Sylvia Plath Forum

May - September 2006

Discuss Sylvia, the film

I just received an email from that said my pre-ordered copy of the Assia biography has been delayed for 4 to 6 weeks - does anyone have any information on why there is a delay? The UK Telegraph posted a tel number at the end of their serialization for ordering purposes, but I doubt that they ship to the US. I believe the book will only be available in the US sometime around the end of the year, which is why I ordered it from Also, does anyone in New Zealand know if the book is currently available there? Thanks, Kim

Detroit , USA
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This is in response to Alison who was looking for info re: visiting the Smith archives. I am curious if you went, and what your experience was like. A few years ago, I went and it was incredible. Didn't have much time and would like to visit again, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Sylvia Plath's handwriting, her typed letters, and so forth. It was very sad to see one of the last documents, which was a letter to an editor at the New Yorker in which she signed it Sylvia Hughes & then clearly erased Hughes to sign it Plath instead.

Rachel Cunningham Lyons
Cambridge, Mass., USA
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hello there! First of all, congratulations to everybody! The forum is just great!

I really love Sylvia Plath's writings in general and I have been reading much about her in the last few years.

I would love to get some tips from you regarding the book "The Other Sylvia" by Tracy Brain. Has anyone read it? Is it good? Do you suggest me therefore to read it?

Thanks a lot in advance!
Greetings from Italy,

Villa Santina (Udine), Italy
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Telegraph UK has also serialized the Assia biography, beginning on Sept. 9 - the 3 installments are available on-line. Heartbreaking.

Detroit , USA
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

See online articles page for links - webmaster

In the Observer article kindly given by Judith Kroll, it is mentioned that Assia was a German-born Jew. Assia was not Jewish. While it is true that her father was Jewish her mother was not (I believe she was Protestant.) In the Jewish tradition only children of Jewish women (or converts) are considered Jewish. The kinship is matrilineal.

Claudette Coulter
Dayton, OH, USA
Monday, September 11, 2006

Thanks very much for the link, Judith. I have recently been in contact with Eilat Negev and shall be receiving a review copy of the book on Assia in the near future when I shall review it for the Forum.

Elaine Connell
Hebden Bridge, UK
Sunday, September 10, 2006

Probably most of you have learned of this review of the book on Assia.

Judith Kroll
Austin, TX , USA
Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thank you, Michael, for the Fainlight....

Kenneth Jones
Berkeley , USA
Wednesday, September 6, 2006

I am writing to invite people to a celebration of Sylvia Plath. Unusually, it will take place at the site of Sylvia's grave and the spectacular ruins nearby. Both are situated in the beautiful village of Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, UK. The event will occur on October 27th, on the anniversary of her birth.

Most people will not be aware of the poor and neglected state of Sylvia's grave. See the photo for how far removed from a legend's status it is. The grave is not part of a tourist route, or even signposted. Considering the importance of Sylvia's literary contribution and her consistent fame, it is hard to reconcile the neglect.

I am hoping that people will bring perennial plants, small sculptures (in stone, metal, ceramic or wood), poems to read, experiences to recollect, drink and food to share.

This invitation will go to Sylvia's Estate, and Ted Hughes's Estate, and the local Council. Perhaps this celebration will initiate a new embrace of Plath's grave.

If you are interested, please contact me.

Alice Hutt
Hebden Bridge , UK
Saturday, August 19, 2006

Since the topic of Julia Stiles and her desire to make The Bell Jar into a movie seems to be coming in and out, I figure this is a good time to bring up actresses who could play Plath. Judy Davis is the closest I've seen that could be a believable incarnation of Plath. I first took notice of her in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives and again in Deconstructing Harry. In both movies, Davis is a sort of imposing yet delicate woman - the forces I see in Plath throughout her work and life. Her voice (chilling, controlled, but seemingly on the verge of breaking) also seems akin to Plath's from the small handful of poetry readings I've found online over the years.

Needless to say, Davis would be out of the question to play Esther Greenwood since I believe the actress is now well into her forties. But if another biopic will ever be made of Plath, Judy Davis should be the actress.

Davie, FL , USA
Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Came across this from the BBC news - not sure how to obtain a copy of the book - has anyone read it?

American Poet Inspires Welsh Win

The winner of the crown competition at the National Eisteddfod was inspired by the work of American poet Sylvia Plath. Eigra Lewis Roberts wrote the winning series of poems under the title 'Fflamau' (Flames) about the life of Plath, who killed herself aged 30.

Mrs Roberts, an author, from Dolwyddelan in Conwy, has published 27 books in both Welsh and English. She said she entered the poetry competition as she liked a challenge.

Mrs Roberts, who is originally from Blaenau Ffestiniog in Gwynedd, said she hoped her work would encourage people to discover more about the work of Sylvia Plath whose life story was portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow in the film Sylvia in 2003.

] "It's not essential to know about her and her work in order to appreciate what I've written, but it does help to get more out of the experience," said Mrs Roberts.

"I'd especially encourage people to read a book about her life called Bitter Fame," she added.

Sylvia Plath's poems were "difficult" to appreciate at first glance said Mrs Roberts, but it was worth persevering.

On her own winning poems Mrs Roberts said there was a deliberate attempt to make sure the work contained many experiences from the very emotional to the "very hard".

A professional author by trade Mrs Roberts said she relished a challenge and that was the reason she had competed in a poetry competition - against 28 other people - in the crown competition at the Eisteddfod.

"I enjoy doing something completely different, I've written a novel in English this year for the same reason, anything new is a challenge," Mrs Roberts added.

David, I tried to email you about "Little Fugue" but my email was returned as 'undeliverable.' If you like, please email me, I have some info on the book.

Detroit , USA
Wednesday, August 4, 2006

I wonder if people here know about poet Ruth Fainlight's memoir about her friends Sylvia Plath and Jane Bowles at the Poetry Society website. I found it quite interesting, and it includes excerpts from letters Plath wrote to Fainlight in 1962.

Jersey City NJ , USA
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Jonathan, I don't recall reading any explanations in Sylvia's letters or journals to indicate why she chose the name Victoria Lucas as a pen name for The Bell Jar. My own theory is that she chose Victoria because that was the full name of Hughes's favourite cousin Vicki Farrar (now Watling) & Lucas for the first name of Hughes's great American friend and Cambridge contemporary Lucas Myers.

Elaine Connell
Hebden Bridge , UK
Friday, July 28, 2006

Why did Sylvia Plath choose the pen name Victoria Lucas?

Jonathan Schoch Rea
Bloomington , USA
Thursday, July 27, 2006

I agree with you, Trish that Paul Alexander's book Rough Magic is well worth reading. It's a pity that he didn't acknowledge his sources but I felt that the unsubstantiated scenes from the Plath/Hughes marriage that he describes have a real sense of authenticity about them. I would imagine that the people who told him these stories were too frightened of the English libel and slander laws to risk being directly quoted. He also has an interesting perspective on the whole issue of Hughes and the occult.

Elaine Connell
Hebden Bridge , UK
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I may be in the minority here, but I don't find Paul Alexander's book all that bad. Yes, he does fail to credit sources. And I had a few other stylistic concerns with it. But I don't think it comes close to the sheer malice of Bitter Fame. I think the Alexander book is definitely worth reading.

Trish Saunders
Seattle, USA
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I have in front of me something I snipped from a newspaper. It's a review of a novel called Little Fugue by Robert Anderson, published by Ballantine Books, 384 pages. I don't think I've seen this reviewed or commented on in the forum, and I'm wondering if it's worth my time. I have limited time, due to family and job obligations, and don't want to spend it on this book unless someone can tell me that it's worth my time.

Here is the plot in a nutshell (as the newspaper writer reports it): "This book explores Sylvia Plath's post mortem celebrity vs. her husband's (England's Poet Laureate Ted Hughes) ongoing career - as seen through the eyes of a fictional Robert Anderson, a Columbia educated fiction writer whose life is transformed by reading the Ariel poems. It's a tale that's been told before, but this onehas some major twists that take the narrative from England to New York, and back again."

Here is an excerpt: "Sylvia seems to have left detailed instructions to posterity regarding the way in which she would like to be unremittingly psychoanalyzed in the echo chamber of Ted's conscience and also in the dominion of Western literary studies. She was not only responsible for her own death; she selected the subterfuge of her burial site. She killed herself in pursuit of neither rest nor peace, nor even understanding, since recognition hardly ever equals understanding." What?

Has anyone heard of this book? I would appreciate any advice on whether this is something I need to read or not. A caveat: I don't like hearing more "gossip" about Sylvia and Ted (and Assia) unless it contributes somehow to my understanding of Sylvia's poems and how her life trials contributed to those poems. I think anyone who has read Sylvia's poetry knows that it transcends her own struggles, but that doesn't mean that events in her life, and the way she interpreted them, can't give us some clues.

David Hall
Fort Collins, CO, USA
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hi biographies, I would recommend, first & foremost, Diane Middlebrook's Her Husband, even though it's not exclusively a bio of Plath. Paul Alexander's Rough Magic...maliciously biased and sloppily written....should be avoided at all costs. The remaining biographies all have something to offer, but they're not without flaws....Edward Butscher's study is often critically penetrating, but it's by now outdated, not to mention hobbled by the restrictions of its day. Anne Stevenson is a fine writer who offers some remarkable, even brilliant, insights into Plath's work and character, but the bias and agenda of Bitter Fame is well documented by now (nevertheless, if only for the aforementioned reasons, her book is worth reading.) Otherwise, jeez, don't know what to suggest....there's a lot out there. I'm sure I'm leaving some important ones out.

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Monday, July 24, 2006

I hardly dare write on this board, as you are all so very familiar with the work of Sylvia Plath. I have been fascinated by her since I was 18 and read Letters Home just after it was published here. I have read most of the biographies ( hated the Anne Stevenson - I didn't recognise Sylvia at all)and what I would like to know is this :- Are there any plans for a biography of Aurelia Plath? I know she is not popular with many writers, but I think she was a terrific woman - she brought up two small children and lived near the poverty line so that both of her children could have the best education in the US - Sylvia at Smith and Warren at Harvard. There is no evidence that they were pushed either - encouragment is not hothousing. I have pre-ordered the biography of Assia Wevill, with about as much enthusiasm as redoing my maths O level (not this side of hell!) but I feel I have to read it. I would read a biography of Mrs Plath with a great deal of enthusiam!

Fiona Orr
Royston, USA
Monday, July 24, 2006

Hello everyone! I recently moved outside Boston, and have questions about visiting the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith to view the SP collection. I've read on their website to call first, and I know I'll have to register before going in. What I'd like to know is what should I expect once I'm there. Do I request specific papers in the collection, or are all readily available to be viewed? About how much time should one allow to view the collection? Is SP's typewriter out on display, or something that needs to be requested from storage? Thank you in advance to anyone replying...I've never done this before and would really appreciate some input.

Massachusetts, USA
Saturday, July 22, 2006

I am looking into reading one of the many biographies of Sylvia Plath available, and was wondering whether anyone could give me their advice/opinions as to which is the best one to purchase.

It would be much appreciated!

York, England
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Film-makers approach The Bell Jar and its author Sylvia Plath at their peril. Can the Hollywood star Julia Stiles turn angst and depression into a movie?" From The Independent, 11th July 2006.
Read more

Re the last stanza of "Elm", I think I prefer "its snaky acids kiss" to "its snaky acids hiss". I read a strong sexual undercurrent within the poem (among other things), and the line seems to maintain the desire/disgust conundrum better - being tortured by sexual infidelity is obviously a familiar theme in Plath, eg 'a love of the rack and the screw' etc.

It seems to me the sort of change an editor might make, as it "makes more sense". It also makes it more prosaic, to this reader anyhow. Do we know what she actually wrote?

Nick Benjamin
Melbourne, Australia
Thursday, July 6, 2006

I'd like to invite all Sylvia Plath 'fans' living in Spain, to contact me about establishing a Spanish Sylvia Plath Association. The response I received to my article on Plath in El Mundo, Feb 11th 2005 makes me think there are many in Spain who are interested in having her Life and Work more widely understood and analyzed.

If this brings an avalanche response, please be patient - I have limited time but I will eventually respond to all mails. I want to thank this Forum for the wonderful opportunity it offers for sharing our common interest in Plath accross the continents and 'round the globe.

Helen Mc Cormack
Santiago de Compostela , Spain
Monday, June 19, 2006

I am really happy to give the Plathforum readers the first notice of the upcoming Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium to take place at Oxford, October 26-29, 2007. These interdiscplinarly events commemorate Plath's 75th birthday on October 27, and will include the work of artists from many fields. To see the list of featured speakers check this page

While many details are not in place for the events, I would be glad to answer questions from forum readers--who hopefully will participate! Contact me for questions and comments.

Kathleen Connors
Bloomington, USA
Friday, June 16, 2006

I have only recently been exposed to Sylvia Plath's work and this forum, and never before has any poet had as profound an effect, or touched me as deeply as she. Upon looking at photographs of her gravesite, I find it dissapointing that it appears somewhat neglected and overgrown. As I often visit the U.K., I intend paying a visit to her gravesite as well as the places at which she stayed - Chalcot Square and Fitzroy Road. Thank you to the persons who recently gave instructions on the forum on exactly how to get there! Thank you also to the administrator of this excellent site - it is very much appreciated!

Edward Buckingham
Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Irene, again about Plath's week in New York, when she saw the French film on Joan of Arc: I may have been wrong in mentioning Sassoon, because if that trip took place in March 1954, she and Sassoon hadn’t met yet (they met on April 19). Plath's letter is said to be undated in Letters Home, p. 135, and the date March 1954 is due to Aurelia Plath.

However, Anne Stevenson in Bitter Fame, p. 56 and endnote, says that Mrs Plath’s dating is wrong, that the letter, held in the Lilly Library, is in fact dated February 25, 1955, and that Sylvia was in New York with Sassoon. It is Stevenson, as you probably already know, who gives the title of the film as The Temptations of St Joan, which does not appear in Plath’s letter, at least not in Letters Home.

Against Stevenson’s conclusions, however, there is Paul Alexander’s very detailed account, in Rough Magic, pp. 138-40, of a New York week-long stay in March 1954, which included a visit to the Museum of Modern Art – though he doesn’t mention any film. Typically, he given no source for his information. He also says Plath flew to New York, and that it was her first flight, and indeed Palth’s opening words in the LH letter do sound like the enthusiastic reaction of a first flier. So, when did Plath see that French film?

Anna Ravano
Milano , Italy
Sunday, June 11, 2006

There is a PBS program to air on June 18th at 11:30PM (EST) called The Great Pink Scare, which details the 1960 prosecution of Plath's former professor and Smith colleague, Newton Arvin for possessing and dispersing obscene literature, along with two other Smith junior faculty members, Joel Dorius and Ned Spofford. Plath writes about Arvin in her journals and makes reference to having dinner with him and Ned Spofford. All three men lost their jobs. Arvin died in 1963 of cancer and Dorius and Spofford died earlier this year.

Here is an intro from the PBS website:

On Labor Day weekend in 1960, Massachusetts state police troopers swept through the small, idyllic town of Northampton and hauled 15 men off to jail. Three of them were professors at Northampton’s elite Smith College.

The Great Pink Scare tells the story of the devastating persecution that followed, when the three Smith professors were charged with possessing and dispersing obscene literature, tried in Northampton District Court, and eventually convicted as felons.

"Police Break Up Major Homosexual Smut Ring!" screamed newspaper headlines, first in Boston, then across the country and even internationally.

On the surface, it was the routing out of pornographers, but in reality, it was a McCarthy-like witch-hunt against homosexuals.

The alleged ringleader, Professor Newton Arvin, was considered America's finest literary critic. The other two accused were Smith junior faculty members Joel Dorius and Ned Spofford. All three lost their jobs.

Through interviews, archival film and commentary, audiences learn the fates of the Smith professors, who never recovered from the scandal. Arvin, who was Truman Capote's great love, became suicidal and was hospitalized at the Northampton State Mental Hospital. He chose not to appeal his conviction and died of cancer just three years later. Dorius and Spofford struggled to overturn their convictions. Eventually, their criminal records were erased but the stigma remained. Both Spofford and Dorius, who died in early 2006, were in and out of mental hospitals for years, and never recovered their once-promising academic careers.

In the end, brilliant careers were destroyed and young lives ruined. The issues raised then about privacy rights and civil liberties still reverberate in American society today, more than 40 years later. In a time when Brokeback Mountain, a film about gay cowboys, dominated the national discussion and earned crossover acclaim and audiences, The Great Pink Scare is a sobering reminder of the struggle for acceptance in both the past and present.

Detroit, USA
Saturday, June 10, 2006

In answer to Irene from Barcelona, I think the film Sylvia Plath was referring to in her March 1954 letter cannot but be Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc", with which her description of the actual burning fits very well, and which to my knowledge is the only French silent film on that subject, besides being one of the great cinema masterpieces, s that it makes sense that Plath should have seen it at the Museum of Modern Art. The only hitch with this identification is that, at least according to the Internet Movie Database, that film was never titled "The Temptations of JoA". But after a passionate weekend in NYC with Sassoon Plath could be forgiven for getting it slightly wrong. Maybe at dinner she discussed with Sassoon Flaubert's "La Temptation de St. Antoine" and got the two titles mixed up?

Anna Ravano
Milano , Italy
Saturday, June 10, 2006

I've read "Wuthering heights" but I can't find any traslation in italian. In which collection can I find it? Thanks for your help.

Macerata , Italy
Saturday, June 10, 2006

Irene, I'd be willing to bet that Sylvia was referring to the Dreyer film 'The Passion of St. Joan' - it's quite well known and has been fairly recently restored. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it, it is very beautiful and haunting. I have it on tape but I believe it is now available on DVD.

Detroit, USA
Saturday, June 10, 2006

Could anyone please provide me the words to Sylvia Plath's unpubised poem called "Elizabeth's April". It is listed in the index of the her collected works.

Much appreciation. I am far overseas and don't have access from here.

PS it was a juvenille poem

Dawn Koenig
Munuich, Germany
Thursday, June 8, 2006

Hello everyone, long time reader, first time etc. etc. In the recent edition of "Entertainment Weekly" magazine, Julia Stiles mentions that she plans to bring "The Bell Jar" to the screen (presumably starring herself). I don't know how far along the project truly is, but in light of how the previous version was received, it's an interesting idea to ponder.

Also, I was wondering if there has been any research into any eariler suicide attempts? In "Lady Lazarus" Plath mentions an earlier attempt, and I believe in Alexander's book "Rough Magic" one of Plath's boyfriends states she showed him a scar on her neck where she had tried to kill herself as a child.

And has anyone found out anything else about the "Hinchcliffe" manuscripts mentioned in the end notes to the unabridged journals? And has anyone actually seen the letter Plath supposedly wrote to "Marty" Plumer that she felt she was going insane again?

Thanks for your thoughts!

Los Angeles, USA
June 7, 2006

The "kiss" transcription error is discussed by Tracy Brain in her book "The Other Sylvia Plath", Longman, London 2001, pp. 24-25.

Brain says that (correct) "hiss" is the reading appearing in "The New Yorker", 3 Aug. 1963, whereas the first English editions of "Ariel" and "Collected Poems" had "kiss", which was corrected in subsequent reprints. "American editions of Plath's work, however, have never recognized the error, and so have never corrected it."

A propos of spelling mistakes in Plath editions, there is one which no one, apart from Tabor in his bibliography (p. 3), seems to have remarked on. It's in "Alicante Lullaby", where surely the end of last line in the first stanza should read "with crows and cackle", and not "with crowns, etc."

Anna Ravano
Milano , Italy
Saturday, June 3, 2006

Thanks Lisa for the quotation. I've finished with the piece I was writing and don't really want to go back to see how the correct quotation can fit in as I've ashed my hands from that particular article. I might go back to it at a later stage and tinker with it.

Thanks again, that is the correct quotation and what I was looking for. My description of it was how it had stuck in my memory.

Rehan Qayoom
London, UK
Friday, June 2, 2006

I am writing an analysis and commentary on Plath’s The Surgeon at 2A.M. Toward this effort, I need a primary reference that documents a visit Plath made to Harvard Medical School in October, 1952. The visit is described in Hayman’s biography (pp. 71-72) but no primary reference is given. I have been unable to find this event in Kukil’s unabridged journals or a reference in other biographies. Any help finding a solid source would be greatly appreciated.

Ralph Didlake
Jackson, MS, USA
Thursday, June 1, 2006

Nonno: I was one of the participants at the 70th year Sylvia Plath symposium in Indiana and I have been informed that there will definitely be a symposium in Oxford at the beginning of October next year. So ,we are all loooking for the call for papers!

Kristina Zimbakova
Skkopje, Macedonia
Thursday, June 1, 2006

Jack has a good point, I could´n find any reference to this difference in the last stanza of "Elm" _ I did a good research on it using the means I could find here in Brazil, but only found the answer after posting here and writing directly to Peter Steinberg _ many thanks to Jack and Peter for the attention and quick answers. After reading this forum for about two years, I knew it was the place I would find the answer.

I agree with Jack that "hiss" makes a lot more sense than "kiss" in the line and in the whole poem context. I think she refers to the Medusa myth, the snake-haired monster who petrified people _ in this case, the will. I also think Sylvia have some recorrent words - "shriek", "ghastly", for example _ and "hiss" to me is one of them. I´m using "hiss" in my translation.

Thanks a lot for the help I got here _ in this specific time and as a reader before ;-). This work is very important to me.

Sao Paulo , Brazil
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Well done Marina for spotting that mistake! You know, It's the first time I find a fellow Latin American interested in SP's poetry. Good for you!

As regards the poem "Elm", I'd like to expose my own interpretation of the word "hiss" ( as it's been agreed it's the correct one). I've noticed how often, and in how various forms, does SP make use of the poetic imagery of suffocation by a poisonous substances, or something that cuts off oxigen. In the case of "Bell Jar", it is her own CO2 (carbon dioxide) inside the bell jar, which reflect the oppression of the 50's on women, and by extension, everything in Esther's life that was asfixiating.

Then, there's one line in a poem that goes

"the box is locked, and it's dangerous..." ,

The examples are everywhere in her writing.
The point is, the word "hiss" sounds a lot like gas emanating from a stove, ("that kills, kills") . I wonder if SP was already thinking of this deathly alternative when she wrote "Elm".

Rosario, Argentina
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I am a Spanish student of the University of Barcelona. I am translating a letter Sylvia wrote to her mother, the letter is undated but it is supposed to be written in March 1954. In this letter Sylvia explains to her mum her flight to New York and her impressions of the city. Sylvia mentions a silent French version of the "Temptation of Saint Joan". I am trying to find the reference to this film. I found two films that can be the one described in this letter but I am not sure. Does anyone now the exact reference of this film?

Giovanna d'Arco al rogo (Roberto Rossellini, 1954) - This film is not French.

The Passion of Joan of Arc: Carl Dreyer's 1928- but it was filmed in 1928

Le Proca's de Jeanne d'Arc (Trial of Joan of Arc)- but this film was screened in 1962 and Sylvia saw it in 1954.

If anybody knows the answer, I will be very grateful,

Thank you very much.

Barcelona, Spain
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In my edition of the Collected Poems (Faber & Faber 1981) it reads 'snaky acids kiss' not "hiss". Which edition are you referring to, Judith? I agree with Jack that it's very interesting that apparently no-one in forty years has referred to or noticed this discrepancy. I think "hiss" makes better sense in terms of both the line itself and the sense of the whole poem. Possibly it's been a simple error of transcription, the letters h and k can look very similar in some people's handwriting and are near each other on the keyboard. But from what I remember of the only piece of Plath's handwriting that I have seen in real life, she had rather large, well formed handwriting where such a mistake seems unlikely. Those of you who've worked extensively with the original manuscripts at Smith may be able to comment further on this.

Elaine Connell
Hebden Bridge , Elaine Connell
Hebden Bridge , UK
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Marina - It's 'snaky acids hiss', not 'kiss'. The version in the Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath is the correct one. (You'll also find 'hiss' in the more recently published 'restored' Ariel - the typescript Plath left behind when she died; that same 'black binder' was referred to in establishing the text for the Collected Poems.)

Good luck with your translations!

Judith Kroll
Austin, Texas, USA
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Just a brief further note about the last stanza of "Elm" (CP 192-193): The first line of it in Sylvia's own typescript reads "Its snaky acids hiss." CP and many other editions read "kiss," which makes little sense. Snakes hiss, and acids hiss - that's the obvious association. Nowhere do I find any critic discussing this specific line in any way, although several that I checked do quote it. Lynda Bundtzen and Janice Markey quote the word in question as "kiss," whereas Judith Kroll and Tim Kendall go with "hiss." What I find interesting is that no one that I know of, over forty-plus years, has remarked in print about the "kiss" error until Marina from Sao Paulo was to translate the line.

Jack Folsom
Sharon, Vermont , USA
Sunday, May 28, 2006

Does anyone know if there's plans on a Sylvia Plath exhibition, or some kind of event next year when it's 75 years since Sylvia was born?

Has anyone seen or know if there are any more photos of Otto Plath in addition to the three I've ever seen? Also if any more photos of Sylvia exist, that haven't been published?

Stockholm, Sweden
Sunday, May 28, 2006

Hello. I haven't posted anything on this page in a while but frequently read and enjoy the comments made here. I was just hoping to bring up the subject of a Sylvia Plath poem which I am intrigued by and regard as one of my favourites. The poem is the beautiful villanelle, 'Mad Girl's Love Song'. I would be interested in anyones views on the poem and some discussion if anyone else likes the poem as much as I do. Bye for now.

(If you, or anyone else would like to send on opening comment on this poem we can put it up in the Poem Analysis part of the site. EC)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Marina from Sao Paulo raises an interesting question about the last stanza of "Elm": should the first line of that stanza read "Its snaky acids kiss" or "Its snaky acids hiss"? All of my American editions of Ariel and The Collected Poems show "kiss"--also my 1965 Faber edition of "Ariel." But lo! The restored facsimile edition of Ariel (Harper Collins, 2004) shows "hiss" in the facsimile of Plath's typescript!

We should probably assume that an error in transciption occurred "way back when." I find it amusing that no one, including moi, seems to have noticed this apparent error before. Thanks to Marina for bringing it to our attention.

Jack Folsom
Sharon, Vermont , USA
Saturday, May 27, 2006

Welcome, Marina! In Tracy Brain's book The Other Sylvia Plath she notes various transcription errors to be found in Plath's published work. Writing about 'Elm' she notes that Plath's handwritten drafts and typescripts make it clear that the word is "hiss" not "kiss." The poem was published in the New Yorker correctly (3 August 1963). But the first UK editions of Ariel and the Collected Poems printed the text incorrectly as "snaky acids kiss". The error was perpetuated in the American editions of Ariel and CP. No conspiracy, just a simple mistake. I don't know what the Portuguese word for 'hiss' is, but that's the word you want!

Detroit, USA
Thursday, May 25, 2006

This is in response to the question about the last stanza of "Elm." I looked at my copies of the manuscripts of the poem, and the stanza first appears in draft 7c. It first reads "Its snaky acids hiss:/This is the kiss that kills, that kills, that kills." She crosses this out, and then writes, "Its snaky acids hiss./It petrifies the will. These are the isolate, slow faults/ that kill, that kill, that kill." The stanza remains the same through the following revisions, then in the proof for its publication in the New Yorker, then in the manuscript for Ariel. If I were editing the poem for publication, I would definitely choose "hiss."

Lynda Bundtzen
Williamstown , USA
Thursday, May 25, 2006

First of all, I want to apologize for any mistakes in my writing, as English is not my first language. I never posted in this forum before, but I found lots of valuable information here, I never spend more than a week without reading the last messages. I'm a Brazilian journalist, currently translating some of Sylvia's poems to Portuguese. One of them is "Elm", which I find very powerful. I'm doing this work using my Collected Works copy, by Faber and Faber, from 1981. In this book, the fist line of the last stanza of "Elm" goes: "Its snaky acids hiss It petrifies the will"

A friend of mine has a copy of Ariel, and in her book the the first line goes: "Its snaky acids kiss" Has anyone noticed this difference before? I need to find out which version is the right one. I found both in the internet, but no reference to the different word or why this has happened...

Sao Paulo , Brazil
Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bravo, Kate, for your patience in explaining connections between circumstances of Plath's life and a poster's comments about Doris Lessing's Room Nineteen.

Calgary , Canada
Monday, March 22, 2006

Victoria, I think there is a definite connection to Plath in To Room Nineteen by Lessing. I have read the book, and find in it obvious connections to Plath's life and to her novel The Bell Jar (the same connections you mentioned). I also saw connections to Kate Chopin's The Awakening, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and the life and work of Virginia Woolf--in particular Woolf's suicide as well as her novel Mrs. Dalloway.

All writers steal from other works and writers in their work. This has been happening since the beginning of literature. Sometimes it occurs to explore an idea in a new way (to "join in the conversation"), at other times simply to give a sort of tip of the hat to those who came before who have influenced the current writer's work. A recent example of this occurs in the novel The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Not only does the 1950's housewife character played in the film by Marianne Moore read Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, she goes up to a hotel room to kill herself (ultimately she does not kill herself) and the hotel room is numbered 19. A nice tip of the hat from Cunningham to Lessing.

Kate Durbin
Whittier, CA , USA
Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hey everyone ! I've been a devoted observer of this forum, but I decided to chip in with some comments. First of all , I'd like to tell you that I'm such a Plath fan that I carry her poetry in my bag every day. And I also have a copy of The Bell Jar on my night table.

Secondly, what I wanted to ask you is if there's some kind of relation between Doris Lessing's story To Room 19 and Plath's life. The story is strikingly similar to SP's. There's this woman, Susan, who was (not so) happily married, with (four) kids, and then gets all depressed and gases herself (in a hotel room). The forum is great ! Keep it up!

Rosario, Argentina
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I'm not sure how appropriate this is to post there but I'd like to make it known that I have an auction up on ebay featuring a Plath-inspired altered book.

I'm very proud of this piece & I'd like to share it with fellow Plath fans. It was made in memory of her a few years ago & has been in my personal collection since then. Times are tough so I am forcing myself to sell it. If you are interested, please take a look, it was done in good taste. Thank you.

Amanda Oaks
Cherry Tree, PA , USA
Tuesday, May 9, 2006

I wanted to correct my earlier post, when I mentioned Margaret Atwood's review of Letters Home. As a fellow poster kindly pointed out, Atwood actually made the famous "rummaging through dresser drawers" comments about Sylvia Plath's journal, not the letters collection. Furthermore, Atwood certainly didn't intend to give the journal a negative review, not at all. My apologies for that!

Seattle , USA
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Rehan...could you possibly be thinking of "A Pink Wool Knitted Dress?" In that echo-gaunt, weekday chancel I see you/ Wrestling to contain your flames/ In your pink wool knitted dress/ and in your eye-pupils - great cut jewels/ Jostling their tear-flames, truly like big jewels/ Shaken in a dice-cup and held up to me. It's not exactly what you specified, I know...but perhaps similar....? (You said it was not "18 Rugby St." or "St. Boltophs" you were looking for...right?)

(Thanks also to Morney Wilson who provided the same answer to Rehan's question. EC)

Lisa A. Flowers
Savannah, GA , USA
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

A quick note to all that the Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath is now available on The Cambridge Companion is always a thorough, reputable resource and the Plath Companion looks to be so too. Anyone who's interested in a more scholarly approach to Plath should look into it.

Kate Durbin
Whittier, CA , USA
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Dan raised an interesting question: Why don't the magazine publishers who rejected Plath's earlier work now print it? I remember Margaret Atwood put it so well, when she reviewed Letters Home, and cautioned against publishing early work, "hinting as it does of rummaging through dresser drawers which the author herself would doubtless have kept firmly locked, had she lived..."

Also, I'm quite sure the publishers haven't the right any longer to print short stories that they earlier rejected, only the estate can grant such permission. In this case, I have to agree with the decision to keep the stuff "firmly locked." Those early attempts are nothing like her later work. But as Alison mentioned, a lot of that is available in the Johnny Panic collection.

Seattle , USA
Monday, May 1, 2006

This question is vaguely related to Plath. I distinctly remember a poem by Hughes (I suspect it is from Birthday Letters but I can't find it in there, nor in Erica Wagner's study) where Hughes refers to Plath's tears being collected in something like a beaker, shaken and given him to drink: 'A crush of diamonds.' This is not: "Your eyes/Squeezed in your face, a crush of diamonds/Incredibly bright, bright as a crush of tears"

It is another poem along the same lines. If anyone can help me in this regard I would be most grateful as I need to reference for a review I'm writing but have spent the last three days looking for it in vain.

Rehan Qayoom
London, UK
Monday, May 1, 2006

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