The Sylvia Plath Forum

We have recently moved the Forum to a new server, and the address is now

Contributions: May 2001

Okay...I know you won't just write my poetry paper for me, but I've scanned seven books, and pages and pages of websites, and I can't find ANYTHING that talks about Sylvia Plath's writing style. (Like syntax, pentameter, the grammatical stuff) If you could help me in ANY way, I would be eternally grateful. Thank you so much for your time!

West Hills, USA
Thursday, May 31, 2001

I just finished reading "Sylvia and Ted" which I thought was excellent (I could have done with a little less Assia and more Sylvia though!) I was intrigued to see at the end of the book in the acknowledgment section a mention of a possible film being made on Sylvia and Ted. I've also seen mention of this on the net, where much to my extreme disgust Meg Ryan's name is being tossed about. With all due respect to Meg Ryan (who I actually do very much like as an actress) SPARE ME!!!! Meg Ryan as Sylvia Plath????? No way! In fact, there is not one single known actress that I know of who resembles her enough to play her. If they are going to make a movie on her they need to do an extensive search for someone who at least looks a little bit like her, and someone who could portray her intensity without making it look ridiculous like they did with the Bell Jar. This is a very serious important story, lets use some serious important actors! It's too bad Susan Lucci is so old now because she would have been a dead ringer for Assia. As for Ted, I think Liam Neeson would do in a pinch!

Owosso, USA
Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Solomon - Not sure if it's available in NZ, but try Tracy Brain's new book The Other Sylvia Plath. Brain provides some interesting insights into Plath's political views and her expression of them in her writing. The book also delves into Plath's environmental concerns. Janice Markey's Into the Red Eye also provides commentary on Plath's politics, the environment, the (often overlooked) humor in her writing, etc. If you can't find the Brain book in NZ, you can order online at Amazon UK, Heffers or any other UK based chain.

Detroit, USA
Tuesday, May 29, 2001

I am currently doing an essay on the different imagery and ideas Plath uses in her poetry. Although I have great examples of holocaust images and feminist ideas in her work, I am looking for something else. While reading Forum contributions, some people have touched upon the theme of silent America in regards to the reaction to the hoocaust. I would love to plunge deeper into Plath's portrayal of political issues and ideas in her poetry, trying to move away from the tired relations her poetry has to the holocaust etc. Any new ideas regarding politics in Plath's poetry??

Solomon Bishop
Christchurch, New Zealand
Tuesday, May 29, 2001

I'm writing a paper on Sylvia Plath and im finding her very interesting. I think her writing is incredible but I have run into one problem. One topic of my paper is supposed to tell what Literary Group she belongs to. I am not sure what to write for that. Do you have any suggestions?

Houston, USA
Saturday, May 26, 2001

Brett, if you're not already familiar with it, you'll want to pick up Peter Davison's memoir "The Fading Smile: Poets in Boston, from Robert Frost to Robert Lowell to Sylvia Plath, 1955-1960."

Melissa Dobson
Newport, RI, USA
Friday, May 18, 2001

Yes, last April there were some British film crew people taking footage of Winthrop for a BBC version of "Paula Brown." The version is supposed to be aired at some point this year but I am unsure of when that'll be. There was an article in The Boston Globe on 9 April 2000 about it, I will type it below:

Poet and writer Sylvia Plath grew up in Winthrop, and last weekend a British film crew visited the neighborhood where she played as a child to film the setting of one of her short stories.

British film director Colin Izod and his production company, Double Exposure, were at Sargent Terrace on the Winthrop shore filming an adaptation of her short story, "Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit." The 25-minute drama features ten child actors, eight from the Winthrop School of Performing Arts and two from The Boston Children's Theater.

According to Heather Menicucci, the local coordinator of the two-day Winthrop shoot, the dramatic adaptation will air next year on British Television's Channel Four, which is similar to PBS in this country. Plath, who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry posthumously in 1982, is a popular literary figure in England, where she had been married to British poet laureate Ted Hughes for severn troubled years at the time of her suicide in 1963. They had two children. In addtion to her poetry, she is popularly known in this country for her autobiographical novel, "The Bell Jar," which was published posthumoulsy. Hughes died at age 68 in the fall of 1998, but not before publishing "Birthday Letters," a controversial collection of poetry featuring both his work and hers, a volume that the harshest critics labeled exploitative.

"Superman and Paula Brown's New Snowsuit" is written from the viewpoint of Plath as a young girl and recalls a time she was unfairly accused of pushing a girl who fell and soiled her new snowsuit. In the story, Plath describes the scenes of Boston she could see from her window, where she would read. She wrote, "I lived on the bay side of town, on Johnson Avenue, oppostie Logan Airport, and before I went to bed each night, I used to kneel by the west window of my room and look over to the lights of Boston that blazed and blinked far off across the darkening water." Instead of filming at Plath's former Johnson Avenue house, now owned by Richard Honan, the director chose to do interior and exterior shots at a nearby house owned by Judy Barry, because the views were less obstructed. Other filming was done outside the Dalrymple Elementary School.

"I was totally embarrassed because I didn't know she lived there," confessed Barry, whose house became the base of operations for the actors, director, production company and curious visitors. "Everybody in school, of course, read 'The Bell Jar,' but I live almost next door and didn't realize she lived there. She had a hard life. I feel sorry for her and here the kids are picking on her."

Honan said his house attracks Sylvia Plath fans usually at least once a month. One couple on their way from Vancouver to Europe with a layover in Boston hired a cab to take them to photograph the house at about 11 PM. In particular, though, he was surprised by a man who pulled up with his two daughters. Honan got to talking to him. "He said, 'I used to live here...I am Warren Plath.' He didn't say, 'I am Sylvia Plath's brother.' He was his own man," recalled Honan.

Peter K Steinberg
Brighton, MA, USA
Friday, May 18, 2001

Brett in Utica,
There's a magazine article (1985 or thereabouts?) called "Lear in Boston", by a student who was in the class, and too frightened of Sylvia to speak to her, which gives a good sense of the seminar...can't remember offhand where it was first cited; it was supposed to be published as a book, but fell through might be in the notes to Jacqueline Rose's book... Gary; re BBC; why not call Bush House and ask? or email (cheaper)? Douglas Clark; any report on Tracy Brain?

Kenneth Jones
Berkeley, USA
Thursday, May 17, 2001

I think Peter Steinberg said something to me about the BBC being in Boston to shoot scenes for a production based on Plath's short story "Paula Brown's Snowsuit" - do I have that right Peter?! Besides this info from Peter the only other production I have heard mentioned is the BBC production of Sylvia and Ted (not, I think, based on the Tennant novel) to star Cate Blanchette. I don't know much about film production work but is it possible that they are shooting footage in order to recreate Plath's homes and haunts in Boston for their drama?

Detroit, USA
Thursday, May 17, 2001

Just a little note of interest.

I was in Winthrop, MA today taking some pictures of Sylvia's home and Otto Plath's gravesite to put on my MSN site. The mailman was there and we started talking and he said that last year there was a film crew from Britain taking footage of the site. He said he thought it was the BBC.

Is there a documentary in the works?

Gary Allen
Manchester,NH, USA
Wednesday, May 16, 2001

I'm collecting as much information as I can get about Robert Lowell's Workshop in 1958 --- particularly relationships between Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, between Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, and between Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell. How they got along, what went on between them in the workshop. Any help anyone can be would be greatly appreciated.

Brett Axel
Utica NY, USA
Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Speaking of Sylvia Plath, the strangest encounter happened to my mother recently. I did my thesis on Plath a few years back and this forum was a wonderful aid to me, so I thought someone may find this of interest. My mother went to a poetry reading in Ireland, Co Galway in fact, and phoned me the next day to report back. She was going on about how Andrew Motion (poet laureate, UK) was wonderfully entertaining, and then said, 'And then this woman stood up and began to read her own work, she was really entertaining, a bit like Sylvia Plath', and I asked 'What was her name'? And Mum said Frieda, Frieda Lawrence, or something... my jaw instantly dropped and I revealed to Mum that this was Ted and Sylvia's daughter whom she later saw enjoying a drink with the other speakers in the pub and whom she didn't even think to speak to. Mum was shocked, I can't believe she met Frieda... she talked about her own life as well as a painter and living in Australia- which confirmed to Mum I knew what I was talking about...Of all the strange encounters! I'm just bummed that I couldn't go myself, i could have done an interview with her. Apparently Mum says that her poetry is similar in its use of imagery and in its phrasing to Sylvia's and also draws rather heavily on her father's 'natural' poetry, but she comes across as too harsh and shrill, and doesn't seem to have inherited her mothers's sense of poetic balance. Nevertheless, I will be hunting for a book by her.. Wooraloo or something. My Mum the ditz!

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

I skimmed the article, Hypocrisy about Hypocrisy: The Creation of Selves by Wayne C. Booth. In Booth's discussion of voices, he is incorrect in his quotations when he writes:

"Ted Hughes explains that when she finally settled on the title Ariel, not long before she died, she 'omitted some of the more personally aggressive poems from 1962...'"

The fact is, these excisions were Hughes's decision: "The collection that appeared was MY eventual compromise..."

Sounds like Booth is twisting facts to fit his argument.

Hobart, Tasmania,Australia
Tuesday, May 15, 2001

The Brewhouse Arts Centre
Union Street
Burton on Trent
DE14 1EB

Proudly presenting
Letters Home - A Life of Sylvia Plath
Wednesday May 30th 8pm
Play entirely taken from Aurelia Plath's collection of letters from her daughter.

Tickets 6.50 (5.50 concessions)
Box office 01283 516030

Sorry for shameless advertising - but show sounds excellent. please pass amongst interested friends.

Penny Hopkins
Burton-on-Trent, England
Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Great pull quotes, guys; --don't you know how publishing works?--listen;

Reasons why YOU should buy Emily Tennant's latest!

"I was quite happy to finish this book...unsettling...bizarre...foreshadowing"--Peter Steinberg, USA

"Partly biographical, partly fantasy, pure invention"....--Judy Matthews, USA

"Every action is like a premonition of what's to come in the future...incident that I have never seen mentioned anywhere else...tragedy...a true perspective on these persons' lives."--Jim Long, USA

Coming Soon! From Disney!

They Loved Like Poets, but they Lived Like Animals! They Terrorized Three Continents! They Had the World in Their Grasp! And *THEN*--they LOST IT ALL--for--***LOVE***! "Sylvia and Ted!"

Look for it in a bookstore near you!

Soon to be a major Motion Picture, starring Arnoild Schwarzenegger as Ted Hughes, and Robin Williams in his Oscar-winning major breakout role as Sylvia Plath!

Be sure and buy the soundtrack (featuring "Moon River" by Henry Mancini) at Virgin Records Stores near you.

--want to bet it doesn't happen?

Ken Jones
Berkeley, USA
Monday, May 14, 2001

Just to say that Tracy Brain will be giving a talk on Sylvia at Bath Literary and Scientific Institute on Queen Square (7.00 for 7.30) on Tuesday 15th. I don't know whether I will be able to go.

Douglas Clark
Bath, UK
Monday, May 14, 2001

I for one found Tennant's book very suggestive. Her reconstruction of what may have happened the night of Sylvia's death- that Ted brought Assia to the flat and a shouting match ensued- makes psychological sense as the kind of thing that would have pushed Sylvia over the edge, and is a lot more credible than Hughes' account that he only stayed for a minute because she was leaving.

The only other incident in the book for which there isn't corroborating evidence is the Kate Hands episode and I wouldn't be suprised if we learn these are both factual when Hughes' biographies come out later this year.

California, USA
Monday, May 14, 2001

A friend has just pointed out to me an on-line essay on SP.
I haven't read it yet, but here's the bit introducing it: CREATIVE PROCESS ... Hypocrisy about Hypocrisy: The Creation of Selves Wayne Booth, the University of Chicago George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language and Literature, argues that a defensible breed of hypocrisy--"hypocrisy upward"--drove Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath to express better versions of their flawed selves in their poetry: "In a curious way, I find my admiration for Frost and Plath and others actually rising a little bit when I learn some contemptible details about the struggling authors..."

Anna Ravano
Milano, Italy
Monday, May 14, 2001

I agree that "Sylvia and Ted" is absolutely awful. I read an advance copy of it and wish I hadn't. The book relies on the reader coming into the story with a set of knowledge about Sylvia Plath. Even a basic knowledge of Plath's major themes and work could possibly make any reader gag! A very general idea of the kinds of poems that Sylvia Plath was writing her whole life and a general impression of her Journals, Letters and short fiction also lead to Tennant's being able to throw out bizarre metaphors the whole way through. The time and narrative gaps are unsettling and its insistence on foreshadowing is obnoxious. It is equally as tasteless as Tennant's previous bad judgement writing in "Burnt Diaries." I was quite happy to finish this book.

Tracy Brain's endeavor on Sylvia Plath is a must read. I don't like literary criticism too much and I'm not very good at it myself. The first chapter of "The Other Sylvia Plath" is perhaps the most genious and thoughtful study of Sylvia Plath's work. It examines the marketing of Sylvia Plath, the editing of Sylvia Plath and brings to light so much wonderful true information that, along with the complete Journals, should begin to revolutionize the way Sylvia Plath is studies, interpreted and handled. I felt like each chapter, after the first, was a bit of a let down. Having read chapters two and three in shorter essay versions I was pleased to see them expanded and felt they hit the mark. But, as the book carries along I was getting restless to finish. The fifth chapter I feel is the weakest of them all, and brings to light very little new information regarding the Birthday Letters, etc. But, like I said, over all I feel it must be read.

Peter K Steinberg
Brighton, MA, USA
Friday, May 11, 2001

I read Tennant's book also and thought it was some of the worst trash I've ever laid eyes on. I'd like to send it back to her and request my money back. Dreadful stuff. The book is supposed to be partly biographical, part fantasy. But with all the previous material that has gone before for her to utilize for the biographical aspects, she manages to get her facts and sequences of events wrong repeatedly. (And the story about the girl is pure invention.)

Judy Matthews
Okemos, USA
Friday, May 11, 2001

Having just read Tennant's book "Sylvia and Ted", I told someone "I hope to God nobody tries to make a movie out of this book." It's so episodic that it has virtually no structure at all, much less a plot or narrative line.

And, when thinking about who should portray Sylvia in such a film (not Meg Ryan), I swear to you this is true, Cate Blanchett is exactly who I settled on as both talented enough and whose "aura of celebrity" would not intrude on her portrayal.

But "Sylvia and Ted" was the only thing I've ever read about Plath that struck me as being so voyeuristic that I could barely bring myself to read it. It's SO melodramatic; she practically hits the reader over the head with each episode; every action is like a premonition of what's to come in the future. However, anyone already familiar with the story will find very little that's new in this book.

But, mea culpa, there is one incident that I have never seen mentioned anywhere else, and which I would dearly like to know the source of (Tennant provides no indication of where this story comes from) and that's the story of an incident that occurs between Hughes, who is in his 30s, and a 15-year-old girl named Kate Hands, which takes place in an over-grown field next to the school she attends. Has anyone ever heard of this incident before?

Anway, I hope the film is not as dreadful as I anticipate; it's not a pretty story, and I don't expect the medium of film will give an true perspective on the creative element in these peoples' lives, just the soap-opera tragedy of their relationships. I hope I'm wrong.

Jim Long
Honolulu, USA
Friday, May 11, 2001

Has anyone read the Tracy Brain book, The Other Sylvia Plath? I'm almost done with it and am enjoying it. I'm not nearly as widely read in Plath criticism as many on this forum, but I particularly enjoyed the chapter I just finished, where Brain looks to Virginia Woolf (especially A Room of One's Own and Mrs. Dalloway) and Charlotte Bronte (Villette) as direct influences on The Bell Jar. Brain had the opportunity to study Plath's heavily annotated copy of Villette, which allows her to point out some striking similarities. It's also nice to see The Bell Jar being viewed as something other than direct autobiography; Brain makes a strong case for a critical literary view of the novel rather than just footnotes to Plath's life. It makes me want to dig up my college copy of Villette and reread it.

Eden Prairie, USA
Thursday, May 10, 2001

A little bit of news: I've just been reading an article from The Observer newspaper here in the UK which mentions that a film is to be made by BBC Films called 'Sylvia and Ted'. Cate Blanchett is to play Sylvia. The article is about Ted Hughes.

Chorley, UK
Thursday, May 10, 2001

(This article was added to the SPF Links page on Sunday. EC)

Hi Kenneth,

I followed up on your suggestion and contacted Karen for some more information. The curator is planning on publishing a catalogue to coincide with the exhibition, which will open during the fall of 2003 at the School of Fine Arts Gallery at Indiana University. I had mentioned how interesting it would be if Frieda were to contribute a few words on Plath's artwork and poetry. Karen responded that a number of scholars will be contributing essays and that possibly Frieda may contribute something as well. As Gary mentioned, Karen thinks that the exhibition will probably travel to New York the following spring.

What a terrific opportunity this will be to view yet another aspect of Plath's creativity and to look for familiar patterns where her art and her writing overlap.

Boston, USA
Tuesday, May 8, 2001

I am doing a thesis on the effects of Plath's relationship with Hughes on her writing. I want to discuss how Huges affected Plath: emotionally, hindered her interactions with others, caused her to be an isolationist, and other such ideas. If anyone has any information which would be helpful to me, I would be greatful if this information could be e-mailed to me.

Fiona McQuade
Connecticut, USA
Sunday, May 6, 2001

Anyone else on this forum starting to get private emails from students, wanting research info on Plath? I hate to not include my email link, as I've had some fun and interesting private Plath conversations off the Plath forum, but I simply won't do someone else's homework for them. I've got my degree, and I did it by myself!

Amy Rea
Eden Prairie, USA
Sunday, May 6, 2001

I apologize for anyone who had trouble getting the list of Plath's Library off my site.

I had put it in Rich Text Format which was a mistake, I've corrected the error I believe by putting it in as a text file. Chalk it up to barely intermediate computer skills.

A couple of items I forgot to mention in my last posting on my visit to Smith College. Karen said there is a book coming out this fall called The Other Ariel by Linda Bundtzen from UMass Press, and that Linda Wagner-Martin is coming out with a book looking at the Ariel Poems.

Gary Allen
Manchester, NH, USA
Sunday, May 6, 2001

Echoing Pamela's note I too was privileged to meet Karen Kukil yesterday. I had talked with her recently and set up a time to come and view the Journals and other items, at Smith College.

Karen is as Pam says very lovely and gracious. She took time to talk with me and show me quite a few of the drawings and paintings.She told me about the show that will be coming in a couple of years of her art. She thought at this point it would be held in New York City at the New York City Public Library, but that has not all been decided yet.

There was one drawing in particular I have to mention. It was one of the most poignant moments of my visit.Karen said it was one of her favorites also. It is a crayon drawing that was done about 1940. It is three little yellow chicks with a blue sky and pink flowers on it. And very finely done. To see and hold this little drawing by an 8 yr old Sylvia was touching indeed. So when the exhibition of her work is displayed it will be worth seeing.

I hope they publish a book with all her work so those not able to view it in person will be able to appreciate it also. As an aside I noticed on Amazon that the self portrait she painted when at Smith is for sale for a mere $35,000.

An interesting thing Karen related and probably many of you who have been reading Plath for a while know, that she wrote Lady Lazarus on the back of the sheets she wrote The Bell Jar on.

Of interest is the paper she used. It was pilfered by Sylvia from Smith College over her time there Karen said she loved the stationery as it has a rosy hue to it and made Sylvia feel it gave her writing a rosy glow. I obtained copies of the 3 drafts of Lady Lazarus which will be interesting to go over and see how the poem developed.

Karen also mentioned that all off Plath's items at the college will eventually be on the Smith College web site and be searchable, though she said smiling, "this will not be for awhile".

At lunch I took a walk around the campus in the 95 degree heat and took some pics of some of the Plath related sites. I have put these on my MSN Community Page for anyone interested. I also have some pics of the Mayo house, Egg Rock, her Wellesley home and school,and pictures of the site she and Marcia Brown were in Francestown,NH. I felt like a real detective finding that site.

I have also put on my page a complete list of the books that were in Sylvia's personal library which the college has.

One question I asked Karen and it is amazing to me how did she find the time to write all she wrote. Karen told me she also took care of all the finances, the cooking , the shopping , care of the children, and the promotion of both hers and Ted Hughes work. It really is amazing to me.

After visting the library at Smith College, I have come away with an even greater appreciation of how Big a force she was and continues to be. It really was a great day, and I would just like to thank Karen again for the time and insights she gave me while I was there.

Manchester,NH, USA
Saturday, May 5, 2001

Pamela in Boston, what would make a nice frontispiece would be Plath's "illuminated copy" of Ariel that she drew for Alvarez...did you ask Kukil if there were plans for a book? she should be in a position to know if one's possible...alternatively, the museum might sell catalogs for the exhibit...

Nicole in Mansfield, don't know, myself; you might check Butscher or Wagner-Martin's biographies...

Kenneth Jones
Berkeley, USA
Friday, May 4, 2001

Last evening, I had the opportunity to meet the very lovely Karen Kukil, editor of the new unabridged collection of Plath's journals (which, I had not realized, Ted Hughes commissioned). I thought the forum might be interested to learn that according to Karen, Indiana University houses around 250 of Plath's paintings and illustrations and is planning a Plath exhibition in two years.

A quirky aside: Karen recounted the day she was approached about working on the journals. She was in the midst of giving a workshop to students, and they were listening to the Plath recording of "Daddy." The phone interrupted and Karen answered only to hear a voice through the receiver sounding identical to that on the recording. It was Frieda. To hear Karen tell it, it was quite haunting and memorable.

Wouldn't it be nice if after the Indiana exhibition, Plath's art work is published in some form for all to see--another book to add to the collection (and perhaps to the debates?).

Boston, USA
Thursday, May 3, 2001

An interesting description of Plath's corrected carbons up for sale (now sold). Original corrected carbon typescripts for forty poems, twenty-eight of which were published in Ariel (1965); the remaining twelve poems were published in later volumes. The title poem Ariel bears a highly significant & previously unrecorded holograph dedication: "For Al [Alvarez]".

Hobart, Tasmania,Australia
Thursday, May 3, 2001

I was wondering if Sylvia Plath was ever committed to a mental hospital by the name of Westwood Lodge? I know that Anne Secton has and I have as well. I just wanted to know if I shared this in common with Plath as well. Thank you very much. I have tried very hard to get this information and have been dying to know. Thanks again!

Mansfield, MA, USA
Thursday, May 3, 2001

Earlier Messages - April 2001 and Before

Send us your thoughts/ideas/comments

This forum is administered by Elaine Connell, author of Sylvia Plath: Killing The Angel In The House. 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.

The forum is intended as one where discussion and exchange of points of view/information about SP's work can take place. It is not really a site which promises to do students' thinking/essays for them. Before posting to the Forum students seeking help on theses, essays, presentations and analyses of particular poems are advised to look at the extensive bibliography provided, the FAQ section and the individual poem analyses present on the site. All the books mentioned in the bibliography are useful to Plath studies and can be easily obtained in the US or in the UK, libraries and (in UK) the Inter Library Loan System. Reading the Forum contributions and archives thoroughly will also give any student a good idea of what the major questions are about Plath's work. Your work should be given far higher grades if you can work out your own answers.

  • Add Your comments