Sylvia Plath Forum

October - December 2006

Discuss Sylvia, the film

I would also respectfully urge all of us to avoid describing Assia as a "spoilt little princess." Not wanting to be the politically correct thought police here, but in America referring to a Jewish or partly-Jewish woman as a "princess" is generally taken to be obliquely anti-Semitic, which was probably not the intention of the poster at all."

In the UK, the phrase you complain of does not have anti-semitic undertones and I would use this expression about at least two of my younger daughter's friends. Over the pond 'a spoilt little princess/ madam/ anything-else-you-care-to-add' means precisely that - they are spoilt, dictatorial brats that make everyone's lives a misery, not that they belong to any racial or religious grouping. I am sorry that you understood it to mean that. Assia could have been a goddess from another planet and I still would not have liked her!

Fiona Orr
Nr Royston, Herts, UK
Saturday, December 30, 2006

This is to respond to Lisa Flowers' message re: Richard Sassoon:

Yes, the Richard Sassoon you saw (and the bio and associataed poem) is the same Richard Sassoon.

For folks on the forum, this link should take you to "Reflections on Alchemy", Richard's poem on the Pedestal Magazine site, which Lisa mentions, as well as his bio which tells a little bit about things he has done in his life.

The editor of Pedestal is Richard's nephew, John Amen, who is an excellent poet also, as well as being a painter and musician on top of that.

It is a bit confusing, searching the web for Richard, because, as I have discovered, there are a few "Richard Sassoons" out there - one seems to be some kind of city planner/engineer in Johannesburg, South Africa; another was a music producer of some kind, deceased now I believe.

Karen Peace
Colorado Springs , USA
Thursday, November 30, 2006

I just finished reading the Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev book A Lover of Unreason: The life and tragic death of Assia Wevill, Ted Hughes' doomed love. I found it completely irresistible and very well researched and written. Those of us lucky enough to be at the Plath Symposium in 2002 at Indiana were teased with some of the information presented in the biography. Shock and awe spread throughout the auditorium when Koren and Negev spoke about the Plath/Hughes trip to Ireland, the deception, and the Hughes/Wevill trip to Spain. That was barely the tip of the iceberg in this very complicated situation.

The success of A Lover of Unreason in my opinion comes from presenting a very full and human picture of Assia; a woman who has been alternately ignored and raked over coals and not given sufficient attention. Here is a woman who was far, far from perfect and revered only for her uncommon and undeniable beauty, presented in a way that reminded me much of how Plath was presented in Bitter Fame. I was not expecting a book of idolatry, but I also was not expecting to find that Wevill did have some redeemable qualities. This is truly an enlightening read and brings an important piece of the Plath/Hughes puzzle closer to completion.

Assia's journals, according to the text, are in private hands. They shed some very crucial information into not just her own mind and life, but also into Plath's and Hughes?. I would not mind being introduced to those private hands! I wonder if there are any plans to publish them or to deposit them with an archive?

Peter K. Steinberg
Winthrop , USA
Monday, December 18, 2006

The University of Massachusetts Lowell will host its 3rd annual New England Poetry Conference on Thurs., April 26, 2007. The conference will focus on Confessional poetry, with an emphasis on Plath's life and art in commemoration of her 75th birthday. W.D. Snodgrass will be the featured poet. Scholars speaking on Plath and Confessional poetry will include Linda Wagner-Martin, Richard Larschan, and Amanda Golden. The website is not yet updated, but check in the spring for details. If you have questions about the conference, feel free to write to me.
Hilary Holladay
Director, Kerouac Center for American Studies
University of Massachusetts Lowell

Hilary Holladay
Lowell, Mass.
Saturday, December 16, 2006

Thank you so much for your thoughtful response to my inquiry. I would like to ask you a few more questions, but it will have to wait until I get back from a trip to Shanghai. Also, to anyone who is interested, my hypertext based on Plath's Three Women should be online in a few months, hopefully. I'll keep you updated.

Does anyone know how difficult it use for graduate students to recieve permission to use Plath's work? I know it's nearly impossible for biographers and critics, but my project is creative and it's not going to be in "print" (or at least, not paper print). If anyone knows who I write to as well, that would be much appreciated.

Happy holidays,

Kate Durbin
Whittier, CA, USA
Friday, December 15, 2006

Frieda Hughes has also started work as a poetry columnist for The Times. You can read her column on The Times website. I would love ot meet the person who actually reads a poetry column in this age in London so I'm not sure why they have started doing this

Rehan Qayoom
London , England
Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Much thanks to the poster who took the trouble to send me Assia Wevill's translations of Achimai; you're right, they are lovely. I hope I'm not yet too old to learn and revise my opinions. Keep posting, and again, thanks for your very thoughtful letter!

Seattle , USA
Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Hi, This is to respond to Kate Durbin's message (thanks Kate!) I am including quotes from Kate's message and then responding to each.

Also, I am sensitive to the fact that this forum is dedicated to topics regarding Sylvia, not Richard, so I'll certainly respond to any messages posted here, but if anyone wants to know more about Richard and his work, feel free to email me privately and I'll answer whatever I can.

Kate wrote: "Karen, that is so exciting that you have been in contact with Richard Sasoon! I think I can speak on behalf of many of us in the forum when I say we are grateful that someone has taken the time and energy to find him and compile his work."

It's funny, I wasn't looking for him, he sort of dropped in my lap, so to speak, and I had no idea who he was until I "googled" him on the web and found all these references to Sylvia. (There are a few other "Richard Sassoons" too). It is an interesting story which I could share if you are interested some time; not surprisingly, it involved poetry. He doesn't talk much publicly about Sylvia, but privately he will sometimes. I'm in contact with Richard on a regular basis. I am still collecting stuff -- this is an ongoing project.

Richard has no interest in fame or payment for his writings -- he has told me that if anything he has written could benefit anyone (eg, psychologically or spiritually, etc) then feel free to share it. He doesn't even sign his paintings unless one asks him to. I have some photos of his art on the web; these are not professional photos and I made no attempt to select only the "best" ones. Some of these he would call "doodles". Many of his best paintings he has given away to others, and those I don't (yet) have photos of.

I think this link should enable you to view them.

Richard nowadays paints just for fun or meditatively or for "therapy", not trying to be an artist... He used to paint more seriously. I also have pix of one of his plays that was performed in 1967. These are also on the web.

Kate wrote: "I had no idea he was such a prolific writer."

Stacks and stacks and copies all over his floors and in his cabinets, and stacks of art against the walls... it's overwhelming.

Kate wrote: "I am curious to know more about what materials of Sylvia's you have discovered and what will eventually become available for public consumption. About how many of her letters have been discovered? What time period do they cover? Has he held on to all, or most of, the letters? Does he have any photographs of her or other memorabilia? I know you probably can't share specific details, but even vague ones are exciting to me."

I myself have not really "discovered" anything, as Richard shares with me what he wants to go in the Lilly collection. I can certainly share what I know - I am not a Plath scholar, as are many (most?) people on the forum, so I have no ulterior motive or publishing ambition which would cause me to withhold anything that I am at liberty (from Richard) to share.

My interest in this project is personal rather than academic, and centered more on his work itself. I am also concerned however, for his privacy, which he values highly. But to answer what I can, Richard has mentioned that he probably has some letters of Sylvia's somewhere, such as in the attic. If he wants to share those, he may at some point (but knowing his private nature, to be honest I would not hold my breath), otherwise I guess it would be up to his heir(s). He did show me a picture of him with Sylvia at an outdoor cafe table in Nice, France, but that is the only such thing he has shown me, just shown. So I cannot say what would be available and when. It is totally up to him. Myself, I don't press him about Sylvia at all.

Many of Richard's essays address issues of psychology and contemplative practice. His poetry, too, is often contemplative in nature, using unusual syntax, for example, to throw linear thinking off track and into a more contemplative place. Some is just beautiful. Here is one of my favorites [using hyphens instead of dashes]:


On my plot of earth nothing but dandelions
turning to seed - actually the dandelion, as it's
an asexual thing, purely itself, immutable -
while my neighbors wild poppies are blossoming,
one more seemingly every hour. Those
magnificent orange-red, origami-like petals
will soon be dropping away and scattering
everywhere, a festival of crinkled hue and cry,
while the little grey parachutes, dandelion
seeds, fly off hither and thither to naturalize,
even spiritualize the tidy lawns of expensively
care for, non-indigenous bright green grasses.

That common, sexless life eternal... the exotic
life-sex-and-death ... skillfully creative and
quite banal arts and the artificial too - this
very moment my own vital-mortal spirit is
bowing down to honor them all - finite
details, quickly here and then never so,
conjured with their own conjuring conjurers
(seer, seen, and seeing suddenly made one again
briefly) out of the vast unknowable, never itself
even born: the only ever-infinite mystery...

how my red heart expanding is laughing at this samll,
pale white, wrinkled face about to become a skeleton's
skull with holes where the bright blue eyes now
are turning tearful, like two earth-bounded
heavens clouding to lavish all the living
worlds with rain... and rain and rain...
while the sun yet shines so the ultimate symbol
of all, the rainbow, there and not there, appears...

Karen Peace
Colorado Springs , USA
Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mele Kalikimaka, Jim Long! It's good to have you back. Here's a fine thing...the board is quiet for so long, then explodes with great, provocative posts while I'm offline vacationing in Hawaii (not in your city, though).

How splendid that Sylvia Plath still arouses such passionate debate, all these years after her death! I think Jen and Lisa raised valid points about Assia's selfishness. While I endorse fully your tolerance and sympathy, it's hard for me not to cast a cold eye on anyone who takes the life of a helpless child. If Assia suffered from the full-on psychosis that gripped Andrea Yates, whom I presume you're referring to, I am not aware of it. I simply don't think that Wevill is 'worthy' of a biography, as she contributed nothing to the world except misery. Not that a subject needs to be sympathetic, mind you, but her fame comes solely from her appropriating another woman's husband, and the extent to which she was willing to humiliate Sylvia, before and after her death. All for her own enjoyment.

Anyway, it's great to see you back posting.

Seattle , USA
Thursday, November 30, 2006

The new collection of poems by Frieda Hughes, Forty-Five, is now available through This should be another one of those books, like Birthday Letters, which is very hard to read for the poetry.

The write up on the book follows:

"Breaking forty-five years of near-silence on the subject of her life, Frieda Hughes finally opens up through the medium she knows best: poetry. In this extraordinary collection of personal poems, she takes the reader step-by-step through the difficult and inspirational events that defined each year of her life, and which she encapsulates here. We share her pain through her mother's suicide, her fight against bulimia, three marriages, losing her father to cancer, and her stepmother's rejection. In the face of so much grief, she also shares her successes, her loves, and her ultimate triumphs as an accomplished poet and painter. As she grows older, her narrative unfolds to show a complex life beautifully rendered in her poetry.

"Hughes is a master of powerful, moving, and vivid language, as seen with the critical success of her past collections, Wooroloo and Waxworks, and never more so than now, as she takes on the topics of life, love, loss, and family. For any lover of poetry or for anyone who wants to know what happened in the life of Frieda Hughes after she so tragically lost her mother, this book is the answer. "

Peter K. Steinberg
Winthrop , USA
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hmmm...a while back (going on a year) I happened to be browsing an issue of The Pedestal magazine, online; and I noticed that they had a Richard Sassoon featured as a guest editor, along with some other information about him (nothing conclusive, in a Plath context...I think it was just a short bio & list of publications.) Inevitably, I wondered if that might perhaps be "the" Richard, but I wasn't, it seems possible that it was.

In any case, thanks for the info.

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Monday, November 27, 2006

Karen, that is so exciting that you have been in contact with Richard Sasoon! I think I can speak on behalf of many of us in the forum when I say we are grateful that someone has taken the time and energy to find him and compile his work. I had no idea he was such a prolific writer. I am curious to know more about what materials of Sylvia's you have discovered and what will eventually become available for public consumption. About how many of her letters have been discovered? What time period do they cover? Has he held on to all, or most of, the letters? Does he have any photographs of her or other memorabilia? I know you probably can't share specific details, but even vague ones are exciting to me.

Also, I had the delight of running across a first edition copy of Nancy Hunter Steiner's A Closer Look at Ariel in the local used bookstore by my house the other day. I bought it for four dollars and read it in one sitting. It really is a nice little book, and many of the anecdotes about Sylvia during her final year at Smith I had never heard before. There is a particularly poignant story in the book about how she learned humility from a fellow classmate in her dorm, who she had been competing with academically and socially all year. I don't know, of course, how much of Steiner's memories are fabricated or fuzzy but regardless, the picture I got of Plath in reading was one that was very human, flawed, and yet quite loving and lovely.

Best to everyone,

Kate Durbin
Whittier, CA, USA
Sunday, November 26, 2006

Regarding allegations of 'self righteousness" and "judgment" on the part of contributors regarding the subject of Assia Wevill: I would like, first of all, to point out that most of said commentary, including my own, is a direct response to her recently published biography. In other words, there may be more to Wevill than meets the eye, but one sure as heck wouldn't know it from reading A Lover Of Unreason.

After all, we...the public....did not spend 15 years researching her story; Negev and Koren did. Therefore, IF she does come across, unjustly, as vapid, homicial, and pathologically narcissistic, it is perhaps her biographers...and not the reading public...who should be taken to task. I know in one of my past posts I said that I thought the book well written; but, upon reflection, I'm going to have to retract that. I didn't purchase this book with a chip on my shoulder, I purchased it in the hope that my admittedly unenlightened vision of Wevill would be expanded, enriched, and humanized. What I got was little more than a literate column out of "Cosmo."

I spent the first 60 percent of the book waiting for the much anticipated "multi-dimensional" portrait to emerge, and the other 40 percent being alternately disgusted, blackly amused, and, frankly, often just flat out bored. Yes.....the picture that emerges is of a put it mildly. But I, as a reader, do not bear responsibility for that. Nor, by the way, do I buy into the idea that condemning a woman for murdering her child in cold blood is "self righteous"...or, most importantly, subjective. It is a basic understanding of the difference between right and wrong...and not "judgment"....that defines character and individuality and makes this world a place worth living in. Mary McCarthy said, "pity implies a conquered repugnance," and F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "human sympathy has its limits."

I'd say both quotes are apt, here.

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Saturday, November 25, 2006

I have been reading your posts to The Forum for a good many years and appreciate your appreciation of, and insights into, the poetry and life of our collective subject: Sylvia Plath.

I agree that we shouldn't be spending so much time talking about the personal lives of Sylvia and her lovers and friends and ex-lovers and ex-friends. But you have to admit that there has been a lot of email print devoted to these subjects in The Forum, so I thought I would inject my latest observations into the stew.

Like you, I would welcome a return to a discussion of Plath's poems, as I think that is why Elaine started this Forum in the first place: too little attention has been paid to a poet we all think deserves more attention.

It's hard to resist detouring into the personal life, though, since Sylvia killed herself at 30 - Lord, I have a daughter older than that! - and since Ted was such a striking figure - a Laureate, right? They were and are a very attractive and doomed couple, both brilliant, who ended up with each other, with disastrous results.

How can writers to The Forum not deal with that, acknowlege that? It's only human.

On the other hand, as you point out, we should get back to the reason we're all so interested in Sylvia: her poetry. It's dense and provocative and so very personal, unlike the poetry any of us ever read before. We're watching a gifted woman detail her descent into madness and then death. There is no precedent for this in literature.

Our hearts break to read those last poems. She wrote at 30: "The woman is perfected." Then she killed herself. And we all want to say, in unison: No! You had so much to live for! Don't think just of your children but of us, who wanted more poems from you!

How could you leave us like this?

So yes, by all means, let's get back to the poems. They are, though, inextricably linked with the life. We will always be going back and forth between the life she lived and the poems she wrote. What a treasure trove of literary investigation she has left us.

David Hall
Fort Collins, CO , USA
Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dear Friends:

First, I want to say how happy I am to see this website. I am a long-time admirer of Sylvia Plath's life and work, and a sympathetic observer of her life-long struggle to survive and produce structured literature, and conduct a family and social life while living with manic-depression (bipolar disorder), no easy feat.

I am certain that Plath would have been thrilled to see this website, as she so longed to have her life history remembered and have her work read intelligently far into the future.

I am awaiting the publication of the Wevill biography here in America, as I believe it will shed light on many questions I have about the last years of Plath's life and her posthumous "existence" in Ted Hughes' and Assia Wevill's lives.

Among many other questions, I am interested in what effect Assia's status as the adult child of a Jewish-Christian intermarriage during the Holocaust era had on her personality.

As the Coordinator of the Half-Jewish Network, currently the only organization for adult children of intermarriage, I am aware that adult children of intermarriage in the Holocaust era had a very hard time socially, and often suffered permanent psychological trauma, affecting their adult lives and relationships in unpredictable ways.

I am also interested in whether the Assia biography will shed some light on whether Assia Wevill, like Sylvia Plath, may have suffered from bipolar (manic-depression) or unipolar (chronic depression) illness.

I would also respectfully urge all of us to avoid describing Assia as a "spoilt little princess." Not wanting to be the politically correct thought police here, but in America referring to a Jewish or partly-Jewish woman as a "princess" is generally taken to be obliquely anti-Semitic, which was probably not the intention of the poster at all.

Regarding Claudette's comment earlier in this thread that Assia was not really Jewish, because her father (but not her mother) was Jewish, I would like to respectfully correct this widespread misconception.

Prior to 1968, Judaism did, as Claudette accurately states, follow a matrilineal rule, that only the child of a Jewish mother was truly Jewish, the so-called "matrilneals;" children of Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers were not considered to be Jews. Assia fell into the latter category, called "patrilineals," who, in her era, often had to convert to Judaism to gain acceptance.

Since 1968, when Reconstructionist Judaism began accepting patrlineal Jews, there has been a huge divide among Jewish movements worldwide on whether to accept patrilineals as "real" Jews, with some Jewish groups accepting them, and some not accepting them. It is a very complex question, and those interested can check my website at:

Again, thank you for this wonderful website.

Robin Margolis
Takoma Park, Maryland , USA
Saturday, 25 November 2006

While I appreciate frustration felt by anyone who's tired of the parsing of the Plath drama - that is, her personal life (I've felt it too) - I must say with all humility that that old, old adage "get over it" should be erased permanently from the english language.

Why does anyone feel a need to "judge" these women? Well, while it seems unassailable these days to argue for "judging" other personalities, artists and especially people one actually knows, the truth is that as human beings with imaginations, opinions and curiousity we do it all the time and always will--whether we cop to it or not. We form opinions--sometimes strong ones, sometimes mere guesses--based on what we know. Where a subject is one of fascination, extreme talent and controversy, as with Plath, it could hardly be suprising that those who've read her poems, her letters and her biographers' accounts form some basis from which to consider the work.

Plath wrote mostly deeply personal poems, many based directly on specific events in her life. While I feel that it's not absolutely necessary that one be educated about her personal business, there's little doubt in my view that it helps hugely with appreciating the genesis and development of her writing. Her letters add yet another dimension, as do her journals. Does anyone who's read them really believe that Plath wasn't writing with an eventual audience in mind? I think she certainly did - and yet at the same time was honestly expressing herself.

The recent unabridged journals weren't published for simple prurience - they are far too difficult a read for that. It was a serious work of scholarship to compile and edit them. No, they bolster and explicate the poems...they are an intriguing part of the whole - IF, as many of us are here on this forum, one is simply fascinated by Plath - her method, her point of view, her unique language. There are similar "fans" of Keats and Johnson, Lewis Carroll and Dickens; no one censures those people for their nosyness into the lives and affairs of other great writers... but I suppose that's because Plath died only 43 years ago.

My point is one of a defense of talking over what I realize seem to some like details best relegated to soap opera or gossip; well, that depends on your motives and heart, which each of us alone knows. Do I sit up nights and fume over wrongs done between strangers--Plath, Wevill, Hughes? No--but bring up a discussion on a point or other related to them and based on what I've read I'll certainly have an opinion--and I'd like to hear yours.

I, too, as I write above, have got my fill at times with the minutiae of personal drama, but that's often down to the way it's expressed, not the act of expressing it. With the publication of so many journals, biographies and of course, the most personal poems, I really feel that we hardly started all this--why on earth not digest and discuss it? Poets are still rather esoteric figures in our celeb- mad world. At least this interpersonal drama is related to writers, and poems. It's really all--or mainly--about the work, in the end. I believe that is why we're here, and come back to read.

By the way, that self-portait from the late 40s is wonderful to see (as an artist I have a special interest in Plath's ability as a draughstman); it almost resembles Frieda Hughes (as we see her now) more than the young Plath. Great expression.

Jen Lerew
Los Angeles, California, USA
Saturday, 25 November 2006

If you are interested in Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, the spring issue of the Virginia Woolf Miscellany will address connections among these two writers. A call for papers was posted in the summer issue. Submissions are due in February to Amanda Golden, or Pamela St. Clair.

Submissions should be no longer than 2500 words at maximum and shorter articles are strongly preferred; articles should be submitted electronically, in MS Word format, and in compliance with current MLA style.

Pamela St. Clair
Wilmington, NC , USA
Thursday, November 23, 2006

Responding to Terese Ocampo's comments regarding Sylvia's egocentric and contemptuous behavior. For the last five years I have been studying Sylvia Plath's poetry with intense curiosity. Recently I have been collecting information regarding her life. It has been suggested that Sylvia was suffering from Bipolar Disorder. As a psychology student this really intrigued me because I have been studying Bipolar disorder for over 2 years. Bipolar Disorder consists of two poles: mania and depression. An individual suffering from mania may initially appear to be egocentric and contemptuous. They feel their on top of the world and that their work is far superior to any one elses. If their behavior is questioned they will write it off as a form of jealousy on their part or a lack of understanding in their creative genius. If Sylvia had access to the medications provided today she would have had more composure and she may not have committed suicide.

Tamara Murphree
Westlake Village , USA
Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium
University of Oxford
25-29 October 2007

More info

Sylvia's children survived; Assia's didn't. Who do you blame?

Why is it so important to blame someone?

If we're trying to judge these women, post-mortem, the facts kind of speak for themselves, don't you think?

No, as a matter of fact, I don’t think they do.

Are we trying to judge these women? Why? Who are we to judge either of these women? Because, in a moment of despair, they made terrible choices that we, in our self-righteousness, suppose we never would have made?

We have no need to judge Assia Wevill…she judged herself and carried out the sentence. Because I don’t believe that Assia killed herself because Ted had an affair, or because she thought she was losing him. Look at her past… Assia had been married three times before she ever met Ted Hughes. She knew that relationships were not permanent for her, and I’m sure she was aware that the same was true of Ted. I don’t believe for a moment that she would have killed herself over another failed relationship. I think she was truly haunted by what had happened to Sylvia and identified so heavily with her that she took Sylvia’s death upon herself. The fact that she took her daughter’s life is tragic, but we as a culture understand that people who commit such acts often cannot be held responsible.

Just this past week a woman who drowned her two little daughters in a bathtub and was found not guilty by reason of insanity was released from custody after less than two years - the justice system no longer holds her responsible. But here we are, almost 40 years later, eager to judge a woman for an act that is incomprehensible to us.

This forum is about Plath and her work . . . it shouldn’t devolve into a forum for flogging and re-flogging her husband’s dead mistress. I think it’s time to get over it . . . and get on with a more profitable discussion.

Jim Long
Honolulu , USA
Thursday, 16 November 2006

"I wouldn't be so fast, though, to just Ted too harshly. He certainly acted as a cad, moving from woman to woman with abandon. But those women bear some responsibility, too, don't you think?"

I would have to say that in the case of his first wife, the subject of this forum, Sylvia Plath, the answer is an emphatic and inarguable No.

Obviously I can't speak to every woman Hughes was with in his lifetime, but although I am personally far from prudish I really cannot see what is easily dismissed as "womanizing"; a man or woman who has many relationships, assuming they are meaningful, with or without marriage--that's something I think society finds normal. A man--or woman--who compulsively seeks out others for sex and seemingly has very little conscience about the consequences? That's something else entirely, and that's a fair description of Ted Hughes' social life.

It doesn't "demonize" him, but as Sylvia herself put it, it does make him "a little man", as far as I and most of western society is concerned. It's hurtful and sleazy behaviour, and denotes serious personality problems. How exactly did she bear "responsibility" for his infidelity and lies? He could at least have told her straight out, long before she was humiliated and hurt the way she was, that he'd had enough. I suspect he was simply wanting his cake and eating it, and frankly afraid of Sylvia - not of physical harm, but of her righteous anger towards him. He wanted to maintain the status quo as long as he could.

And I also must say that in the recent exchanges I've seen neither demonizing of Hughes not a description of Assia Wevill as a "monster"; a selfish, cold person, yes. By her own admission, it seems to me. She rather reveled in her promiscuity and "wickedness"(my quotes; I feel she really got a kick out of her femme fatale role--which sadly shows a blind ignorance of just how shabby her actions actually were).

My overriding point is that yes, women are just as responsible, in my opinion, for their actions--yet if we are talking about the very early 1960s, let's face it: that wa And again: this forum is about Plath, and for all her many real faults, she died an honorable person as a wife in her marriage before its collapse - one who never, ever considered cheating (and that's just what it is) on her husband.

She took her life as his wife and the other parent of their kids very seriously, as seriously as she took her work. She was also increasingly mentally disturbed, clinically so. What was her husband's excuse for his actions towards her, and towards others for the rest of his very selfish life?

It's possible to be excused for a certain type of criticism through illness - and it's also possible to be liable for it, by dint of simply being a jerk. Jerk, mind you - not "demon".

Jen Lerew
Los Angeles, California, USA
Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Let's keep in mind one very important fact regarding the suicides of Sylvia and Assia:
Sylvia did what she could to protect her children from sharing her fate -- stuffing towels under doors, etc. -- Lerewwhile Assia obviously didn't. Sylvia's children survived; Assia's didn't. Who do you blame? If we're trying to judge these women, post-mortem, the facts kind of speak for themselves, don't you think?

David Hall
Fort Collins, CO , USA
Saturday, November 18, 2006

Richard Sassoon

A number of people on the forum have wondered about Richard Sassoon over the years. He is alive and well and is now 72. I have been collecting his written works for the Lilly Library at Indiana University, which houses rare document collections, including one of Sylvia Plath's. I have noticed that many of you are familiar with the Lilly. But for those who are not, here are some links:

The Lilly Library Home page

Guide to the Sylvia Plath materials:

Instructions on subscribing to the Lilly Library newsletter, where, I am told, new acquisitions are noted when they become available (and where Richard's collection should be noted when it has been catalogued and made available:

Please note: I do not know how long it will take for the Lilly staff to catalog Richard's writings - in other words, you will not see the collection online perhaps for quite some time, but when it is there, I am told it will be listed as "Sassoon, R" to distinguish it from the Siegfried Sassoon collection (Siegfried Sassoon is a distant relative of Richard's). Once it is cataloged, I will let the forum know. When that happens, it would be listed on this page.

I sent two boxes of items around a month or so ago, consisting of about a hundred photos of his paintings, 160+ individual poem manuscripts, 20 poetry collections, 34 essays, 5 novellas, 5 short stories, 6 plays, with photos of a performance of one of them. This effort is ongoing, and I will be sending more items over time as well. Richard has graciously donated all of these materials and has given alot of his time working with me to put together this collection.

Richard's house contains stacks of paintings, books, and his own writings filling shelves, covering walls and a good part of the floors in some rooms. He has been a counselor, meditation instructor, and an encouragement to many people, including myself. I recall reading an entry in one of Sylvia's journals when she dated other young men, but they were "not Richard" (my quote may not be exact). I can say, decades later, that I too have met no-one like him.

Karen Peace
Colorado Springs , USA
Friday, 17 November 2006

Aloha everyone...long time no see. I have not seen "Lover of Unreason" as it has not been released in the US as yet. I'm looking forward to seeing it, although I am not thrilled with the way the authors seem to have gone the way of sensationalism rather than objectivity and balanced reporting. As much as we may find Assia's life and death choices disturbing, I'm bothered by the extent to which people are vilifying her as if she were some kind of monsterous character. After all, like Plath, she too was shaped and perhaps damaged by her life experiences and had her own demons to contend with. And her view of Sylvia was influenced by her interactions with her, which were no doubt two-sided, considering Sylvia's propensity for jealousy, whether warranted or not, and vindictiveness (think of Ted's volume of Shakespeare torn to pieces and manuscripts burned to ashes, as recorded in her journals). Surely anyone who would take the life of her innocent child, presumably to protect her from the influence of Hughes, was a deeply disturbed individual, perhaps no more to blame for what she did than was Sylvia, and deserving of, if not sympathy, compassion.

In a post quite some time ago I wrote: "Assia's behavior vis a vis Ted may not have been admirable, but Assia was a bright and intelligent, even elegant, personality (who did wonderful, very personal translations of the Hebrew poetry of Yehuda Amichai) and I think deserves some respect and sympathy from us, especially given the unfortunate way their relationship worked out...or not." I am curious whether the book mentions these remarkable translations, which reveal a striking poetic sensibility and which, as far as I'm concerned, go a long way toward redeeming her from the accusations of unfeeling coldness and maliciousness, which may after all have been her way of protecting her own psyche from the personal implications of Plath's suicide, albeit, ultimately, in vain.

Jim Long
Honolulu , USA
Thursday, 16 November 2006

To Terese Ocampo:

I think you have summed up the disastrous love triangle of Sylvia and Ted and Assia quite admirably, especially in your last comments that they were all human and subject to the faults humans are heir to. I wouldn't be so fast, though, to just Ted too harshly. He certainly acted as a cad, moving from woman to woman with abandon. But those women bear some responsibility, too, don't you think?

Sylvia may have been struggling with identity problems, and even with her sanity, but she was no innocent. I don't know enough about Assia to comment, but again I doubt that she was a "babe in the woods". Both these women were old enough, and smart enough, to spot a wolf in poet's clothing. In the end, they wanted him because he was smart and handsome and virile.It's been a failing of women, even very smart women, since the beginning of time.

What those women never seem to realize is that a man like that is always on the prowl, always looking for the next conquest. Broken hearts, and even suicides, are bound to be the result. But the cad doesn't always win - at least historically. Ted's hubris got him in over his head when he tangled with Sylvia, who was a lot smarter than he knew and who could skewer him in poems that he had no answer for. Yes, she was nuts and killed herself, but what she wrote about him and about them, will live on much longer than anything he ever wrote about her, or about himself. (Quick: name one poem he wrote about her that you remember more than a line of. Time's up.) Ted was a very good poet -- a laureate, as you note - but he over-reached when he took on Sylvia, who was a better poet. Poetic justice, anyone?

David Hall
Fort Collins, CO , USA
Thursday, 16 November 2006

Can I just point out that a list of Plath's Uncollected Juvenilia appears at the back of her Collected Poems. These may well appear in print at some stage, making the Collected Poems change its title to 'Collected Poems (1956 - 1963)' similar to that of Eliot's poems. Nobdy has mentioned it yet but there are poems "Ennui" (I) and "Ennui" (II) and I don't know which one is the discovered one. Sounds a bit iffy but there are in fact many more unpublished poems listed here which Hughes writes in his note are kept at the Sylvia Plath Archive at the Lilly Library, Indiana University. So it's not like a previously unknown poem has appeared out of the blue, so to say. 'Found by student' has the uncanny whiff of Charlie Bucket finding the golden ticket in a gutter!

Amy, the photo that appears on the cover of 'The Unraveling Archive' is from Plath's honeymoon in Paris in 1956. There are some other photos from this period and I have seen this one before but not in colour. This is a rare colour photograph of Plath since the only other one I have seen is the one taken in Devon with her children among the daffodils.

Terese, you say you are not familiar with Hughes' poems but I think (along with so many other people in recent times) that he was not as guilty or as worthy of blame as some Plath fanatics make him out to be. I'll probably won't be forgiven for saying this but I have found that all such people are obsessed with making Plath out to be a suicidal rag doll and a manic depressive psychotic and usually relate her condition and circumstances to their own depressive streaks, suicide attempts and such mundane things when in reality is to equate goodness with success (importance with self-importance).

I think you only have to read Birthday Letters alone to truly understand Hughes' dilema. I'm not saying he was entirely innocent or helpless with what he did but he saw the world and his relationship with Plath in completely different terms than we would. Both were poets and both believed they had destinies to fulfil - What Plath refers to as 'the illusion of a Greek necessity.'

Rehan Qayoom
London , England
Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dear all,

I've been a fan of Sylvia Plath's life and poetry for quite a while now. I read her novel, The Bell Jar, and soon afterwards I became very interested in her poetry. I wanted to learn more and be able to understand the root of her depression and suicidal feelings. There's something really alluring about this perfect, Cambridge educated, all American girl, who suffered so much in private and who created such innovative and strong poetry. I'm not an academic, just a person interested in literature and its reflection on the human soul.

I have noticed that the comments people make on Assia Wevill are very negative, while everything about Plath seems to be absolutely glorifying and saintly. I can see the all time dichotomy here: good vs evil, God vs Satan, Western world vs Axis of Evil etc.

As much as I admire Plath as a artist, I think, for what I have read in various books and articles, that she could also be arrogant and contemptuous. She also had a streak of egocentricity and irascibility that made her more enemies than friends. She was envious of and competed with other women for men, prestige and academic success. The fact that she suffered from a terrible illness that caused her lots of suffering most of her life does not eliminate the fact that, as far a human qualities go, she was far from saintly.

But I do sympathize with her and I do not condemn her for having killed herself and left her two children motherless. I could clearly see that she found herself in a dead end, bleak situation and saw no escape from it. Death to her came as the only way out. She was an extremely sensitive person, that lived all her life trying to please a mother who was very hungry for academic achievement, the ghost of a "all mighty" father, and later in life, a very selfish and narcissistic husband.

I think that if there is one person in the "fatal triangle" that should be judged negatively all the way through, that is Ted Hughes. However, I haven't read such venomous comments about him as I have read about Assia.

In fact, I have even read somewhere that his adultery was justified because that was "what most men did at the time". How did Plath and Wevill dare feel depressed by it? His behaviour was definitely predatory and evil too, as much as Assia's or worse. After all, he invited her to live with him in the flat where Plath died. He even agreed that his sister - somebody Plath didn't get along with at all - were the manager of Plath's estate. How would she have reacted had she been alive?

He didn't hesitate twice to be unfaithful to both Sylvia and Assia. He had a string of love affairs even when he was married to his second wife, Carol. What's absolutely outrageous is that that seems to go unnoticed or unjudged most of the time. He probably felt some remorse, but not enough to stop him doing wrong to the ones near him. I wouldn't go as far to say that he killed his women, but he did contribute immensely to their psychological state, and the fact that he could not empathise with them places him also in the psychopath niche.

In the end, he led quite a good life, plagued with success and recognition for his work. He lived until physical illness killed him, not his own poor view of his life and of himself, as happened with his wife and lover. He even lived to be poet laureate! I am not familiar with his work, so I can't judge him on his artistic talent, but after all I've read about his behaviour, I'm honestly not that interested. It just outrages me that the male of the triangle is the only one who got a respectable place in history whether the women had to pay such a high price. Plath, for all the her posthumous success, is still regarded in some circles as the "crazy woman", who drove her adoring and gorgeous husband to have an affair.

Life and people are complex, and undoubtedly, so were Plath, Hughes and Assia. Like everyone, they all had their attributes and their faults. I can probably cope with Plath's and Assia's faults better, but Hughes' and the way they've been often accepted or ignored, it's something I find really hard to tolerate.

Terese Ocampo
London, UK
Thursday, November 9, 2006

I've been scouring websites and forums for specific information on the typewriters she used - specifically the Olivetti portable she mentioned in her journals which she took to England. There is actually a blurred photo of her in '56 with what looks like the profile of an Olivetti, but otherwise I cannot find any more information than that. I found the Royal standard which resides at Smith College, but I'm more interested in the portable machines she had used.

Anyway, I'm just posting in the hopes that someone might know something specific - when I do searches on most Sylvia Plath sites I get "Royal Tanenbaums" for that machine and nothing at all about the Olivetti, etc.

Aaron Bostian
Portland , USA
Saturday, November 4, 2006

As for the newly "published" Sylvia sonnet, "Ennui," I found the article about it in the San Francisco Chronicle more interesting than the actual poem. Reading it, I felt a bit of ennui myself, taking in the pretentious phrasing and references - evidently intended to impress the profs and magazine editors. The sonnet is a difficult form, and at least Sylvia attempted it.

Jack Folsom
Sharon, Vermont, USA
Friday, 3 November 2006

I'm sorry if this sounds petty, but I have to say that I love the fact that the arrival of "Ennui" has coincided with the arrival of the Wevill some kind of "a-causal" syncronized trump card.
Here's to the spirit, and the poetry, of Plath.

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Friday, 3 November 2006

Does anyone know where the photo of Sylvia on the front cover of "The Unraveling Archive" came from? Are there any more like this?

Franklin, Maine, USA
Friday, 3 November 2006

Hello all,

It's been awhile since I have posted. I hope you all are doing very well. It's exciting to see that there is some new Plath related work being released (Ennui and the Wevill biography), so there's more to discuss. I've been so busy working on my graduate thesis that I haven't yet had a chance to order or read the Wevill book, but it's been enlightening and entertaining to read all of your critiques and comments on it. I'm reserving judgement until I read it myself.

I am currently working on an interactive web-based project for my graduate English Seminar on Cybercultures and New Media. The project I am working on is similar to Shelley Jackson's hypertext "Patchwork Girl," which picks up the monstrous body/monstrous text idea from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and really explores monstrosity in all its various forms. Instead of dealing with the concept of monstrous text, in my project I'll be dealing with concept of and problems relating to the disembodied voice, as well as the birth of the new 'monstrous voice' in cyberspace. I'm using Plath's work as a jumping off point and template, specifically, her voice play poem 'Three Women.'

I'm really excited about the project but it is of course quite daunting. I know very little about web programming or design, which I will need to learn more about if this project is going to get off the ground. In any case, I am using my own voice in the project, but was wondering if anyone here knew a way that I could get my hands on a recording of the poem 'Three Women' as it was originally recorded for radio. I know it's doubtful, since I've never heard or seen it anywhere, but I figured I should at least try. Any help any of you could provide would be much appreciated. Also, I will be sure to post a link to my project on this site once it is finished.

Kate Durbin
Whittier, CA, USA
Thursday, November 2, 2006

Ennui - new poem from Sylvia Plath

This is really exciting!

"New Sylvia Plath Poem to Be Published Nov. 1

"Ennui", a previously unpublished poem by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sylvia Plath, will appear November 1 in Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts ). Plath wrote the sonnet "Ennui" while an undergraduate at Smith College and may have originally intended to publish it. "It is difficult to realize how hard Plath worked to perfect her craft unless you read the poems written before 1956; many of these poems, like "Ennui" deserve publication," stated Karen V. Kukil, editor of The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. Plath is perhaps best known for her collection of poems, Ariel, published posthumously after her suicide in 1963."

Kristina Zimbakova
Skopje, Republic of Macedonia
Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Unpublished Plath poem: This item appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle this morning. I post the link in case anyone missed it...

San Francisco, USA
Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Well, I just finished the biography, and I am filled with an odd sense of shame for having bought it (I feel like a groupie who has suddenly become enlightened)

I really don't want to offend anyone or be unduly harsh, but I do have to digress....just for a minute, so bear with me, please....and start by saying who Assia Wevill does remind me of: another monster of the world of letters, Anais Nin.

Nin's "Incest: From a Journal Of Love" was a landmark...albeit inadvertent....masterpiece of psychiatric pathology, a brilliant portrait of incomprehensible projection and sociopathy. Assia is a great deal like its author, sans some obvious dissimilarities (genius, most notably.) Wevill's "die, die soon...but execute yourself...and your little self...efficiently" reminds one of Nin's looking analytically into the face of the dead six month old child who has just come out of her and musing interestedly: "My first dead creation...."

Now, onto "A Lover Of Unreason:" if the first 177 pages had been a film, I surely would have walked out of it. It portrays Assia as a person whose life is scarcely worth recounting (in fact...I truly wonder...and I mean this such an empty, shallow person could have held two brilliant writers like Negev and Koren in thrall for as long as she did.)

After awhile, I stopped being angered and stunned by Wevill's constant displays of malice, and started to actually become bored by was so obvious, you see, what she was, that it took the "complexity" right out of the picture.

This didn't begin to change until, as I've said, page 177, when Assia named Frieda and Nicholas as recipients in her will. It was the first inkling of her being a redeemable human being in the book this far; though I found the description of little Frieda luxuriating in Wevill's silks, jewelry, and cosmetics unduly disturbing. More disturbing still, however, was the sureptitious visit Assia made to Richard Lipsey's flat (page 80) while he was away....the one where she strode into the nursery of Lipsey's small son and simply stood there, staring at the child with malice.

The one redeeming quality I can grant Assia is that she did seem, towards the end, to have a pretty good awareness of cause and efect, and to have recognized that it was her behavior that had ultimately brought her to the point she reached. Sadly, she negated this epiphany by murdering her daughter. The image of Assia taking that flushed, sleeping, dreaming little girl from her bed and tucking her into a gas chamber is not only unspeakable, it is unforgivable. And I don't think Negev and Koren's long rhapsody about the psychology of homicidal/suicidal mothers aided in softening or excusing that...if, in fact, that was their intention.

Not to be flippant here, but Assia seems to me to have been scarcely more than a hybrid of Veruca Salt and Medea. The real victim here is Shura; and I was pleased to at least see a full page of photographs reserved for the child alone. It disgusted and angered me, too, that the she was digested into the colon of her mother's destiny (so to speak) even unto the end.....when she wasn't even given a separate FUNERAL, for expletive-deleted's sake. Where is the horror over that little girl, as an individual....never mind Assia? Who in this book is mourning the future that Shura, exclusively, lost? The assumption, unconscious though it may be, seems to that Shura, being only 4, was too young to have developed a personality yet...thus, she was regarded as a little glass of water emptying into the immense reservoir of Assia's narcissistic pool.

I guess Patricia Mendelson summed it up when she wrote, "thank God Assia took her with her. Shura loved her mummy so much and suffered so much by the instability of Ted's relationship...." Poignant, isn't it? About as legitimate as Assia's contention that she killed Shura because she was "too old to be adopted."

Again, I was left wondering just what it was that had kept Negev and Koren riveted for so long. I don't wish to state directly that their labor of research....what was it, 15 years? 20?....was in vain. But this book, well written as it is, doesn't give me any reason to think otherwise.

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Wednesday, 1 November 2006

I have only recently discovered this wonderful site and I have already enetered into some lively email discussions with other visitors.

I have been a Sylvia Plath fan/fanatic since the tender age of 9 when my late mother gave me a copy of The Bell Jar (to this day still one of my favourite novels.)

I am a professional writer- Stage, Radio and shortly to have my first book- "Who Killed Martin Hannett"- published by Aurum Press in 2007.

I am also a lecturer in Performing Arts (including writing). You can find out more by visiting I have just started work on my first novel- "The Written Paper" within which one of the central protagonists is a Lecturer who's specialist subject is Sylvia Plath! It would be great to hear from any of you Plath enthusiasts/scholars/writers

Colin Sharp
Newcastle-on-Tyne , England
Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lisa...what a find! There is no question in my mind; that poem by Joyce Carol Oates has to be based on Assia Wevill and Sylvia Plath. Marvelous; I appreciate your posting it here. And Kim, I agree with you. Celebrating Sylvia Plath's birth date at her gravesite might be distressing to family members who wish to remember her. Perhaps a quiet remembrance at the end of the day, after her family has had their chance, would be a compromise. However, I wish you well, Alice, because I am sure it was kindly meant and will be beautifully done. Best, Trish

Seattle , USA
Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hi everyone. I would just like to say I did attend the Sylvia Plath celebration at Heptonstall.

I would like to reassure Kim and anyone else,who may of thought this to be in bad taste, or offend any of Sylvia's family,....Rest Easy! No one was there! Well I say no one. Just two young ladies and myself.

We did not stay long and most certainly did not party or picnic around Sylvia's grave. We did however retire to a local Pub to get out of the cold, grey, damp Yorkshire weather. We sat by a lovely, real log fire and talked about life, art and poetry in general. I left feeling a little more enriched and enjoyed day.

Scarborough, UK
Friday, October 27, 2006

Hi Alice, I appreciate your wanting to celebrate Sylvia Plath's life, and the fact that cemetaries are publicly accessible, but what will you do if one of her family members wants to pay tribute to their loved one on her birthday and finds a party of strangers at her grave? It might be a long shot that they would do so, but there is still the possibility. So, in my personal opinion, having a picnic on Plath's grave, with food,drink, etc., esp. on the anniversary of her birth, is not such a great idea.

If you were talking about, say, Keats or Byron or Whitman, all of whom are long dead, I probably wouldn't bat an eye, but Plath is not long dead and has living immediate family members, including a brother, 2 children, cousins, in laws, etc. I think as people who love Plath's work and even Plath herself, we have a responsibility to be sensitive to her family, esp. her children, who already seem to feel that strangers have appropriated their mother.

On another note, I just finished the Assia bio - the book arrived 'on time' despite Amazon's email to the contrary. I'll join the fray and post my opinion in a bit.

Detroit , USA
Friday, October 27, 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.

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.

We are meeting at 2pm in Heptonstall.

If you are interested, please contact me.

Alice Hutt
Hebden Bridge , UK
Monday, October 23, 2006

I recently ran across an early collection of poetry by Joyce Carol Oates, The Fabulous Beasts, and found therein a poem that may (or may not) have been inspired by Assia. Just thought it might be of interest.


Every man adores
the woman who adores the Fascist:
she the destroyer of his children
she who ravages his wife's sleep

Her Evil cannot be marred by tears
nor has she squint lines at the corners of those marvelous Eyes
her name cannot be sounded as a diminutive, like his and ours,
and she is poster poreless

ah, she adores his adoring her!

.....and she is never revised....
sprung full from his loins
in the poetry of late childhood

....she must never be revised....
Every man adores
the woman who cracks and dies cleanly
who is buried by strangers
whose death is none of his business.

(capitalization Oates's)

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jen, I agree with your critique of the book. It was well written and I couldn't put it down but how in heaven's name could one think Assia was anything but a spoilt little princess? I don't think she ever grew up,and the way she broke hearts by the dozen, had abortions whenever she felt like it and then cold-bloodly killed Shura just destroyed any sympathy I might possibly have had for her.

I am certain she only had Shura for two reasons - it was probably her last chance to have a child and she hoped it would put the bite on Ted even more strongly - ironic since he never believed Shura to be his child (I do think she ressembled David Wevill strongly, not Assia or Ted).

I think the nearest I came to flinging the book across the room was when she told her colleagues Sylvia was dead and one said, 'How awful for you'. Assia replied, 'What has it got to do with me?'!!!!

All I can say is, she and Ted Hughes deserved each other and I'm not sure if even he deserved the copy-cat way she imitated Sylvia's death (except Sylvia took every precaution to save her children's lives and not take them with her).

Fiona Orr
Buntingford, UK
Monday, October 16, 2006

Jen-Upon reflection, I'm going to have to agree with you a hundred percent. I was trying to be open minded about what's been presented here thus far....mostly out of fear of beating a dead horse, as there's already been such exhaustive, repetitive discussion of Assia's character on this forum. However, I think you've probably summed the situation up pretty accurately. To create sympathy where none, ethically speaking, should exist may be something filmmakers and politicians occasionally excel at, but such a thing is not traditionally (or, for that matter, ethically) the business of biographers. Which leads me to agree that, yes....perhaps the problem lies not with any sensationalist intentions, but with Assia herself.

In any case, I have ordered the book, and it should be here soon. I don't anticipate posting anything else (at least, not on this subject) until I've read it. But I will close by saying that the most moving thing I've seen in the serialized excerpts thus far is the large picture of Shura, taken (from what I've been able to gather) not long before she was murdered.

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I guess I should not be surprised, considering the sensationalism of so much of the biographical material connected with Plath and Hughes, in yet another superificial sketch. Based on the excerpt in the the Telegraph, in-depth scrutiny is sacrificed for glib, fussy gossip. It’s difficult not to have grave misgivings in the omniscient tone favoring judgment over any empathetic acknowledgement of the complexity of human nature.

"A sexual predator by nature, Ted found his first opportunity to stalk his prey five weeks later, when he had a couple of hours to kill in London after making a recording at the BBC."

Sexual predator/nature/stalk/prey/kill all in one sentence? Regardless of what one thinks of Ted or Sylvia or Assia, this word choice is laughable, a thin attempt to paint bad guy and victims.

And this: "So it was that Sylvia added needlework to her daily routine. Had she had any suspicion that Ted had been seriously attracted to Assia, it's unlikely that she would ever have touched her rival's present."

Since this is conjecture, the authoritorial tone undermines, for me, any trust in the authors' ability to present the many facets of individual lives. The excerpt promises, instead, cardboard simulacra. Where is the biography that will reveal lives in all of their myriad contradictions? That will satisfy as a good poem does, opening the door so I move around the room feeling my way through the facts without bullying me into a corner? At least this excerpt will not bully me into wasting money on the book.

North Carolina, USA
Monday, October 9, 2006

I was introduced to Sylvia Plath during year ten at school and ever since this time I have held a great admiration for her both as a person and for her work.

When asked to submit a research profile during my second year at York St John I decided to research the effect of which Plath's Work had upon her audience. Unfortunately during my research I discovered many of Plath's published works to have been changed or tampered with. (This I already knew but did not realise the full extent)

It became apparent that I would have to change my title since it seemed unfair to Plath to Judge the effect she has upon her audience when much of her work was published differently than how she wrote it.

For example During my research I discovered the typed manuscript of 'Ariel' which Plath left on her desk before her death differs from the one which Hughes published. From my research I have learnt that the poem Plath intended 'Ariel' to end with was 'Spring'. However Hughes ended the book with 'Edge' leaving a macabre and sombre tone rather than one of hope and rebirth. Plaths version can be seen to leave her audience in a positive frame of mind whereas the Published version can be seen to be one of hopelessness. I therefore decided to change my title to 'Is the Validity of Plath's work important, or is it purely business?'

Hughes take on Plath's writing was that ‘she had to write those things’ and it ‘was the way [she] tried to throw off that luggage, the deliberate way [she] stripped of the veiling analogies Sylvia went furthest in the sense that her secret was most dangerous to her, she desperately needed to reveal it’ (Sylvia Plath forum, interview with Ted Hughes) Although Hughes can be seen to understand Plath's need to reveal, he can not be seen through changing her work to honour it.

I would like to ask how important do you as Plath's Audience think the validity of Plath's work to be?

Or alternatively, whether you believe that writing was just as much Plath and Hughes business as their art. Meaning it could be seen to be acceptable to change the tone, language, structure or meaning of a piece in order to have it published.

Michelle May
York, UK
Monday, October 9, 2006

I'm almost shocked that the long-awaited book on Assia Wevill has at last been published. Those excerpts were certainly, as Ms. Flowers notes, given ridiculously lurid titles, but personally though extremely sad I didn't feel that they were terribly biased in the negative towards their subject. The thing is--and I would like eventually to give the entire biography a chance, to see the episodes in some larger context--I think that the reason Assia comes off so negatively is frankly because she was just not a very nice person at all. There are those around, even "stunningly beautiful" ones.

Not trying to be sarcastic here - truly, though, when one reads the quotes from Assias friends, one wonders just what they saw in her as likeable. One the positive side, it seems that apart from a purely physical attractiveness (which often counts for a hell of a lot with people), she was witty, intelligent, "talented"(though merely speaking several languages fluently I'm not clear on what else she could do well--her samples of writing are to my mind very weak and derivative), she was also vindictive, totally selfish, spoiled, lazy, and a borderline sociopath. What else do you call a woman who tells her "friends" she's been invited to the country home of her landlord, a famous poet, married with two wee children, and says she intends to have sex with him? That's cheap, sick beahviour. She certainly wasn't in love with the guy...people are complicated, yes, but behaviour like that is pretty well established in the "nasty", disgusting category. Her treatment of her own husband is so cruel and weird, and her utter lack - by many accounts - of any feeling whatsoever for the dead Plath except as a sort of fantasy figure for herself to play off of...this woman was sick. Much more "off" than Plath, whose depression and elation point to just one, simple recognizable illness, apart from which she coped better than average under bad circumstances.

What I'm trying to say is that I'll be damned, given the basic facts and words from Assia's own mouth, how she could be portrayed "sympathetically".

After reading the three excerpts I did wonder, though, why such a selfish, arrogant woman didn't leave Hughes, ever; that really is an oddity. For all the odd remarks here and there about her "losing her looks" and supposedly losing sexual attractiveness via weight gain the later photo of her is far from plain. I wonder if the reason she clung to Hughes so long past hope was because she could't let a man leave her, and go on; she had to be the one to do the leaving? Well, hopefully there'll be a report here soon to shed additional light.

Jen Lerew
Los Angeles, California, USA
Monday, October 9, 2006

Hi there

I'm from the publisher of 'A Lover of Unreason' here in the UK. Firstly can I apologise to those of you who have had problems getting hold of the book - there have been hold-ups at the warehouse, but the book should be available pretty much everywhere by next week. We are looking into the problems you've had with Amazon and will try to rectify those as soon as possible.

Secondly, I wanted to let you know about a one-off event that we're holding in London at the Spiro Ark in Enford Street, on 18th October. The authors will be discussing the book, and the 15 years that they spent researching it and talking to over 70 people who knew Assia. We are also inviting several of these interviewees to come along and offer their perspective. It should make for an interesting discussion.

Bookings can be made via the Spiro Ark Institute on 0207 7239991/ Tickets are £8/£5 conc and it kicks off at 8.15pm.

Hope to see some of you there!

Helen Ponting
London, UK
Friday, October 6, 2006

I have finally got my copy of 'A Lover of Unreason'by post from Waterstone's in Cambridge - there is £5.00 off it so it still worked out cheaper even with P+P. There is nothing on the Amazon site to say it has been put back and was still showing 2nd Oct as a delivery date until I cancelled it! Now I just have to skim the last few pages of the book I am reading and I can read the new one that I've waited so long for!!!!

Fiona Orr
Juneau, USA
Friday, October 6, 2006

Just want to say thanks to those that mentioned I too was in the position of having a long standing pre-order of "Lover of Unreason" and was really disappointed with after finding out the long wait would continue to be longer. I now have a copy on its way from Blackwell.

Also, I read the links to the excerpts to the book yesterday. I was surprised at the high level of 'editorialism' that was present which set a definate tone. I am really looking forward to reading the book as a whole and hope it is a balanced disclosure in the big picture.

This side of the story has been a long time coming. It needs to be excellent as opposed to sensational.

Laurie Eckhout
Juneau, USA
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Thank you for that post Morney - I am anticipating 'A Lover of Unreason' even more now. Lisa - I ordered my copy (yesterday) from and they shipped within 24 hours - it was a few pounds more than amazon but it should be here within about a week.

Melanie Smith
Adelaide, Australia
Monday, October 2, 2006

Lisa - I ordered my copy (yesterday) from and they shipped within 24 hours - it was a few pounds more than amazon but it should be here within about a week.

Morney - Maybe we were reading different articles, or you're referring to a portion of the serialization I haven't seen yet. I was talking, specifically, about the extracts accessible from this site. I'm not looking (or able) to expend judgment until I read the book. But I was struck by the sensationalist aspects of the excerpts I've read thus far.

Even their titles ("I'm Going To Seduce Ted Hughes"...."Die, Die Soon...But Execute Yourself...And Your Little Self...Efficiently") seem to hint at a sneak preview more geared towards (again) sensationalizing the whole tragedy than objectifying it. If anything, what I've read in these pages seems to confirm the admittedly simplistic, not to mention (in these times) antiquated notion of Assia as a "scarlett woman."

In fact, I fail to see any instances here in which Wevill is portrayed sympathetically. And, as I had supposed one of the aims of this biography was to present a more well rounded picture of her, this was a little surprising to me.

Maybe my impression has nothing to do with the author's intentions, and everything to do with the marketing aims of the serializing magazine's editor(s) fact, this is probably the case. This is not about my own traditionally skeptical feelings about Assia, it is about the way this book seems to be being represented. Again, I don't know...I guess (perhaps naively) I had been expecting something more drawn-out and subtle.

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Monday, October 2, 2006

Kim, I'm not sure why, but the book has been delayed here in some places, not just at Amazon but also in some bookshops. I've had mine on preorder at Amazon for months (not to mention that I've been waiting longingly for longer than that!) and was desperately hoping to get an email from them on Thursday telling me they'd sent it.

My mum was out in Cambridge the day after and was 'kind' enough to tell me that she'd actually bought a copy of it in a shop there. The first shop she'd gone to didn't have it and weren't getting it until November.

Anyway, I rang Waterstones (who were literally just closing) and yes they had it. I could've screamed! It'd been in a shop round the corner from me all day and I had assumed I'd get it from Amazon and anyway hadn't been well enough to go out.

It was kind of strange, the woman on the phone at the bookshop said to me, "Oh yes, I actually held that book in my hand last night." ?? I think everyone was just out to make me feel even more bereft. Anyhow to cut an already long story short, I also rang the main other bookshop here (which isn't a Waterstones) and they also said they weren't getting it until November. I've no idea why. I have got a copy now from the local Waterstones. I hope you get it soon :) You could try some other big bookshops here - maybe they have it. I don't honestly know if it's just Waterstones that have it or if some other places do. I'll try and find out and I'll let you know.

Possibly you could order it from Waterstones - I don't know if they send overseas or not. If you don't have any luck, please email me ( and I can get another copy and send it to you. Not a problem.

Lisa - we must've been reading different articles! (Although I know we weren't.) I just can't understand what you said about how Assia (or 'that Wevill woman' perhaps) comes across. I felt so totally differently about it and the only person I know who's interested enough to read it all is my mum and she felt totally different about it too. I already felt quite a lot for Assia as it was, albeit gradually, and these extracts made me feel even more so. This isn't from reading the book because I've only read the first few pages so far. I'm really quite taken aback to read your post (I don't mean that critically by the way, just interested to see how differently things can be perceived). I can't see how anyone can read the extracts and feel a great deal (including sympathy) for her.

My only problem in reading it is that it brings up some of my old "Oh God Ted, did you have to do/say/be that??" Just when I think it's safe to like him again, another shark rears up and spits out something that makes me want to/have to think again.

To sound overdramatic about it, but it is true, the situation and the things I've read make my heart break for her. I was especially surprised by what you said about the picture of her on the cover - simply because that hadn't even occured to me. What I had thought was how much more 'tasteful' it is than the American cover and how I was so glad that this cover has her picture as the main picture. She's in the foreground, there are only 2 small photos of Ted and Sylvia (unlike the US version that has all of them the same size as well as another photo of Sylvia's gravestone) - and the compelling title 'Lover of Reason - Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath's Rival and Ted Hughes's doomed love.' Mills & Boon, anyone?

At least the UK cover makes it clear who it is actually about and even - gasp - subtitles it 'The Life and Tragic Death of Assia Wevill.' Does anyone know why the UK copy goes on to have the same 'Ted Hughes's Doomed Love' bit on it but misses out the SP's rival bit? Simply there for extra readers (buyers) in America who maybe be as familiar with TH?

I think it is a beautiful and touching photo of her on the front - I think it is one that portrays a stunningly beautiful woman, deep in thought and serious i.e. I think it makes her look like a real, 3 dimensional person, which she was.*

*course, I haven't read it yet so I reserve the right to change my mind ;)

Morney Wilson
London, UK
Monday, October 2, 2006

Let me say, first of all, that I realize the serialized bio is heavily edited and not necessarily chronologically accurate.

However, if what is here, thus far....edited or not.... is any indication of the overall tone of this biography, it has thrown me for a loop. The Wevill depicted in these pages is a monster who nearly defies comprehension. So much so, in fact, that I wonder if the authors didn't have an agenda after all (I had supposed it was to present an unprecedentedly well-rounded portrait of Wevill.) Again....not going to go off into a lengthy post: none of us have enough information to do that yet. But I must admit that the book's cover...depicting Wevill leaning wistfully on her hand as the faces of Plath and Hughes float above her, Teenage-crush like....struck me as...I don't know.....well, let's just say...I was taken aback. I'll shut up now, until I actually read the book.

Lisa Flowers
Richmond, Virginia , USA
Sunday, October 1, 2006

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