem. Would you mind explaining to me why it cannot be? I think "Mushrooms" is a highly entertaining, linguistically pleasing poem.
I'm not 100% sure (I do not have my notes with me at the moment), but I do think the subject of 'mushrooms overtaking the earth' was a subject suggested to her by Ted Hughes. That is certainly what is going on in the poem; they are rising, multiplying.
Peter K Steinberg
In my initial reading of the poem "Mushrooms", what struck me was the short, abruptness of the punctuation. If you read the poem aloud, the language conveys an almost chant like form, and the sense is not in singular either, but in the plural, as if the voices are from a multitude of mouths, symbolising the many heads of a fungus? ìSo many of us, so many of us!î
Mushrooms are in a sense a mould or fungus, depicting an unhealthy atmosphere A corruption? Yet, their form can bring benefits too. They are edible and penicillin comes from one source of fungus. There is an underlying vein in the poem that is contradictory; maybe the author was in herself unable to come to a proper conclusion about the form of mushrooms and their allegory? (But we shouldnít assume.)
Without falling into the trap of reading too much into he poem, at the time of Plath writing this piece, 1959 were the politics of the day occupied with the rise of Communism? (I ask this question because I maybe wrong, for political history is not a strong point of mine.)
The growing, multiplying mushrooms as seen from this point of view, could be a symbol of the Communist ëthreatí. ìOver night, very whitely, discreetlyÖNobody sees us, stops us, betrays us!î
The industrial might of a community working together (as mushrooms would,) is highlighted quite violently in the stanza, ìEven the paving, our hammers, our rams, earless, eyelessî pushing through the stone, destructive.
ëThe meek will inherit the worldí a saying goes, in the poem the mushrooms call themselves ëmeekí and in a sense they and what they in turn stand for symbolically are the meek ready to take the world for their own. ìOur foots in the doorî, meaning the push to conquer has already begun.
There is a sense of unstoppable growth within this poem, as the tempo and relentless ëhammeringsí in tone highlight this. Is the growth malignant or benign? I believe the poem leaves this decision up to the reader.
Or the poem could just be a study on mushrooms as Plath stated in her journals on 14th November 1959.
Betsey from Havelock:
I think that both of your suggested 'deeper meanings' could be validated through logical examination of the poem. However, who says the poem can't just be about mushrooms? A truly great poet can address a number of topics, and make anything beautiful. Plath does this exactly with the poem, and I've always been content reading it as such.
Just my thoughts, of course. Anyone else?Benjamin Ruppert
Thursday, March 18, 2004
I have recently been studying Plath's poem "Mushrooms" and trying to extract a "deeper meaning," if you will, from the work. My initial thought was that the mushrooms were doubt, creeping into the brightest mind, but after researching Plath's life, I thought that perhaps the mushrooms were a metaphor for suicide wishes.
What does anyone else think that poem pertains to? Surely, it is not a poem intended purely for entertainment! Any and all ideas are welcome!
I've just started writing an essay on how is SP's work an example of successful feminist texts. Any of your comments and opinions would be much appreciated!
I can see where this would be, in a sense, true of biographers, Pamela. However, what of Paul Alexander or Ronald Hayman? I would say that the opposite is true, especially of Alexander. It seems that he is so wrapped up in Plath's charms that he can only see Hughes as a monster whose main goal was to make Plath's life unbearable (never mind the responsibility we all have to take for our own happiness).Hayman's book I simply found to be a little on the "tabloid" side...a little National Enquireresqe so to speak. I still maintain that Middlebrook's recent book on Plath and Hughes is the most balanced piece of work on the topic I've ever read (and I've read all the major bios....including Feinstein's rather gushy Hughes biography)
Sylvia Plath to me is what everyone calls a confessional poet. After many hours of reading Plath's poetry, primarily "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus" I feel that she departs some what from confessional poetry. That is her confessional poetry seems to create a new style. Almost like remaking the confessional form to create a new style of poetry. Is there a name for this poetry, or is it strictly just Plath's? Also I notice that she seems to thematize and fictionalize her expierences. How does she revise the concerns of poets like Jarrell and Lowell? I am finding trouble making this connection of this new style of confessionla poetry, and revising Lowell, and Jarell other than the obvious World War II references. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.
Hi, I have a first edition of the It-Doesn't Matter Suitin excellent condition to sell - what offers?
In "Domesticated Goddess," an article in the April 2004 edition of The Atlantic Monthly, Cristina Nehring writes of biographers' short-sighted binary views of Plath (the depressive/the genius; the falsely cheerful daughter/the intense poet). The article opens with an intriguing explication of Sylia's "The Bee Meeting" that teases out echoes of Ted's "The Martyrdom of Bishop Farrar," which Syvlia, of course, typed when collating Ted's Hawk in the Rain manuscript. Nehring suggests that biographers, mostly female, fail Sylvia because as frustrated as they may have been with Olwyn's restrictions, they were also vulnerable to Ted's charms and therefore allowed their judgments to be influenced in his favor. Usually, the Atlantic offers its articles online. When the link becomes available, I'll send it along.
Thank you Trish. I think there was no way near enough time given to the programme considering the diverse subject which it attempted at discussing. It should have at least been an hour long. It didn't carry many surprises, not for me at least except for the snippet of the famous BBC interview where Plath sounded so relaxed and at ease with herself. I don't think there were any new photos for me. It was, however, interesting to see, I think a program mentioning poetry so early in the BBC TV time slot. They're usually on in the wee hours about once a year!
What is it exactly that makes a cult figure? Is it a person's actions or other's interpretations?
Mr. Shaw - Thank you for posting some information about the Homeground programme. The chronology of The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath is flawed and I would suggest that you read both Nancy Hargrove's The Journey Towards Ariel and Robin Peel's Writing Back: Sylvia Plath and Cold War Politics to see some of these inaccuracies corrected. I certainly don't mean to be too nit-picky, however, "Waking in Winter" was actually written in 1962, as Mr. Peel brilliantly researched and reported in his book. (Still, as it was written so early in 1962, it doesn't fall under the chronology of poetry written in her last six months, but it is a poem that is leading towards the great Ariel voice.) In brief, its appearance in The Collected Poems is wrong as it is written on the verso of a draft of The Bell Jar, which was drafted from the spring of 1961 to the autumn. "Waking in Winter" was written around the same time as "New Year on Dartmoor" and it is clearly a country kind of poem. Good catch, however, on the incorrect date of the interview. Remember, though, the did meet in 1956 and were married that year too.
Feinstein's book was extremely flawed; for a biography about Hughes it was roughly one-third about Plath! Diane Middlebrook's biography of Hughes and Plath is extremely good, well-grounded and so excellently researched.
Peter K Steinberg
Just to add that the audio snippet of Plath on the Homeground programme was quite interesting. She was remarking on the unremarkable nature of being a poet, in that her neighbours probably never realised that she was a poet and saw her as another housewife going about her chores. Of course in retrospect the words carry quite an irony and reveal the frustration, as well as the joy, of her conventional domestic life. I wonder if itís possible to get a recording of the entire interview from anywhere?Richard Shaw
Friday, March 5, 2004
I saw the Homeground programme the other night and I thought it was okay. The 'archive' material turned out to be a snippet from a radio interview with Hughes and Plath. This was (unless my eyes were playing tricks on me) dated 1956! Yes, rather astonishing considering they hadn't even met then! The interview was, in fact, if memory serves, 1961. I was slightly annoyed by this sloppy research, also reflected in Elaine Feinstein's book on Ted Hughes that dates a photo of Plath and her son 1961 - when he hadn't even been born! Feinstein also makes other very simple, avoidable errors. For example, when referring to Plath's poetry in the last six months of her life she quotes a number of poems written years previously, including 'Waking In Winter', 'Morning Song' and 'Insomniac'. Didn't she bother to look at the Collected Poems? Why are people so careless?Richard Shaw
Friday, March 5, 2004
Rehan,thank you for the information about the Plath/Hughes program. Would you please post a summary and your opinions after it airs, for those of us who won't be able to see it? I am very curious, especially about that 'rare footage.'Trish
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
I saw the show on BBC and found Elaine Connell to be very eloquent, congratulations!
I was, however, less than impressed with the reading of extracts from Hughes poem to Nicolas "The dogs are eating your mother" I think it was called. It made Plath fans out to be rabid literary gossips, again. Is there any point in complaining about an image we have no control over, not having cultivated it ourselves?
I was glad to finally see a photo of Assia Wevill though.
UK TV - Tuesday, 2 March, BBC2 7pm - Ted and Sylvia, Love and Loss - poet Ian MacMillan discusses Plath and Hughes with Fay Godwin, Elaine Feinstein, Terry Gifford and the Sylvia Plath Forum's Elaine Connell.
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
The BBC2 show promises to uncover "some rare archive material from both poets," not film footage (at least that is how it is described in the online schedule listing, see below:
Tue 2 Mar, 7:00 pm - 7:30 pm 30mins
Ted and Sylvia: Love and Loss
A series showcasing the best of the BBC's regional documentaries.
With the lives of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath now the stuff of movies, will their tragic love story overshadow the power of their poetry? Broadcaster and poet Ian McMillan investigates Hughes' Yorkshire roots, the source of his early inspiration, and uncovers some rare archive material from both poets.Christine
Santa Barbara, USA
Tuesday, March 2, 2004
I would like feedback on how Plath explores issues of non-conformity in her poems & books, especially The Bell Jar. Any comments and concepts you can think of would be greatly appreciated.Rebecca
Monday, March 1, 2004