Welcome to the Sylvia Plath Forum which began January 1998 following the surprise publication of Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters. The forum is moderated and maintained by Elaine Connell.
Poem Analysis

  • The Bee Meeting
  • Cut
  • Mirror
  • The Moon and the Yew Tree
  • Mystic
  • The Thin People
  • Tulips
  • Poems inspired by Sylvia

    Contributions: April-May 2000

    Hi! I am currently studying Sylvia Plath's poem "You're". I'm finding it very hard as there is nothing about his poem on any of her wbsites. Please send information about "You're" as soon as possible. It would be very greatly appreciated.

    Emma Ritchie
    Brisbane, Australia
    Monday, May 29, 2000

    Does Anyone have anything or now anything about "Purdah"? I haven't been able to find anything. Any help appreciated

    Henning Dalgaard
    Aalborg, Denmark
    Wednesday, May 31, 2000

    I am currently doing an analysis of "Ariel" for my English class, and was looking for any input that anyone might have. I am especially concerned with Plath's reference to "hooks." Hooks show up over and over again in Plath's work. I have an idea that the hooks refer to the style of Ted's writing--his handwriting was quite hook-ish, and the connotations of the word would fit in with Plath's attitude towards them. How do Ted's hooks, however, fit with the "Nigger-eye berries" and "Black sweet blood mouthfuls/Shadows"? I would appreciate any feedback!

    Albany, NY, USA
    Friday, May 26, 2000

    Hello -- I thought it might be valuable for your visitors to know that next week, on Tuesday May 30 and Wednesday May 31,'s cover story will be on the recent publication in England of Sylvia Plath's unabridged journals and how the journals inform the 10-year-old theory that Plath may have suffered from a severe case of PMS. There's quite a bit of never-before-published information on Plath that should be of vital interest to scholars and readers as well, including an exclusive interview with the specialist scheduled to see Plath at the time of her death. I'm the author of Salon's Sylvia Plath story as well as an earlier Salon story on Ted Hughes as a father in relation to "The Birthday Letters"; that story can be found here

    best wishes,

    Kate Moses, Staff Writer and Senior Editor,
    San Francisco, USA
    Thursday, May 25, 2000

    Help!! I'm looking for everything about the Bell Jar. I need for school. Is anybody here who could email me some information about that great book. We have to write report about our favourite book, so I chose The Bell Jar. Perhaps you could help me with my the way, is anyone interested in having email-contact with Germany????


    Speyer, Germany
    Thursday, May 25, 2000

    I am doing a gloss of "Lady Lazarus" and am interested in outside opinions on the poem. Most critics read it as a sign that she was planning her suicide, but I saw the end of the poem as uplifting and optimistic, definately nit sucuidal. Any one who has any thoughts or informationis welcome to conact me. Thank you.

    Sara Sheffer
    Albany NY, USA
    Wednesday, May 24, 2000

    I'm a student at my local college doing my first year of the International Baccalaurate. As part of my course, my extended essay, I am currently researching the relationship between Sylvia Plath and her mother in The Bell Jar and her own relationship with her own children in the poems 'Morning Song', 'Child' and 'You're'. I would also like some more examples of Plaths relationship with her own children shown through her poetry, any ideas? Any information would be great, as at the moment I'm fairly clueless! Any ideas send them to please. Thanks

    Tom Barnecut
    London, England
    Sunday, May 21, 2000

    For anyone awaiting US publication of the unabridged Journals, is now taking advance orders for the November publication by Anchor Books (for $18.00).

    Amy Rea
    Eden Prairie, USA
    Sunday, May 21, 2000

    I love Sylvia Plath, but my english is not so good. I would like to find anyone who speak French or Spanish to talk about her or her poems. I feel alone because i do not know people who loves Sylvia near from me.

    J'aime bien S.P., mais je ne parle pas bien l' voudrais trover quelqu'un qui parle frnais ou espagnol qui aime bien S.P. pour parler d'elle et de ses oeuvres. je me sens tout seul parce que je ne connat pas beaucoup de monde qui aime Sylvia.

    Me gustara encontrar a alguien que hable espaol o farncs para intercambiar opiniones sobre Sylvia Plath

    Juan Sens Fernndez
    Ciudad Real, Spain
    Monday, May 15, 2000

    Hi againthis time I'm tackling The Bell Jar. I am doing another analysis of the ski scene and its relation to Ariel, but this time focusing on the novel, which is daunting, what with 15+ sheets of notes, Alvarez, Freud, other Plath stuff, notes from the last essay, etc.

    Anyway, I found more poems that I will include in my essay, which I will again link to the suicide/rebirth. This is for a lit/psych class, so I have to attempt a psychoanalytic reading. Or I could reject it. Talk about transference; does Freud acknowledge the possibility of positive transference between female patient and female analyst? He seems bent on the man as the analyst.

    Q: "Pure? What does it mean?"

    Okay, I've been reading about the taboo of virginity, which I find gives an interesting spin on the gender/double standard issue in the novel. The institution of a taboo, according to Freud, is fear of danger. In this case for men, "a dread of woman." Why? Because women weaken men after the sexual act: "the effect of coitus in discharging tensions and inducing flaccidity may be a prototype of what these fears represent; and realization of the influence gained by the woman over a man as a result of sexual relations" Also, in "civilized" men, a fear of failing to fulfill expectations. Anyhow, he goes on about women's hostility toward men --and this I feel relevant to The BJ -- due to first the subjection of the weaker submitting to sex, as well as to "the immature sexuality of the woman". . . This reminds me of Esther's resentment toward Buddy, her desire to "even things up." Freud goes on to talk about penis envy, virginity as "an asset which the man should not resign," etc. I haven't exactly figured the essay all out. But I like the idea of the motivation of taboo: that women are in some way a threat to men. Does this in any way relate to the sort of liberation of women during WW2, that women can work and are competent? And then the return of men, forcing the women back to more domestic lives? Buddy's smug smile after Esther fails to successfully ski down the slope. She of the awards and scholarships. Why do you think virginity is such "an asset"? Wanting woman thraldom, power over women?

    Here are the poems I plan to discuss in relation to the novel and Ariel: "The Eye-mote," "Suicide off Egg Rock," and "Insomniac." The first talks about horses and motion and stasis, and regression. The second:

    Sun struck the water like a damnation.
    No pit of shadow to crawl into,
    And his blood beating the old tattoo
    I am, I am, I am.

    Sun, shadow, movement, I am -- ring any bells? The third reminds me of Esther not sleeping for more than 3 wks (?), about "fakery," brainwashing, etc. "I Am Vertical" strongly appeals to me, because the same imagery appears in the novel ("the infinitesimal light of the stars"), about "two mutually exclusive things," and about the allure of death.

    Back to Freud. . .or maybe this isn't what he says, I'm not sure. so why does Esther struggle so much to win prizes, awards, etc? What is this called -- some sort of compromise formation -- because her father died, she tries to fill the sort of hole he left in her life by abandoning her by amassing as many prizes as she can. Establish a sound identity. Only going to NY (masculine and active compared to the placid "motherly" suburbs) she realizes her achievements are worthless, and going home Frank O'Connor (father-figure) rejects her. What to do now but return to that stage in life where her life wasn't a punctured tire and all about performance.

    Now, onto Beyond the Pleasure Principle: "It seems, then, that an instinct is an urge inherent in organic life to restore an earlier state of things which the living entity as been obliged to abandon under the pressure of external disturbing forces; that is, it is a kind of organic elasticity, or . . . the expression of the inertia inherent in organic life."

    Well, the "external disturbing event" could be Esther's father's death. Remember she hasn't been purely happy since her father died. As she flies down the ski slope, passing the doubleness and compromises of her life ("No pit of shadow to crawl into), she tells herself that this is what it's like to be happy. And of course, there is that returning to an earlier stage in life in "The Eye-mote." I'm not sure if I agree with the inherent inertia. Trying to dig into the sun imagery in the bk and poems: in the poems it is alive, bloody and flowing; in the book it is w/o perception or consciousness -- like a baby in a womb? Or is it death? As in the dead babies stuffed in jars? I sense a glaring incompatibility here with my death/rebirth, stasis/motion arguments. It will be interesting trying to iron this out, or even changing my whole damned thesis.

    Berkeley, USA
    Monday, May 15, 2000

    I am new to Sylvia Plath's work, but having had to study 'The Bell Jar' for an English exam I have been compelled by her story. I would love to hear from other people who have perhaps have a more developed insight into Plath's novel and who might be able to offer their opinions about any aspect of the book. This would be great in both helping me with my studies and in satisfying my own interests. Thankyou.

    Manchester, UK
    Sunday, May 14, 2000

    I have just discovered this amazing site! I am studying Plath for my English Literature A-Level and I am LOVING it! If anyone has any views or criticism on the "Ariel" poems I would greatly appreciate it.

    Catherine Simpson
    Lisburn, N. Ireland
    Sunday, May 14, 2000

    Regarding Maureen Barnes' comments (March 26),I must say I'm surprised about her remarks that Hughes views animals only as things to be eaten... my reading of Hughes' poetry has led me to the belief that he cares greatly about animals, and sees them as more than objects to be hunted; he mourns their passing - take 'Little Whale Song', 'An October Salmon', and 'The Dove Came', for example.

    In various poems, we see his love for animals, despite their wildness: 'The 59th Bear', for instance in 'Birthday Letters' where he glues the hairs of the bear into his Shakespeare; 'The Chipmunk' that he shares a friendship with, the list goes on and on...

    Whether you blame Hughes for Plath's suicide or not, I think Hughes' love for animals is pretty much indisputable.

    Who also, does she think is instinctual? I feel that they both are. Hughes' poetry certainly is - he didn't feel the need to prove himself through being published like Plath. And Plath too is instinctual; she isn't usually afraid to say what she thinks.

    What do other people think?

    Anyway on an entirely different note, do people think Hughes is looking for sympathy or trying to answer his critics in Birthday Letters? To me, the poems seem more written for himself.

    Stephen McGarry
    Newcastle, England
    Wednesday, May 10, 2000

    If anyone in the U.K. is interested and able to travel to the small border town of Hay-on-Wye (between hereford and Brecon), one of the events at the Sunday Times Hay Festival on Monday 29th May, 2000 at 10.45 a.m. will be Erica Wagner talking about her book "Ariel's Gift". This is publicised as:

    An exploration of the poems themselves, and the story behind Birthday Letters and Ted Hughes' relationship with Sylvia Plath.

    The cost of the event is 5 and the Festival Box Office telephone number is 07973 100 900. The Festival website may be found at:

    John Hopkins
    Bridgend, S.Wales, U.K.
    Wednesday, May 10, 2000

    John 2. name: John Hopkins 3.Town: Bridgend 4. Country: S.Wales, U.K. 5. email: I'm answering an assignment on Birthday Letters And so I bought the new edition of Sylvia Plath's journals as an aid to answering this.. I have been blown away by the sheer poetry that oozes from even the first few diary entries I have read. I will definitely read Bell Jar when I get a chance.

    Stephen McGarry
    Newcastle, England
    Monday, May 8, 2000

    So I lied about ARIEL. Bear with me, please!

    But firstI read over my last lengthy submission and realised that, like my almost completed 1st draft, it's rather incoherent (elaborate, elaborate, what sort of transition is this?, you use "however" and "freedom" too much, define "freedom" again you ninny). Sorry. But whatever criticism I hurl at my paper, I like the way it's coming along, because finally *protracted sigh* Plath's poetry and prose is coming into focus. When I first read an excerpt of "Daddy" in Time, something in me responded to it you know, I was a senior in high school reading Rich's "Storm Warning(s?)"i.e. poems I found all right but not altogether thrilling. Then I stumbled across "Every woman adores a fascist"well, you don't see lines like that in most poetry. (Maybe Sexton, Ginsberg)

    Okay, so back to my fragmented analysis of ARIEL & other poems. This will dwell a bit on FEVER 103 because I'm analysing it briefly for my paper and am finding (not to my surprise) fiery man-hating scorn. She gets revenge on her unfaithful husband by dropping the atom bomb on him ("Greasing the bodies of adulterers / Like Hiroshima ash") and associates herself with the victimized (cf. Daddy, Purdah (does anyone see The Agamemnon toward the end?), Lady Lazarus, The Jailer, others I'm forgetting)"My head a moon / Of Japanese paper." Men are sort of these unctuous ruiners of purity who Plath (or the "I") is too pure for; they pin her down: "The sheets grow heavy as a lecher's kiss." They seem to symbolize weak impediments to her rising To Paradise. (I mentioned earlier her need for motion, for her poetry to survive.) She casts them aside, shrugging off their romantic gestures: "whatever these pink things mean." Her Paradise is without men: "Not you, nor him / Not him, nor him."!
    Then her "whore petticoats" selves dissolve, so it seems as tho' men are responsible for dressing her in them. We all know about Plath's struggles with fakeness, virginity, with wanting everything & all the figs, with the hypocritical differences between men and women when it comes to power and professional and sexual lifethey are recorded in The Bell Jar and in her journals ("But I am not yet the smart woman who can keep her reputation and be a high-class whore on the side. Not yet, anyway.").

    So I guess that what I'm suggesting is that the Paradise in FEVER is the sun in ARIEL a bodiless realm where no false selves are imposed upon her. The sun, the "insentient pivot without which the world would not exist" exudes a sort of femininitylife-giving. It is also an unfeeling sort of sun, which would cast away things like "pink things" kisses, and melt the child's cry, etc. Am I wrong here, I don't know.

    To clarify my muddled SUN ramblingsin ARIEL the sun is a cauldron it is bubbling, it is in motion, it is the blood-jet of poetry that hooks and cries cannot stop. It is also her ticket to, as Alvarez states, a death that made her poetry possible: "the more she wrote about death, the stronger and more fertile her imaginative world became. And this gave her everything to live for."

    I found quite a bit of stuff packed into shadows. My most recent development: a steeping out of Hughes' "massive shadow," into her own. In her Colossus poems she was "withheld," but in ARIEL she's flying violently. If a shadow suggests doubleness, well then there's another reference to Hughes, a two-timer. And then her realisation of her own self-deceitshe sacrificed her time, money for Ted (e.g. typing poems) only to find out that he's a vain, obfuscating dissembler. She kept herself lovingly blind so that she wouldn't be "disabused" of all her faith in him. Only her intuition knows what she will discoverthe grinning wolf, the fear of going to her apartment lest she witness something adulterouseverything is described in that May 19 entry. Anyway, so she rids herself of the ugly sacrifice she finds in herselfand herself the shadow of her mother after her husband abandons her and she has to care for 2 kids. Hence the child's cry dissolving, I think. Only what to make of EDG!

    What about the last line of ARIEL? Why does it conclude, apart from the 3 resurrection-lined stanzas, the poem? The assertiveness of the I/Eye? And to be super-analytical, the unstressed syllable or falling meter in the -ing of "morning"? Why not end with a stressed syllableas with "ParaDISE," "like AIR," "I'm THROUGH," "cloak of HOLES," "do without ME" (sorry I'm being cryptic). Then there's morning/mourningBut I still can't see this poem as negative.

    My English professor dragged Plath's 19th century rival into an interpretation of ARIEL via the dashes and the cauldron. A cauldron, he says, is part of a volcano, and Dickinson was the "Vesuvius at Home." More sisterhood. I have long forgotten geology I remember caldera, but not cauldron.

    Last point, to poke at the femininity of ARIELshe adopts a masculine sort of power, doesn't she? The suggestive arrow and dew. Of course the former will burn up and the latter will evaporate as they approach the sun (which I argue is feminine).

    Berkeley, USA
    Monday, May 8, 2000

    I checked the list of contents at Indiana University where the Plath archive is housed to see whether the manuscript of Ariel was there by any chance and it turns out that a number of locks of baby hair are already part of the collection:

    folder 5: Hair Includes one lock, 1932; one lock, 1938; one lock, July 30, 1941; a tress, Aug. 1942; braids, Aug. 22, 1945; and one lock, Fall 1949.

    Makes me wonder how far the archive takes it's responsibility to make material available to scholars. See here for a list of contents of that archive. There are also a great number of drawings by her, including several self-portraits.

    It is interesting to see which was purchased from whom and when. I can't imagine the Hughes estate (in the hands of Frieda right now) behind this as they've got a great deal of money and wouldn't need to sell something personal for 5000$. The Ariel manuscript is another matter.

    About the sun image: Unlike the moon that almost always seems to have a mythical meaning or a significance that goes beyond the mere satellite of earth, the sun does not seem to have such a consistent meaning, often it occurs simply as the sun or the sunlight in description. However, it often seems to scorch things, seems cruel. It is also often red in her description of it. There seems to be a connection between the sun and blood, maybe, and thus between the sun and life - life as suffering, or death rather than life? BTW, it occurs equally often as the moon in her poetry.

    Winter Landscape, with Rooks (1956, CP p.21)
    "The austere sun descends above the fen,
    an orange cyclops-eye, scorning to look
    longer on this landscape of chagrin; "

    Firesong (1956, CP p.30)
    "scorched by red sun "

    Point Shirley (1959, CP p110)
    "The sun sinks under Boston, bloody red. "

    Surgeon at 2 a.m. (1961 CP p.170)
    "The blood is a sunset. I admire it. "
    but also
    "The red night lights are flat moons. They are dull with blood.
    I am the sun, in my white coat, "

    Three Women (1962 CP, p.181):
    "A dead sun stains the newsprint. It is red.
    I lose life after life. The dark earth drinks them. "
    "The sun is down. I die. I make a death. "

    Elm (1962,CP, p.192)
    "I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets. "

    Apprehensions (1962, CP p.195)
    "The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights. "

    Berck-Plage (1962, CP 196)
    "How the sun's poultice draws on my inflammation. "

    Poppies in October (1962, CP p.240)
    "Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
    Nor the woman in the ambulance
    Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly"

    (By the way, Two Sisters of Persephone already likens poppies to a
    "red silk flare
    Of petaled blood ")

    Mystic (1963, CP p.268)
    "The sun blooms, it is a geranium.
    The heart has not stopped. "

    I really would love to read your paper, maybe you can send it to me when it is finished?

    Anja Beckmann
    Leipzig, Germany
    Monday, May 8, 2000

    ARIEL this is my last submission about the poem, I promise. I'm working out my arguments, one idea bleeding into the next, and god how challenging papers are at times. So here we go

    I mentioned earlier that ARIEL successfully reenacts the ski scene in THE BELL JAR; instead of descending she's ascending (as in several other of her last poems), and no man gets in her way. (I have a strange (and hopefully not pathological) satisfaction in imagining her trampling Buddy and his turkey neck and gizzards and not even caring to turn her head. Hee hee.) Everything constricting peels off, dissolvesthe "doubleness and smiles and compromise"as she flies into the sun. In the novel Esther's descent symbolizes a regessive journey into her past, the womb; her past, before the age of 9, was the only time she was purely happy (as she recalls in the car w/ Constantin). That was when her father was alive. I don't want to turn this psychonanalytic, about other father figures like Frank O'Connor rejecting her and Mr. Willard abandoning her at the Adirondacks with TB turkey gizzards. Is it pure happiness she seeks in ARIEL? And is it necessary to be reborn in order to be pure!
    ly happy?

    Another question: what does the sun symbolize in ARIEL? And also, ascending into it (ARIEL) vs. descending (THE BJ)?

    The first about the sun: are there other poems in which it is prominent? MYSTIC? Comparing it to the white "insentient" sun in THE BELL JAR that she feels will strengthen her, I see it as a sort of renewal, one of those hope symbols. But I feel this is too simple. The sun is redfury, blood? She compares it to a cauldron: witches, domestic cookery, "a state of violent agitation," boiling, threateninga succession of images I gather. I like the blood part, because there is a vivid description of blood and death in KINDNESS:

    "There is no stopping it" perfectly describes ARIEL and the number of poems she wrote in the months before her suicide. Remember the wonderfully aural description of blood beginning to flow out of its stasis: "substanceless blue / Pour of tor and distances." So is ARIEL her ride into the bloody sun a ride into immortality? Recall "The heart that has not stopped" in the concluding line of MYSTIC, the "indefatigable hoof-taps" of WORDS, and the horse/motion in YEARS:

    Berkeley, USA
    Monday, May 8, 2000

    Maria--thank you for a clear voice of sanity , from the bell-like North...not a pessimist, but simple sanity.

    Kim--yes, I suppose it's all life in the food chain--have you read "The Survival of Records" chapter in a book called "The Light of the Past?" --not to mention Will Cuppy on the Egyptologists...?

    The Plath self-portrait is interesting in connection with Anne Sexton's, which is reproduced in one of the biographies...

    --is there any way of getting copies of the Guardian articles, offhand?

    Kenneth Jones
    San Francisco, USA
    Monday, May 8, 2000

    I have just completed reading "The Bell Jar" - and what a riveting, vivid read it was. Quite simply the best book I have read. What a shame it's the only one. Have ordered the new analyses by Kukil from Amazon and eagerly await. My question / comment is - how literal is the "The Bell Jar" to her experience at the time. Did she really believe she couldn't eat, read or sleep?! Or is it just a metaphor? Having never heard of her or Hughes until a month ago - I think I have become a confirmed fan and look forward to reading some more....

    Chris Gravell
    London, UK
    Sunday, May 7, 2000

    Just read the postings re the options of acquiring at a charge / a very large charge Sylvias baby hair and carbon copies for Ariel. I hate to be such a pessimist, and hope someone will correct me, but hasnt anyone wondered if the Plath Estate is behind this? Its very nice of you people to hope that Frieda and Nicholas will get these things, but isnt the obvious answer that they are the ones selling them?

    I read an interview with Ted Hughes where he described telling his children not to hate their mother, since without her they would not have been able to go to such good schools. So at least she was good for a few bucks/pounds. And the whole publishing history of Plaths works is more or less based on greed. Hughes sanctioned the publishing of The Bell Jar in America because he wanted to buy a house. Aurelia then wanted to publish Letters Home because the portrait of her in The Bell Jar hurt her. And the Plath estate then published the edited version of the Journals to counter the Sweetie Pie image of SP in the Letters. Nice, isnt it?

    I love my copy of the unabridged Journals and am glad it was published. But I have no illusions what so ever as to why. Somebody wanted to make some money. I guess you know who. Hughes is dead, and the Estate can do as they please. And they do. Thats life, but theres no reason to be sentimental about it.

    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Sunday, May 7, 2000

    I've heard nothing back from Jaffe, yet. The portrait is being sold by Ken Lopez of Hadley, MA - so perhaps the portrait does have a connection with Aurelia. I know, Kenneth, things do get stolen, sometimes by the least likely people - in fact, it is *usually* the least likely people who do the stealing - curators, librarians, etc. Many feel that the object is more precious to them than to anyone else and that they can take better care of it than anyone else. Then, of course, there is always the mercenary. I work in a museum, so I do know what you are talking about - which is also why the subject upsets me. It is ethically/morally wrong. Anja, the information on Assia stealing Plath's manuscripts came from a Guardian/Observer article, dated Saturday, April 10, 1999 - "Haunted by the Ghosts of Love." There were about 3 or 4 articles/letters at this time in the Guardian, having to do with Ted Hughes' relationship with Assia Wevill. According to Celia Chaikin, Assia's sister who was living in Canada, Assia sent her (Chaikin) manuscripts of poems by Plath, that she had stolen. They were presumably meant as 'insurance' for Shura, Ted and Assia's daughter. In a letter to Celia dated May 10, 1970, Hughes' wrote: "I know Assia had some odd bits and pieces of Sylvia's. I don't know why she bothered to do that sort of thing - I know it helped to depress her." Chaikin returned the items to Hughes after Assia and Shura's death.

    Detroit, USA
    Sunday, May 7, 2000

    Okay, so Im going to further exhaust the "Nigger-eye / Berries" of "Ariel" since Im writing a paper on it. Heres how I see it: I agree withwas it Hardwicks?description of the poem as a change from bondage to freedom. I take this up racially, and use "Daddy," "Lady Lazarus," and "Fever 103" as evidence. In DADDY, the oppressedthe speaker (as a Jew) as well as the victims of colonization (the villagers)get even with the oppressor, and emasculate him, kill him. In LADY LAZARUS, she again identifies with the Jews, as well as the Japanese (in her reading) and ends the poem with a threat. In FEVER 103 theres a reference to Hiroshima. What does she do at the end? Rise, stripping herself of this sort of historical/racial (as well as marital) bondage. CUT is more complicated for me to interpretthere is the Indian decapitating the Pilgrim, a mention of the U.S. victory over the Redcoats in the Revolutionary Wara reference to herself (America) and Ted (England) perhaps...and the castration imagery....So I see the use of "Nigger-eye"as an allusion to slavery; later in the poem disenfranchisement occurs as the speakers physical identity peels off as she transforms into wheat (a reference to Demeter, immortality?), an arrow, dew. The hooked claustrophobia (read BLACKBERRYING) gives way to "a glitter of seas" i.e. FREEDOM. Make sense? Hope so.

    Berkeley, USA
    Sunday, May 7, 2000

    Just musing about scholars brooding over Sylvia's baby hair, writing dissertations about it ... I really cannot understand how somebody can be so bold as to offer this for sale while her children are still alive, it seems so cruel. Aurelia must have had a lot of Sylvia's stuff, does anyone know what happened when she died? Or did she sell it all before? I could imagine the portrait coming from a source near Aurelia.

    It is interesting that Hughes said Assia took some of Sylvia's stuff (where did you get this?), if you read his poems about her you get the impression that she got obsessed with Sylvia. Of course, we will never hear her story.

    Re: Ariel and Bell Jar: I never thought of comparing her ski-ride with her ride on Ariel but it is a good point, I will read The Bell Jar again soon anyway and will keep that in mind. She definitely becomes that arrow attributed to males. In her high school and college years she thought a lot about how unfair society was, not giving women the same chances as men, and she gets back to those ideas in The Bell Jar. You are right that in the end she is back in the world she hated for its falseness etc. in the beginning. But I thought you get the impression that she became stronger through her experience and she will find and go her own way from nowon. I don't know, will have to read it again.

    I think that death for her was a way towards rebirth, renewal. For her, it was not an "unexamined truth", she had examined it thoroughly. I don't think Alvarez said that she felt she had to go through death to validate her poetry, at least not in The Savage God which I recently read. He says she wanted a symbolic death, so she attempted suicide hoping tobe found and hoping to thus rid herself of the ghost that had been haunting her for so long, she felt she had to go through it once more, as a ritual almost. But in the end she succeeded, even though she seemed to have planned to be discovered on time. However, he says she probably didn't care too much whether she would succeed or not at that point, she was not terrified of death.

    Anja Beckmann
    Leipzig, Germany
    Friday, May 5, 2000

    About "ARIEL" -- what do you guys think of the paradoxical notion of death's revitalization of the speaker as she flies toward the sun? What does death actually signify in her poetry? I read an essay by Elizabeth Hardwick in Alexander's _Ariel Ascending_, and she basically says that death just IS -- like an unexamined truth. Alvarez has a different theory, about death as a risk she had to survive to make her poetry valid.

    I also believe that "Ariel" is a triumphant answer to the ski scene in _The Bell Jar_, where a MAN gets in Esther's way and breaks her leg. Both in the book and poem she becomes the arrow that Mrs. Willard attributes to males, heading toward the sun which will make her saintly, deadly (essential as a knife-blade, i think). This ties in with pure happiness, regression, etc. that i'm not concerned with now. My point is: in the poem she succeeds. Which of course leads us back to death.

    I also want to know: what Esther (the book in the Bible) is about -- i hear she's a herione that saves lives here and there. Greenwood is Aurelia's maiden name, and we all know what sort of sacrificial bondage her mother was in (married to a man/Nazi she didn't love) that Plath described in that particularly brutal journal entry from the recent publication.

    Does anyone see the end of The BJ as sinister? i.e. as a re-entrance into the same world where she has to perform in front of a panel of judges to secure her return to Smith?

    Berkeley, USA
    Friday, May 5, 2000

    Kim-- Re jar; I have my ways.

    Re all else; As you know, this is what is called "a vexed area"...people *will* steal whatever is not nailed down--yes, even academics and librarians have been known to do this-- that's the only reason we have Tacitus, for one, at all, so let's not be too harsh... and read Thomas Hoving to find out how museums can get their wares; *very* interesting---and, without a provenance, forgery and fraud can always happen (recent example, the Hitler "diaries" remit their answer, this should be highly interesting...

    Have they a brochure? With photos?

    Kenneth Jones
    San Francisco, USA
    Friday, May 5, 2000

    Me again. I've sent an email inquiry to Jaffe re: the provenance of the corrected carbon typesecripts for Ariel. I'll let you know if I hear anything. Meanwhile, I've come across another interesting item for sale - not by Jaffe. For this you only need a spare $35,000. Not sure who is selling it, but it found it on Alibris. "Self Portrait. Undated. A 19" x 25" self portrait in pastels. A large, self-portrait by Plath, executed in pastels. Undated, but apparently from her college years (early 1950's), based on her hair style, comparison with photographs from the period, etc. The portrait was presumably done from a photograph, as the subject is looking away from the artist. Plath is know to have done at least one other self-portrait on this scale, now located in the collection of the Lilly Library....Plath's mastery of the craft of portraiture is limited: her anatomy is far from perfect; but her intent to capture the essence of her subject - herself - is boldly realized not only in the outer depiction of her 1950's hairstyle and non-descript clothing, but more importantly in the intensity of the gaze captured by the artist/subject. Plath's portrait would be remarkable if it contained only her eyes, which look askance with a combination of intensity and vulnerability that perhaps could only have been wrought by the artist herself or, alternately, a master of portraiture. We have never seen such an artwork by this author offered on the market in the past, all of Plath's significant work having been long institutionalized. Once creased near the lower edge; small red stamp lower left corner; else fine. Matted and framed to 23 1/4 x 30 in. A stunning view of the literary artist as revelared by herself as a visual artist. Unique."

    So, there it is folks. Any bets on where this one came from? Not too long ago, maybe a couple of months, I found a listing for almost $5000, of some of Plath's baby hair (fine, blond), in an envelope with (presumably) Aurelia's hand lettering of the date and "Sylvia's hair, aged 2" or something like that. It does make you wonder where these items are coming from and if they have been "collected" licitly. As Anja has pointed out, many items of Sylvia's were taken from Hughes' home after her death. I do think the 'lost' journal was one of these items, and therefore, I cannot 'blame' Hughes for withholding what he did not possess. I always had a feeling that Assia Wevill had taken it - and indeed, Hughes has said that she did take a number of Sylvia's things - poems, etc. - but returned them. I only hope that the people selling these items do have a legitimate claim to do so, and that the objects somehow end up in a public collection where they can been seen and utilised by scholars and the public. If the family are not the ones selling the objects, I would hope - though it is doubtful this would ever happen - that they (specifically Frieda and Nick) would be able to acquire the objects. They would be more personally meaningful and important to them than to anyone else.

    Detroit, USA
    Thursday, May 4, 2000

    In answer to your question, Anja, re: Hughes having previously sold the manuscript: I doubt Hughes would have sold the manuscript to an individual, especially that particular batch of poems. Hughes sold many of his own and Plath's manuscripts to public institutions, who, after all, are the entities that have usually had the scholarly interest - and sometimes the money - to make purchases of manuscripts. If this is a set of the 'carbons', it is possible that he did sell them to an individual - does any one know where the 'Ariel' manuscript is archived - Smith or Lilly? - as the original set was already 'available' to the 'public.' Certainly no public institution would 'deaccession' them and sell them on the open market - it would be an ethical no-no - or at least it is in museum circles - perhaps academia is different.

    As for the missing Plath objects: I think it would be rather audacious to have stolen these carbons and then offer them for sale - even with the passage of so many years. The thief would not hold clear title in any sense of the word, and a reputable bookseller would be hard put to offer stolen goods on the open market (and advertise it on the internet). Whomever offered this batch of carbons to the seller must have some type of legititimate claim to the material. The circumstances around Plath, Hughes and her work are too well known to easily offer up stolen material, and I don't think a reputable dealer - which Jaffe seems to be - would risk their reputation. Of course, with the recent publicity about Christies and Sotheby's, both of whose reputations are swirling around the toilet bowl at the moment, a true assessment cannot be made as to who will do what for how much. It may be that with the relatively recent tension about the changing of Hughes will - from leaving everything to his widow Carol, to asking her to split the estate with Frieda, Nick and Olwyn, this typescript may have been Hughes' own copy and is being sold by the estate in order to satisfy some financial arrangement.

    I suppose, the easiest thing to do, instead of me endlessly speculating (!) would be to ask the dealer. I'll look into it and let you know what, if anything, I find out. I don't really have any leverage, so to speak, so the seller may not feel that they have to disclose who the seller is or how the typescript came into the sellers possession.

    Kenneth - it had better be a very big jar.

    Detroit, USA
    Thursday, May 4, 2000

    Kim, this sounds interesting, I got no spare fortunes, though. Do you think the manuscript was previously sold to someone else by Hughes or do you reckon it was stolen? Because I guess this is what happened also to the one journal that went missing ("and may presumably still turn up"). From the interview with Frieda Hughes (BBC) I gather that visitors stole books from the family's library because Sylvia had signed her name in them and one person just tore out the front page because the whole book would have been too conspicuous.

    Before shelling out that much money I would certainly demand to hear how the manuscript entered the hands of the person who is selling.

    Anja Beckmann
    Leipzig, Germany
    Thursday, May 4, 2000

    Kim - - Ouch. Well, I haven't been paid yet this week, but I can put up 75 cents and start collecting pennies in a jar...Maybe if we pester Bill Gates--no, he's got other things on his mind this week--what about Larry Ellison, of now- aptly named Oracle fame?...let's just be glad it survived the conflagrations of the decades, and hope someone, somewhere, makes a Xerox copy of it just in case...surely Cambridge, Harvard, or UC Berkeley can dig into their change pockets, even if it means that new freshman football player will only have one Lexus next year instead of two...and hope Mr. Alvarez has made a copy of his illuminated "Ariel"...

    Kenneth Jones
    San Francisco, USA
    Thursday, May 4, 2000

    Anyone have a spare $75,000? That's how much it will cost you if you want to buy a set (THE set? An EXTRA set?) of the Corrected Carbon Typescripts for Ariel, now offered for sale by James S. Jaffe Rare Books in Haverford, PA. From the booksellers description: " 4to, 75 pages, text on rectos only. Original corrected carbon typescripts for forty poems, 28 of which were published in Ariel (1965); the remaining 12 poems were published in later volumes. The title poem 'Ariel' bears a highly significant and previously unrecorded holography dedication: 'For Al {Alverez}'. 15 of the poems have been annotated by Plath in the top right hand corner with the names of the journals and magazines which had accepted her poems for publication. Most of the poems bear numerous autograph corrections of accidentals throughout (mostly changing colons to periods). The present group of typescripts is almost certainly another copy of the carbon typescripts which Ted Hughes...mentions in 'Publishing Sylvia Plath' being the scripts from which he selected the poems to be published in Ariel....On eleven occasions Plath had difficulty in positioning the carbon paper. This resulted in only the top part of the last line of 'Berck-Plage' being reproduced; the last line of 'Purdah' being added in ink by her and the last lines, sometimes 3 or 4, of nine poems being retyped directly onto these sheets. A key document in the emergence of the book which established Sylvia Plath's literary reputation. The vast majority of Plath's manuscripts were sold to Smith College in the 1970's with the obvious consequences that manuscripts of any importance are virtually unheard of on the market. We have seen nothing to compare in significance with the present typescript being offered for sale."

    So, if 75 of us each contribute $1000, we can each have one sheet. I call the 'Moon and the Yew Tree'. Any takers? Seriously, this is certainly significant and I would hope that Smith college, the Lilly Library, or another public institution would buy the manuscript so that it can belong to "the public", though I suppose if I were Meg Ryan I would get my movie star paycheck and hightail it to Pennsylvania. I also have to wonder who is offering it for sale, and why (well, I guess the 'why' is apparent). Comments? Groans? Lottery ticket buyers?

    Detroit, USA
    Wednesday, May 3, 2000

    I have started my thesis on 'The Bell Jar' and how Plath demonstrates a constant preoccupation with death - throughout all of her work. I am looking particularly at how death is perceived in positive terms and how as readers we can respond to her subject with empathy. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions please get in touch

    Huddersfield, UK
    Wednesday, May 3, 2000

    I would like to post a question to all serious evaluators of Plath's poetry, and ask for your kind response. I am a degree student studying Plath, and have been asked to investigate her appropriation of holocaustal imagery, in order to divulge finally whether it is relevent or merely self-serving. I am certainly not looking for anyone to help me write the paper, but would be interested to know of authors who have written on the subject, and what their opinions are. My personal opinion is that such incorporation of History in her poetry is entirely reasonable, conveying her position as victim flawlessly. I have read Stan Smith's sentiments on the subject, but to be entirely honest, do not find them to be wholly comprehensive. I would be very grateful for speedy reply to my question. Your co-operation would be kindly received.

    Helena Johnson
    Cambridge, England
    Monday, May 1, 2000

    I just received my copy of The Journals of Sylvia Plath (1950-1962) from and am very pleased with it. Although I live as far from the UK as Los Angeles, the book arrived in perfect condition. I'm sure those of you who have already looked through the text will agree that Ms. Kukil did a superb job putting this book together. Even in her brief preface, she got straight to the point and evinced her goal of keeping herself and other distracting elements out while allowing Plath's voice to take center stage like never before in the previously published works. What a beautiful book.

    My only complaint is that I wish these publishers would stop using that same tired photograph of Plath that is on the cover. Yes, it does effectively illustrate that aura of dark mystery that surrounds her life and death, but there was so much more to her than that. Plath had an incredible sense of humor and a fiery wit that comes out in her writing, and it'd be nice if people would concentrate on these traits once in a while instead of constantly magnifying her tortured soul (which, I admit, the fascinating myth of Plath is so heavily built around). I think that the beautiful photograph on the back cover (SP at the Quadigras dance, Smith College, May 1954), or one of the many stunning new happier photos inside, would have made a fine cover. It's refreshing to see Plath so radiant, as Im sure she must have been in life.

    Anyways, just a thought.

    My thanks to Jack Folsom for his helpful info on ordering this book. It is one of the finest texts in my small library. I would also like to thank those who posted information about getting a refund from when the price of the book dropped from 24.00 GBP to 18.00 GBP. The customer service people were very gracious about providing me with a 6.00 GBP discount.

    James Chong
    Los Angeles, USA
    Sunday, April 30, 2000

    I'm wondering about a connection between "Mushrooms" and the anti-Jewish German childrens' book, The Poison Mushroom.

    Culllman, Al, USA
    Sunday, April 30, 2000

    I am reading Plath's poetry and also some related poets' work. And I'm especially interested in the relationship between these poets(confessionals) with their Fathers(both in literary and psychological sense). Hop e to have some email communication between us. I am a teacher in Nanjing, China.

    Noel Fan
    Nanjing City, P.R. China
    Wednesday, April 26, 2000

    I've just read Emma Tennant's Burnt Diaries which talks about her 'association' with Hughes. It's interesting how haunted Tennant is by Plath, but it is obvious it was doubly so for Hughes. The only insights shed by the book (apart from Hughes' apparent promiscuity) are his tendency to emblematise his women into countries (Plath as America,the mysterious Sally as Australia and Tennant as Scotland) and his need to give gifts of baby foxes to both Plath and Tennant.

    West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
    Sunday, April 23, 2000

    I've just gotten through reading The Journals of Sylvia Plath. In it she mentions that she had had a dorm room in Haven House. A friend of mine goes to Smith and lives in Haven House. Whenever I walk up the steps entering H.H. I try to envisage Sylvia's experiences there. Northampton has changed so much since Sylvia's days there;however, since reading her journals, I, just for kicks, try to see it as she did. It's amazing, a lot of my stomping grounds are what hers were.

    I am fascinated in very interested in Sylvia Plath's writings, insights, and thoughts of what it means to be woman.

    Northampton, USA
    Friday, April 21, 2000

    I am doing a research paper on Sylvia Plath. I am writing about here stories i Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams. I am trying to find a point of view to take and a main idea running through some of her stories. I need criticsms to validate my points, but I can't find any information on her short stories. If you can help please e-mail me. I have been looking for months and the paper is due soon. Thanks in advance,

    Fort Myers, FL, USA
    Friday, April 21, 2000

    I am so excited to find such a large and diverse group of people that are as fascinated by Plath's work as I am. I was first introduced to Plath's writing in my eleventh grade AP english class and have spent the last three years reading her poems and anything that has been written about her life. Thanks so much for starting this forum!

    Macon, USA
    Thursday, April 20, 2000

    There's an article in the April 27th edition of THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS concerning Ted Hughes' translation of Euripdes' Alcestis. As the reviewer Daniel Mendelsohn notes, Euripides' tragedy mirrors, in many ways, that of Hughes' life with Plath. The article frames the discussion about Hughes' choices as a translator and how they shed light on his career and life. As such, discussions of Plath and of Hughes's BIRTHDAY LETTERS occur throughout the review. Mendelsohn notes that BIRTHDAY LETTERS was viewed as an attempt for Hughes to "undo" or "redo" his public image in regard to Plath, and he draws a connection with what Hughes leaves in and leaves out of his translation of Euripides, the story of a man who attempts to "undo" or "redo" his deadly past. It's an intriguing article with a wonderfully enigmatic closing that alludes to Janet Malcolm's THE SILENT WOMAN: "In her way-her "veiled" way-the most eloquent figure, among so many strange and tragic silences, has turned out to be Euripdes' silent woman."

    Pamela St. Clair
    New Haven, USA
    Tuesday, April 18, 2000

    Hurray! Its done! I handed in my thesis about The Bell Jar today. So, if anyone is interested in a German piece of work-contact me. I am a bit sad because now I cant focus on Sylvia any longer...there is more work to do. But I would like to thank everyone who supported me and especially Elaine for this fantastic Forum!!!

    Mannheim, Germany
    Monday, April 17, 2000

    Hi. I'm a 14 year old girl who goes to a borading school in Maine. I often feel alone here because no one shares my need to think and FEEL. I have become addicted to Sylvia Plath. I love to write and would really like to know if there's anyone out there who would like to have a poetry/writing correspondence?

    Monday, April 17, 2000

    Hi! I've just discovered this page and it's like a treasure for me... What I'd love to know is where I can meet my soul mates (Sylvia loving people) in London? I'm a lonely young poet/writer girl moving back to London in June; but I don't know anyone there with similar interests in poetry. Are there any kinds of poetry nights or something where you people meet up and discuss about your favourite poets/ your own poetry? Anybody who knows about some events or is willing to share thoughts on Sylvia Plath with me, please contact!

    Terhi Cherry
    Sunday, April 16, 2000

    Like Lena, I can't help but speculate as to what's in the sealed trunk at Emory. I wonder if Double Exposure, the novel Plath was allegedly writing before her death, might be there. For years after her death, Hughes denied its existence. But in the late '70's or early '80's, he did an about-face and said it did exist, but had disappeared. Given Plath's frame of mind over those last months, no doubt it would be a hard novel to read; I could see him wanting that out of the public domain for a while yet. Although of course we'd all love to see it. I must say it does seem odd that he held something back for 25 years after his death.

    Amy Rea
    Eden Prairie, USA
    Thursday, April 13, 2000

    I am happy I found this site. Sylvia has become my obsession as of late. I spend a lot of hours and money as on her books and books about her. The more I read... the more I get drawn to her. I can relate to a wonderful women who wrote more then 35 years ago. I can feel her depression because it is my depression. I am a writer, albeit struggling, and hope to be as good as her one day. Forgive me, I didn't know what to write here, but I would like to meet others and talk about Sylvia and other things. Thank you for listening, mail me anytime

    Troy Michael
    Thursday, April 13, 2000

    I am NOT alone in cyberspace! I know this thanks to those who wrote me with kind words and ideas. To Tanya, Amy, Anja, and John who have been especially kind in imparting their knowledge - and in some cases, gifts - to me, a special thank you. And to Elaine, thank you, for creating such a great forum (one that is truly civilized) to "meet" and exchange ideas and knowledge.

    Detroit, USA
    Wednesday, April 12, 2000

    As far as I know, each of the major arcana cards of the Tarot deck (starting with The Fool and ending with The World) has a Hebrew letter attached to it - I have a book that explains the connection to each, with the letter acting as a way of understanding the picture on a deeper spiritual level. (If anyone wants the list, they can email me privately!)

    If Birthday Letters is organized in any other way besides chronologically, I have yet to see it - I have been busy galloping through the Journals, and really beginning to see Plath in her struggles in a new light - and the missing journals, wherever they are, have to be published. I don't mind the endless sketches of neighbors, as she reveals herself through them, but for now I get a better sense of her life at Court Green through her letters, which are only half the story.

    What could be in the 'sealed chest', if the Journals aren't in there?

    Lena Friesen
    Toronto, Canada
    Wednesday, April 12, 2000

    Thank you for pointing out the articles in The Times, Kim, there is another long one from April 8th about the Emory archives. You can find them by going to and searching for Ted Hughes.

    (or clicking on LINKS from here - Elaine)

    By the way, there was also a letter from the person who packed Hughes' archives and he said that the missing Plath journal was not in the sealed box of the archives.

    I think that it becomes clearer now just how much these two poets worked together, influenced each other and helped each other.

    Claas Kazzer's report of the Hughes conference is very interesting, indeed. He had told me about the Kabbalah/Tarot connection that Anne Skea mentioned before and as I was reading BL again, it seemed that there was a layout there, invisible to the uninitiated, but determining the order of the poems or even the choice of words. I searched the internet for information on this topic, I found a good resource at but there is just so much information there that it seems impossible to get into this without serious study. The Kabbalah relies a lot on words and letters, though Hebrew letters, does anyone know whether Hughes spoke Hebrew? I know that Assia translated poems from Hebrew into English, but Hughes? By the way, Birthday LETTERS ...

    I am looking forward to reading the proceedings of the conference. I do agree with Leonard Scigaj's view that the deterministic view in BL keeps Hughes from turning his attention to other important aspects, but maybe this has to do with the "magic" scheme he used for this volume? What I find strange is his choice of her poem titles for his own poems.

    By the way, the post-conference discussion at Class's website is also very interesting, even only for the different approaches to criticism outlined there.

    Anna Ravano
    Milano, Italy
    Wednesday, April 5, 2000

    I am beginning to think I am alone out here in cyberspace.........anyway, for those who have not perused Claas Kazzer's Ted Hughes website, there is an interesting report on the Ted Hughes Conference that took place recently in Lyon, France. No surprise, there were a few papers that centered on Hughes' relationship with Plath. Leonard Scigaj opened the conference with "The Deterministic Ghost in the Machine of Birthday Letters". It is Scigaj's contention that Hughes determinist views of Plath and her suicide limited his perceptions of her in BL (I think I got that right). Gayle Wurst spoke on "The Imagination of Ted Hughes in the Early Poetry of Sylvia Plath." The most interesting talk (in my opinion) seems to have been Ann Skea's lecture on Birthday Letters. According to Skea, the 88 poems in BL correspond to aspects of Cabbalist numerology. In addition, tarot cards seem to have been used as a mnemonic in the writing and/or sequencing of the poems. Skea also presented charts of the correspondences between the Cabbala, the Tarot and the BL poems to back up her findings. This doesn't sound too far-fetched given Hughes' and Plath's interests in the arcane. I find it especially interesting that Hughes might have used the Cabbala, given Plath's predilection for Holocaust imagery, etc. Any one out there who has some knowledge of the Cabbala and/or the Tarot who might be able to shed some light on this? I have tried to contact Ann Skea, but my email gets returned to me as undeliverable, so if anyone has Ann's email address I would be grateful (the address I have is, which doesn't seem to work for me) to hear from you. Finally, of interest to 'Plathologists', Carol Bere gave a talk on Hughes' 'Capriccio', a limited edition (50 copies) of poems centering on Hughes relationship with Assia Wevill. The book was published in 1990 and contains 20 poems, 8 of which were published in 'New Selected Poems.' Appaarently, the mythology of 'Cappriccio' relates to 'The Dreamers', Hughes' poem about Assia in BL. Carol's talk centered on deciphering the mythology interwoven in the poems. That's all, folks!

    Detroit, USA
    Tuesday, April 11, 2000

    I have just read "The Bell Jar" for an english assignment. It was an excellent book. I am looking for more information on this book and I am wondering in anyone would know or have more information on it. I am writing a paper about how this book relates to problems in today's society and also how it relates to society then. If anyone has any input, I will be back to check later this week. I would greatly appreciate any help.

    Painesville, USA
    Tuesday, April 11, 2000

    Two articles of interest in today's London Times (Monday, April 10): 'Plath owed her success to me, says Hughes," and "At last, justice for Hughes". No doubt there will be much gnashing of teeth on this forum and elsewhere, but I think the articles should be read with an open mind. Everyone has (or had) an agenda to some extent, even Ted Hughes, even Sylvia Plath. I can well see why Hughes might think that he was the one who "made" Plath - just reading the 'new' journals last week I was struck by her difficulties in writing - even in being motivated to write. No doubt, the difficulties stemmed from a number of situations: being 'stuck' in a job that scared and bored her (teaching at Smith), being over-tired and depressed, and her fear of writing - of it not being good enough and of her mothers' appropriation of it. Plath writes of Hughes trying to help her by suggestion (subjects, relaxation techniques) and by example - working doggedly himself. What Hughes did not acknowledge in his letter to Aurelia Plath (subject of the first article, above) was how much Plath helped Hughes - by typing, and re-typing his poems and stories and sending them out again and again to publishers and magazines and contests. People who knew them have remarked that Hughes would not have become the poet we know today if it weren't for Sylvia Plath - so, lets call it even - they were both assets to each other with regard to their writing, and detriments to each other with regard to their personal lives. What do the rest of you think?

    Detroit, USA
    Monday, April 10, 2000

    I am about to embark upon a MA thesis regarding the fascination with death in Plath's work - particularly in The Bell Jar. I am writing from a psychoanalytic, feminist and 'reader reception' perspective. So, I'm overjoyed at having found this forum!

    Ms B Malhi-Sangha
    Huddersfield, England
    Monday, April 10, 2000

    I am new to Sylvia Plath. However, I have a friend who is a devoted Plath scholar and fan, and who will be coming to visit me in Boston for the first time in Sept., 2000. I would like to know - are there any Plath sites in the Boston area, such as in Jamaica Plain, where I understand she was born, or at Smith College, that I might visit with my friend? Thanks!

    Heather Buch
    Boston, USA
    Monday, April 10, 2000

    I was wondering if anyone knew why Sylvia Plath's annotated copy of THE GREAT GATSBY is so valuable. If you happen to know why, if you could please post it on this disscussion room. Thanks.

    Calgary, CANADA
    Friday, April 7, 2000

    Syvlia Plath Meeting in London: Saturday April 8th Cafe Royal, Regents Street, Piccadilly, London. 10am-4.30pm

    Speakers include Karen Kukil (Editor of the Plath Journals); Erica Wagner (Author of Birthday Letters); John Carey (Merton Professor of English at Oxford University). The day also includes talks and discussions with playwright David Hare, writer Blake Morrison and the presentation of the PEN literary prizes. Tickets 16 (6 students).

    For further information or to book ring PEN:0171 352 6303 Friday 7th April between 2pm and 5.30pm, or come to the Cafe Royal at 10am on Saturday 8th April.

    Diana Reich
    London, England
    Thursday, April 6, 2000

    Does anyone have any information on Hughes' book of 11 poems withheld from Birthday Letters titled "Howls and Whispers"? I found the reference in Erica Wagner's book 'Ariel's Gift', the first I've seen. What I do know is that there were only 125 copies of the book printed, with illustrations by Baskin, and that the original price was/is $3500 (!). I found one copy for sale by an internet bookseller (offered at $3500), which is too rich for my blood. I am wondering if any of these poems will be published elsewhere - or have been published elsewhere. I am assuming that "The Offers" which was published by the Times about 10 days before Hughes' death is included in 'Howls and Whispers' but haven't a clue as to what the other poems may be except for one called 'Laburnum' - which Wagner refers to being listed in the original table of contents for 'Birthday Letters.' 'Laburnum' was replaced by another poem ('The Inscription' (?) I can't remember) in BL. It seems unfortunate that there are other BL poems published but not accesssible to the general public. And I would think that the existence of 'Howls and Whispers' solves the 'mystery' discussed on this forum previously, regarding poems being omitted from either the UK or US versions of BLs.

    Detroit, USA
    Wednesday, April 5, 2000

    You might like to know that I got a 6.96 refund from for my copy of the Journals, for which I had placed an order about two weeks before publication, the price quoted being then 24.96, while it's now 18. I wrote to Amazon yesterday, they've just answered saying that the difference will be credited to my credit card. I hope this helps.

    Anna Ravano
    Milano, Italy
    Wednesday, April 5, 2000

    I would like to announce the Yahoo Club "Sylvia Plath - Focus on Poetry". We are a group of people with an interest in the poetry of Sylvia Plath, some of us are regulars at this Forum, too, we are from different countries and with different backgrounds. Our main goal is to discuss and analyse the poetry of Sylvia Plath. The club is not public, i.e. not listed at yahoo clubs. If you would like to join and contribute, please email me with a short intro of yourself and I will send you the details about joining the club.

    Anja Beckmann
    Leipzig, Germany
    Wednesday, April 5, 2000

    I'm doing a school report/project on "Mushrooms", can anyone tell me anything about what period of life she wrote this poem and the interpretation? It seems to me she is writing about being institutionalized, but I know she wrote this in 1959 several years after she was institutionalized, so am I way off in my interpretation? I would appreciate any information you could give me about this poem. Thank You,

    Mission Viejo, USA
    Tuesday, April 4, 2000

    There is an article in the April 1st edition of the electronic Telegraph titled 'Inside Story: 55 Eltisley Avenue.' Discusses the Hughes' tenancy there and talks a little about who is living there now. Ends somewhat incongrously with a discussion of Cambridge real estate prices. Also mentions how the current owners have to deal with a number of Plath tourists, who come knocking on their door - I've walked by the house, but I don't think I'd have the guts (if that's what you'd call it!) to knock on the door and ask to look around....

    Detroit, USA
    Monday, April 3, 2000

    Re: Tanya's posting on the editing of the journals. It seems to me that the problem isn't the way the material was edited, but the material that was there to edit. The journals are fragmentary, and it appears that the Estate of Sylvia Plath edited some of the material before it ever reached Smith College. "Many leaves missing" is the editorial note to almost all the journals and notebooks. I'm sure that Sylvia destroyed a lot of stuff she didn't want to keep, but who knows what Ted Hughes destroyed apart from the last journal? I specifically wonder about their marriage. I find it hard to believe that Sylvia didn't write anything about her decision to take this big step. (Appendix 9 which is her analysis of Ted and their relationship was written shortly after meeting him and two months before their marriage.)

    About the last journal that was destroyed by TH - My own feeling is that he had every right to do so, because it was obviously a question of protecting the children. I would have loved to read it, but I don't hold it against him. I'm sorry that the other journal from 1959 1962 disappeared. But I had the strangest experience about that. Initially I felt resentful that some of the people who have been most vicious about Plath - Olwyn Hughes, Dido Merwin and Lucas Myers - ended up being protected because the material that would have given Plath's side of things was lost. But now I think Sylvia comes off looking so much better than them. She is admiring and respectful about Lucas Myers and even though she is a little mean about Dido that's nothing compared to what Dido later had to say about her in Anne Stevenson's bio. So all those rumours about Sylvia's selfishness, spitefulness etc. are certainly not proved by the journals.

    I too noticed the many references to Hughes' good body smells that were deleted previously. I wonder if he found them emasculating and infantilizing - isn't it what we say of babies, that they have a sweet smell? Best wishes,

    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Sunday, April 2, 2000

    There is an article from the Boston Globe of 3/29/00 about the unsealing of Plath/Hughes materials. It also says that Anchor Books will publish the journals this fall in the U.S.

    Also, I have been trying to get a list of books previously owned by Plath in the Lilly Library collection. I did receive a list from Smith, and it has proven very useful re: Plath's influences.

    St. Louis, USA
    Saturday, April 1, 2000

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    This forum is administered by Elaine Connell, author of Sylvia Plath: Killing The Angel In The House - second edition with new preface just out, December 1998. Elaine lives in Hebden Bridge, near where Sylvia Plath is buried and where Ted Hughes was born. Web Design by Pennine Pens. This forum is moderated - contributions which are inappropriate, anonymous or likely to offend may be edited or omitted.