The Sylvia Plath Forum

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Contributions: July 2001

I appreciate Sylvia Plath's works greatly. Despite her own pessimism, every word of hers vitalises and her exclusive images give her works a label of novelty. As a confessionist poet, I feel empathetic to her poems. Plath's outrageous roar and boldness make her become admirable in the contemporary literary world.

Monday, July 30, 2001

I don't think that Sylvia Plath had a middle name, the biographies tell you in detail when and where she was born, that she weighed 7 pounds and all the rest, if there had been a middle name they would have told us that, too. Warren is called Warren Joseph Plath. Butscher says that Sylvia was derived from the herb "salvia" and the adjective "sylvan", suiting Otto Plath's classical education and scientific training. He doesn't say where he gets this information from. Anyway, many Germans don't have a "middle name", there used to be a tradition of giving your children three names, one to call it by and then the names of the grandmothers/grandfathers, which produced very odd combinations and nobody ever mentions their additional names and eventually people gave up the idea. Maybe Sylvia's Gemran/Austrian background has something to do with this. Otherwise her other names would have to be Ernestine for her father's mother and Aurelia for her maternal grandmother.

Anja Beckmann
Leipzig, Germany
Saturday, July 28, 2001

Amadeus, In my copy of Letters Home, Aurelia Plath gives thanks to Plath's brother, Warren J Plath in the Acknowledgements page. So, he has a middle name, which makes it more likely Plath does, too.

Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Friday, July 27, 2001

I was wondering if by chance you knew Sylvia Plath's middle name? I have searched long and hard and have yet to find it. Any help would be much appreciated, as I am beginning to believe that perhaps she doesn't have a middle name. An odd inquiry to be sure, but a challenge nontheless. I thank you for your time.

Amadeus Navarro
Pahrump, NV, USA
Thursday, July 26, 2001

I'm working on a master's dissertation and I'm particularly interested in "body imagery" in The Bell Jar. I'd be grateful if anyone could email me some suggestions or direct me to some specific bibliography.(Namely, does anyone know if Kathleen M. Lant's article: "The Big Strip-Tease: Female Bodies and Male Power..." is available on-line?) If anyone could help me out, Id greatly appreciate it.

Almada, Portugal
Monday, July 23, 2001

Stephen Tabor in his book "Sylia Plath: An analytical bibliography" refers to (D8. page 142):

A reading with Marvin Kane for the BBC, recorded in London around 5 June 1961. Plath read the following poems: The Disquieting Muses - Spinster - Parliament Hill Fields - The Stones [=Poem for a Birthday 7]. Kane reads the following poems: Sleep in the Mojave Desert - Suicide off Egg Rock - You're - Magi - Medallion. Plath introduces each poem.

I recently read the transcript of this broadcast, "The Living Poet" by Sylvia Plath which was transmitted on BBC Radio (what was then the Third Programme) on Saturday, July 8th 1961. In her introduction to the programme Plath says:

Many Forum reasders will be familiar with Plath's Interview with Peter Orr on on 30th October 1962 (the transcript of which I believe is available somewhere on the Internet) where Plath says:

However, on April 18th 1958 Plath did read seven of the Colossus poems, and six others that were written during the same period, for Lee Anderson at Springfield, Mass. Some, if not all, of these poems are commercially available on "The Voice Of The Poet" series, though unfortunately the comments made by Plath between poems are not, nor is there a transcript of these comments. I was only able to make notes of a few of them:

Initially the Plath that interested me was the Plath of "The Bell Jar", the Plath of "Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams", I found her poetry problematic, it wasn't until I heard Plath reading her poems aloud that I began to apperciate it (likewise with Dylan Thomas), particularly the later readings of the "Ariel" poems.

In conclusion I'd just like to quote a line from an early draft of "The Bell Jar", which I do without comment:

John Hopkins
Bridgend, S.Wales, UK
Monday, July 23, 2001

Ted Hughes wrote in his introduction to The Journals of Sylvia Plath...

That Sylvia Plath never showed her real self to anyone until the last three months of her life might come as a surprise to you? That she showed it in the Journals only is slightly enlightening because this begs the question: what was she so afraid of that she couldn't let the people she knew in the real, physical world see her true self? Why did she only write what was real and not actually live it and then live it only to die? Is living a real self the quickest way to death? It seems so. Maybe their marriage failed because she couldn't fess up to who she was a scared, ambitious woman who might well have been just a girl.

So I suppose the only thing that remains is for you to show some composure when you write into the Forum on behalf of the Committee. Otherwise you are 'shut away beneath the to-and-fro conflicting voices of the false and petty.' Regardless of whether or not he was a scoundrel Ted Hughes knew Sylvia Plath better than you do. The only other suggestions I can make are to be a nice man and to live your own life, not Sylvia Plath's.

Peter K Steinberg
Brighton, MA, USA
Friday, July 20, 2001

Anja, Klee's "child-like way of... painting the world", was something he worked at to achieve. A conscious idea to replicate the purity of a child's initial scribble or crayon drawing. An achievment in art counter to say Nolde. A prelude to the art movement in N.Y.C. in the 1950's. Example; my teacher John Beardman. ( )Though beardman may have took the route of a more expressive (violent?) childhood.

Terry Roby
Ann Arbor , Michigan, USA
Friday, July 20, 2001

This is a bit of information for Liz. I believe the sentences missing from the American edition of the Journals are not deleted in the UK version. Karen Kukil deleted potentially libellous material about individuals from the American edition. The laws are not so strict in the UK. If you are really interested, you could order the Faber edn. of the Journals at

Lynda Bundtzen
Williamstown, USA
Friday, July 20, 2001

Re: Sylvia Plath Day. Being a depressive, Old World type, I do think the way of celebrating Sylvia Plath as a person I like best is Dorothea Krook's. Each Feb 11, she lights a candle for Sylvia in her home, so that every time she casually looks at it while going about her own businesses, she thinks of Sylvia. And the best way of celebrating her as a poet is spending years studying, feeling, thinking, exchanging ideas about her work and eventually writing perceptive books about her and her work.

Sarzana, Italy
Tuesday, July 17, 2001

I just finished reading Sylvia Plath's unabridged journals, as edited by Karen Kukil. The book was amazing, I would recommend it to any Plath fan or admirer of great writing. However, there were 12 deleted sentences, and since reading the journals, I have been consumed by the desire to know what they said and why they were omitted. I'm sure there was good reason and I have no place knowing, but if anyone has any idea, let me know! Thanks!

Liz Vennum
Lakeland, USA
Tuesday, July 17, 2001

I was quite distressed when I read the postings about Sylvia Plath Day and what should or should not happen and who is allowed to say what etc. However, I was pleased to see that people didn't get up to answering flames with flames, so hopefully this debate will not eat up too much space here.

I'd say take this forum as an example for how a balanced Sylvia Plath Day should be organised, giving room to everybody without censoring any views (keep in mind that this is a moderated forum, not a message board where every post is published automatically). I believe that doing it any other way would be a great disservice to Sylvia Plath.

To Isabel Bellmann: here's a copy of the Klee painting Battle Scene

Have you found any interesting material yet? I've looked at Plath's work on paintings and it is such a pity that the poems are published without the paintings. I always thought that those de Chirico paintings she wrote about somehow really suited the mood of her early poems.

I love Klee, mostly for his use of colour, but he is also really funny, he always makes me smile. It is his childlike way of seeing the world, or rather painting the world, for he did not see it that way. And I think that in Battle Scene Plath writes about this - the difference between the child's way of seeing the world, imagining the bath tub as the sea, the sofa as a big sea dragon etc. and the adult way of seeing the world, a sofa is a sofa (is a sofa). I believe that the artist sometimes represents this childlike way of viewing the world and that Plath felt a bond between herself and Klee in this. Read her Tale of a Tub where she turns knees into icebergs and writes about "the photographic chamber of the eye" (the adult view of the world) and regrets the days when she saw the world as a child:

Yet she is determined to "board our imagined ship and wildly sail among sacred islands of the mad" and I think she would take Klee on board with her and together they would "sing Their bathtub battles deep"...

Anja Beckmann
Leipzig, Germany
Sunday, July 15, 2001

Re: Sylvia Plath Day

Yes, I like Plath. We all do. That is why we are here. We like her writing and by and large, we like her, though none of us knew her personally, or for that matter have known/met people who knew her, with possibly a few exceptions.


It is possible to like someone, even love them, and consider all their sides, moods, effects, negative or positive. That is also what we do. To concentrate on the positive only would leave this Forum open to the critics who think it is merely a 'fan' site and is not to be taken seriously.

Equally, we can discuss important influences on Plath, be they people, places, events, or even her own health and well-being. Some contributors feel that her husband Ted Hughes had a good effect on her, despite their personal difficulties. Others may think worse of him for these things. (In general I find the UK press gave positive reviews of Birthday Letters, and in the US, negative.) But one thing everyone, positive or negative, agrees on was the overwhelming importance Hughes had on her writing, and thus her life. It is always possible to say that 'she would have written anyway' but we can't know what sort of poet she would have become, because it didn't happen. (I also believe that to discuss Ted Hughes, to celebrate him without mentioning Plath is also a disservice; last fall there was a gathering to honor his memory at the 92nd St. Y and not only didn't the various distinguished poets not mention her, they didn't even read from Birthday Letters.)

To not talk about him 'at all' is, in my view, to commit the same mistake. If you're not talking about him, then forget The Colossus, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees and yes, Ariel. Talk about Plath the Bradford High student, the Smithie, and for the few months she was at Cambridge and didn't know him. And don't think you can pick up after mid-October 1962 and go until her death; when a writer is so influenced personally and professionally by another writer, the fact of whether they live together or not doesn't matter. Even if you think Hughes' impact on Plath was wholly negative, she still thought of him as a genius, and made sure one way or another that her poems were read by him, after their separation. Plath was her own woman always in her writing, but she valued Hughes' help and criticism (she said they were each others' best critics, in fact). Had Plath lived to be 50, and gained status as a famous poet and novelist, perhaps Hughes would not be the one important influence; but, as it stands, he is. (I'm not sure how Hughes can be judged as 'for the record' a lesser poet than Plath; one of the first reasons I read Hughes was due to Plath's own enthusiasm about his poetry, which never waned, even after their break-up. To each his own.)

Lena Friesen
Toronto, Canada
Sunday, July 15, 2001

Michael, Yes, of course there's nothing objectionable about debating and criticizing each others ideas and opinions on the Forum. But there is no reason to be personally insulting or to shut down legitimate areas of inquiry.

I might think that you sound like a total jerk, but it only diminishes my authority if I have to frame my argument in those terms.

I would rather try to persuade you to modify your attitude and approach, so that the people you deal with will have a little more respect for your opinions than they are likely to have when you resort to personal attacks instead of reasoned argument.

If, for example, Kate Moses, as an intelligent woman, wants to discuss the possible effects of PMS on Plath's emotions and mental states, why should you, as a man, think that you know more about it than she does? Even if you disagree with her, she has as much right to talk about this issue, which for women is a very real issue, after all Plath was a woman and subject to the physical and hormonal changes that go along with being a woman, as you do to express your opinions. Maybe you would like to think that Plath was a man, or was above being influenced by her body's biology, but such was not the case -- get used to it. There will always be people whose ideas you disagree with; that doesn't mean you have the right to keep them from speaking. Other people have the right to hear them; they don't expect to have to pay to hear only your ideas.

By the way, I have no interest in stopping you from expressing your ideas and opinions, only the hostile, obnoxious and juvenile form in which to couch them.

Jim Long
Honolulu, USA
Saturday, July 14, 2001

Hello everybody: I have to write a paper on Sylvia Plath and, at the moment, I have only an idea, which could also be the title: The Poetics of Self-Destruction. I'm aware of the danger of being topic and repetitive, but the aim of the paper is not to be original, but to pass a university subject. On the other hand, I would like to do well my work, within the strict limitations I have marked to me. The idea comes from the recurrent resort of Plath to language and images with negative, sad, dark or even gothic connotations. It is not strange in this sense that our poetress have inspired the lyrics of some postpunk groups such as Joy Division. The problem is that I should develop the idea, including different subtopics, and I have not too much time. Could anybody help me with some suggestions? Thank you.

Valncia, Catalonia
Friday, July 13, 2001

First, i'd just like to say to Kim from Detroit: you are welcome! contact me any time (i'm really a nice man). And in the future, soon, i will respond again about who, when, why, etc.

To the other critics, i'd just like to say that, well...don't any of you like Sylvia Plath? c'mon, deep down, examine it....Also, it was Plath's spirit to be direct, critical, etc.--intelligently so. It is the spirit of Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf, Dorthy Parker, etc. Actually, i have not been that critical. I dispise Ted Hughes, yes, personally (- and for the record, a lesser poet than Plath--etc.) but that will not be the focus--at all--of our event. is this clear? at all! we're not really planning to talk about him at all. whether Plath was or was not the greatest poet of the century is debatable (at least she's in the top five)--and I never said she was; i said possibly. I personally prefer Plath to Eliot. what is this about not criticizing a person in public? is this some new etiquette previously unknown to man? anyway, whenever i do criticize, it's nothing personal and i am always upfront--always. i hate backbiting or not being upfront.

really, i'm nobody. i'm just trying to honor one of the most discerning, all-around humans beings in history (Plath being an athlete, artist, writer, mother, etc.) i've got to go...we're doing a fundraiser for our OCT. 27 gig tomorrow; I've got to talk to a new poet guest who just accepted an invitation for Oct. 27, etc. but keep firing away, i can take the heat, i'll say more soon, and really i'd like to appreciate everyone, but Plath didn't like everyone, oh well, i'll keep trying--and remember, it's nothing personal!

Michael Haley
Northampton, ma, USA
Friday, July 13, 2001

I wasn't going to comment on this subject, but I decided that something needs to be said:

Michael-- You have a right to vilify people you don't even know as much as you like in a personal e-mail, but NOT in a public cyber-forum, where it's refered to as flaming, and is considered extremely rude.

If you hope to stage a successful event you need to curb this impulse and return some sense of proportion to your public comments. Nobody has valued Plath's life and work more than I have, over a period of 28 years, but she was NOT the greatest poet of the century, and if you expect to be taken seriously by the poetry community you need to curb this kind of hyperbole.

A number of people on the Forum, from places as distant from Northampton as Alaska, have mentioned that they may travel to Mass., at some considerable expense, to attend this event. It would be a grave disservice to them if the tone of the event turned out to be as off-the-wall unprofessional as your comments seem to suggest.

Jim Long
Honolulu, USA
Friday, July 13, 2001

Some books coming out.

Title: Mrs. Cherry's Kitchen
Author: Sylvia Plath
Publication Date: December 2002
Publisher: Faber & Faber, Incorporated
ISBN: 0-571-19589-X

Title: Sylvia Plath: A Critical Study
Author: Tim Kendall
Publication Date: September 2001
Publisher: Faber & Faber, Incorporated
ISBN: 0-571-19235-1
Serious study of Sylvia Plath's work has often been hampered by a fierce preoccupation with her life and death. Tim Kendall seeks to redress the balance in his detailed and dispassionate examination of her poetry. Taking a roughly chronological structure, he traces the unique nature of Plath's poetic gift, finding an essential unity in her inspiration. He outlines the evolution of recurring themes and at the same time exhibits her accelerated development from the formal restraint of The Colossus through to the ground-breaking techniques of Ariel.

Title: The Poetry of Sylvia Plath: Essays, Articles & Reviews
Contributor: Claire Brennan (Editor)
Publication Date: November 2001
Publisher: Columbia University Press
ISBN: 0-231-12427-9

Title: A Poetics on Edge - The Poetry & Prose of Sylvia Plath: A Study of Sylvia Plath's Poetic & Poetological Developments
Author: Silvianne Blosser
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, Incorporated
ISBN: 0-8204-5325-0

Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Wednesday, July 11, 2001

I too am taken aback by the venonmous turn that Michael Haley's post took in regard to questions raised about Sylvia Plath Day. I am planning on attending this event. At face value it sounded(s)like a lovely tribute to her and her legacy. Life is complex. Relationships are complex. Sylvia and Ted were complex. If it turns out that Sylvia Plath Day is also going to be a forum for disrespecting Ted Hughes and anyone who may be perceived as having caused Sylvia any grief in her life, I will re-think my plans to go. One does not have to take sides and certainly none of us are in the position to judge their marriage. Sylvia was prone to severe depression before meeting Ted. To blame him or anyone else for her actions, takes away from her free will, which in the throes of depression, left her unable to face herself another day. I do hope Michael can clarify what the events of this day are going to be. If there is going to be an undercurrent of (or blatant) Hughes bashing surrounding this event, I'd rather not be around to experience it. If nothing else, their children don't deserve to have their mother's special day tainted by an organized 'black cloud' aimed at their beloved father. I hope this is purely a Celebration of her Life, and that Michael was just speaking from a personal (and not organized) point of view. Thanks, Laurie

Juneau, Alaska, USA
Wednesday, July 11, 2001

I agree with Kim and the others that we should be able to discuss the Sylvia Plath Day without resorting to sneering, name calling and insulting. As a former ethusiast for sneering, bickerin, etc. (the Cressida Days) I see that it does not have a place amongst the contributors, readers, etc. Especially seeing that well respected writers, professors and Plath scholars such as Lynda Bundtzen, Kate Moses etc read and contribute. Not to mention the students that admire and respect all of what appears here.

Being a Committee Member for Sylvia Plath Day it mostly embarrasses me to read Michael's posting because they are not necessarily the feelings and opinions of all the four or five committee members. The fliers are written and printed solely by Michael Haley without consent on content by the committee. Michael feels it is in his rights and best interest to speak for us but not about us. That Ted Hughes may be bashed is a shame; that potential speakers and guests are invited initially, and then after correspondance which appears in opposition to Michael's (not the committee's) beliefs, opinions, etc be uninvited, is a huge disservice to Sylvia Plath and her admirers.

If the day is going to be successful different view points must be presented. Sylvia Plath is more than a dead poet, novelist, mother, wife, daughter and sister. Sylvia Plath is what we come to the table with at dinner time. She's the reason why thousands and millions of people memorize her poetry and are affected by her prose. She has the rare ability to get underneath your skin, crawl & wiggle around and do no harm. That really negative emotions are flying about this website and private emails again, shows a lack of understanding, maturity and purpose in the attempt to 'popularize' Sylvia Plath.

Peter K Steinberg
Brighton, MA, USA
Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Hmmm, I've been on holiday and just catching up on the recent postings. To put my two cents in, I've no problem with a Sylvia Plath day (or an Ernest Hemingway day, or a Virginia Woolf day. I will draw the line at Ed Gein day, however) being celebrated. As with the Sylvia Plath Postage Stamp Incident of yore that some of you may remember, I think commemorations like these celebrate the life and work of people, not the way that they died or chose to die.

I have been thinking hard about coming to Northampton for the SP day, despite my lack of funds, but I am having grave second thoughts. I neither disagree nor agree with your feelings and opinions Michael - they are yours to express. I simply dislike your sneering response. Surely other people are free to express their own opinions on SP, her life, TH, Alvarez, etc., etc. I personally do not hate Ted Hughes and I refuse to have to choose to 'like' or 'sympathize with' Sylvia or Ted but not both. Perhaps it's because of my lapsed Catholicism but I don't personally know any saints and I doubt such a creature has ever walked the earth. I hope you would agree that it would be more constructive to express opinions and feelings in a less, shall we say 'vindictive' and personally insulting way? I think we are all intelligent enough to do this without losing our fire and enthusiasm for Plath and/or our own viewpoints. No one, no matter how well read they are or how they pronounce "tomato" or who they know (or knew) or whether they prefer a crispy or a soft-crust pizza, or what their IQ level is, or where they live, or how many pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes they have will ever have a definitive answer on SP and her life. Or anyone elses life for that matter. I hope, as adults, we are able to express our varied opinions of Plath, her life and work in a mature way. it seems that many people often want to pull one person down from a soapbox only to stand on it themselves. This benefits no one.

Perhaps, Michael, you can tell us more about what events, lectures, etc., are scheduled for SP day as the information becomes available. That would be beneficial for all Forum readers. As for my personal attendance, I doubt Michael will care if I come or not, but it would be lovely to feel welcome if I choose to do so, whatever my personal idiosyncracies and opinions may be.....

Detroit, USA
Tuesday, July 10, 2001

This is just information for Kristina. Ruth Barnhouse and Ruth Beuscher are the same person. She was divorced. Beuscher is not spelled with a t as in Beutscher, even though Ted Hughes spells it that way in "Night-Ride on Ariel" and Olwyn Hughes spells it incorrectly as well in the Houghton Mifflin papers at Smith. This may be a Freudian slip conflating Ruth Beuscher with Edward Butscher, Plath's first biographer. Neither one of them is particularly well-liked by the Hughes's.

Lynda Bundtzen
Williamstown, MA, USA
Tuesday, July 10, 2001

I'd like to thank Jack Folsom for the Atlantic tip -- I spent yesterday afternoon devouring both articles in my local library. The issue of whether poets like Lowell, Sexton and Plath "exploited" their experiences as mental patients has come up often throughout the years. It poses for me the question, what does a writer use as material if not the strongest, most shattering or complicated experiences of their lives? Should broken souls not write, or write from behind a facade of health? It's true that subjects like suicide attempts and shock treatment have an immediate shock (sorry) effect, but that doesn't make them in-valid as subjects, especially in an era when mental problems like depression seem to have reached near-epidemic proportions. I don't agree that this is "exploitation," and SP's remark to her journal that she must use her psych ward experience for fiction since such stuff is saleable seems just the innocent comment of a young writer ready to do anything to make a mark. It came after she had been pulled out of that horrible episode, and represents a different side of her.

The writer's observation that Plath had fallen love with her therapist, Ruth Barnhouse? was a surprise to me -- I had never connected her McLean therapist with the RB she mentions often in her journals. I thought her more important relationship was with Ruth Beutscher, who was her therapist at another time. It's true that it's always confused me that she had therapists called "RB" in both Cambridge and Boston. At any rate, there seemed to be something of asperity in the writer-of-this-article's tone toward Plath -- calling her depressions "mild" and saying she always managed to ally herself with powerful people. If you've ever read another writer's biography, you'll see for writers there is a long tradition of seeking out other writers and even people of wealth and influence who can ease the way. I just read a biography of Paul Bowles and he did that; likewise Robert Lowell, whose bio I was looking at last night because of the book review about the biography of his third wife, Caroline Blackwood, in the NY Times on Sunday. May I venture the thesis that for talented men to seek out famous and powerful people seems natural, while women who do it are seen as scheming?

As for the other article, hurray for someone finally pulling aside the mystique these writers operate within. I have long thought Auster and Proulx were overrated; McCarthy I can't read and DeLillo, while I've admired some of the beauty of his writing (which does exist, but not in the passage the writer quoted) wrote an uninvolving. self-indulgent tome in Underworld -- a series of beautiful set pieces, perhaps composed separately, with no unity as a novel, a narrative you want to pursue. I couldn't finish it. In comparison, Plath did indeed compose with extreme care, and I've been rereading Hemingway, for lessons in dialogue and other skills.

Kristina Eldredge
New York City, USA
Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Dear Michael of Sylvia Plath Day Organizing Committee: Sorry, but Sylvia Plath was not selfless (no one is completely selfless), but admitted herself to being narcissistic and self-absorbed.

As for Ted Hughes, who can say whether he was a "scoundrel." Perhaps he was, perhaps he wasn't. Perhaps he was a percentage of the time, and was Mr. Wonderful the rest. Perhaps Sylvia was a pain in the ass to live with 30% of the time, and a Goddess of Perfection the rest. We'll never know, not if we study until the end of time their poetry and diaries and the interviews of every person on the planet who knew them even vaguely. Note that the two principal players in that marriage themselves couldn't even agree on what color headband Sylvia was wearing the fateful night they first met (she says red, he says blue). So we can only speculate as to went on in that marriage, or what goes on in any marriage. Relationships are infinitely complicated, and those dynamics are usually inexplicable even to the very parties involved. So all this broad-brush painting of Sylvia as Saint and Ted as Dog, or however one wishes to see them, is just plain silly, and insulting to the memories of two very complicated people. And remember, they were just people, not living icons.

Alison Matthews
East Lansing , USA
Tuesday, July 10, 2001

I'd just like to thank all the people who have emailed me with the metaphors poem and also with the URL to find all Sylvia Plath's poems in chronological order. It has all been most helpful and i am beginning to love poetry once more. I am interested in finding out more about people who have discovered their love for poetry, Sylvia Plath in particular, and how their love for it came about. If people would like to email me about this then i'd love to hear from you.

Drew Smith
Bury, England
Tuesday, July 10, 2001

With pleasure I recommend the current (July/August 2001) issue of The Atlantic, which contains two articles of potential interest to Forum readers. The first, titled "The Mad Poets Society," by Alex Beam, with the subhead "McLean Hospital, in Massachusetts, was for years America's most literary mental institution, a place that Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Anne Sexton knew well." Among other things, the article discusses how Plath and the others exploited their McLean experiences in their work. This article may be read online.

A far more important article in the same issue, "A Reader's Manifesto," by B.R. Myers, is billed as "an impassioned attack on the pretentiousness of American literary prose." The word "attack" is an understatement! One by one, Myers takes apart the most highly acclaimed American fiction writers, including Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, and Paul Auster, using passages from their writing to expose their evident conviction that "it is more important to sound literary than to make sense." Yikes! Someone dares not only to say but to show that "The Emperor has no clothes!" While groaning at Myers's quoted passages, I thought of the understated ironies and incisive images of Sylvia Plath's prose, and the evocative power of other "older" writers like Faulkner and Hemingway. No longer should educated but UNpretentious readers have to feel guilty about putting down after two pages some pretentious prize-winning novel that they find unreadable. This article is available in hard copy only. The Atlantic, published in Boston, is one of America's oldest literary journals. Sylvia's former friend (?) Peter Davison, is Poetry Editor.

Jack Folsom
Sharon, Vermont, USA
Sunday, July 8, 2001

I recently went to the open day for the college that I intend to attend in September. As I intend to study English Literature I had a 'taster' for that subject. In this small time we briefly analysed Sylvia Plath's 'Methaphors'. I was enthralled. Such a brilliant poem with so many hidden meanings, I just wanted more. So I found this site and am in the process of indulging myself in as much Plath as possible!

I wonder if anyone can help me by emailing me a copy of Plath's 'Metaphors' because I've trawled the net and havent found anything. Hope someone can be of help to me

Drew Smith
Bury, England
Saturday, July 7, 2001

I'm doing a paper on "Batlle-scene" , do you have any information about it, where I could look for ?? I'm comparing it to Paul Klees painting.

Isabel Bellmann
Freiburg, Germany
Saturday, July 7, 2001

With regard to why we are celebrating the life and legacy of sylvia plath on Sylvia Plath Day, let me be specific or as specific as anyone can be about Plath:

First of all, if one reads Linda Wagner-Martin's biography, she says Plath death was "ruled a suicide"; (we know Plath did absolutely try to commit suicide in 1953--so what? does this make her a constantly depressed person? a dendrite?

Pathological? as some of her well-known Elizabeth Hardwick, Joyce Carol Oates, Maxine Kumin types would have us believe? I won't mention A. Alvarez, his story is well known). But getting back to Plath leaving her children and all, she knew her children would be well provided and cared for--and they have been. Then, the second point is, Plath may not have intended to go all the way: it was at least partially an acting out, an exorcising of the demons as illustrated by the method: oven, gas, which relates to her father's (german) Prussian roots. Plath intended once and for all to get rid of her father's demons. But, we probably don't absolutely know WHAT Plath was doing at the end.

Paul of Todmorden, also, just because you would not do what Plath did, does that make you right? Plath had a right to do with her life whatever she wished; if you do one-hundredth with your life as what she did, you would be doing humanity a great service. As The New Yorker once said, Sylvia Plath had a "zest for life".

You, and so many like you, who are scared to look in the mirror, don't or won't recognize this uniqueness about Plath (and you probably don't have Plath's zest for life): the way she fought back from disappointments, enforced, ill-advised shock treatments (aurelia), and rejection; how she was self-less (to Ted Hughes, the scoundrel, and others); how she loved life! You, and others like you, are the reason that the broad masses of people may never understand what it is to really live life, because you wrap the great ones in Hollywood cliches having to do with artist=depression=suicide and other wacky notions.

Now, let me go one step further, and this may sound extreme, but it was Sylvia Plath's life to do with it as she wished; like Virginia Woolf, she had a right to end her life when she saw fit to do so--children or no children. Why can't we just take her superior insights on life as expressed in her journals, and her relentless, direct Pulitzer-Prize winning poetry, and celebrate it. Plath is one of the greatest voices of the Twentieth Century--possibly the best poet--and yes, she is someone to be celebrated for all time. Only her jealous ted hughhesian detractors cannot handle this fact. They can't handle plath's directness, the way she spoke and did things (i'm not talking about suicide) most of are too scared to say or do.

By the way, the mayor of Northampton was forced to act, by our committee. we are the galvanizing force; that is, we of the Sylvia Plath Day Organizing Committee. This is probably the only thing you are right about: the mayor hasn't read much Plath but does claim to like her. and you know what? she is probably ahead of some so-called Plath students and scholars in this regard.

This message also is for Pamela from Boston.

goodbye for now,
Michael for the
Sylvia Plath Day Organizing Committee
phone: (413) 536-6939

Michael Haley
Northampton, ma, USA
Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Earlier Messages - June 2001 and Before

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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.

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