The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962


“Who in February 1963 could have predicted, when a 30-year-old American poet named Sylvia Plath committed suicide in London, distraught over the breakup of her marriage to the Yorkshire poet Ted Hughes, that Plath would quickly emerge as one of the most celebrated and controversial of postwar poets writing in English; and this in a golden era of poetry distinguished by such figures as Theodore Roethke, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, Allen Ginsberg, Anne Sexton, John Berryman, May Swenson, Adrienne Rich, as well as W. H. Auden and T. S. Eliot? At the time of Plath’s premature death she had published a single volume of poems, which had received only moderate attention, ‘The Colossus’ (1960), and a Salingeresque first novel, ‘The Bell Jar’ (which appeared in England a month before her death, under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas), in addition to a number of strikingly bold poems in British and American magazines. Her second, stronger volume of poems, ‘Ariel,’ would not appear until 1965, by which time Plath’s posthumous fame assured the book widespread attention, superlative reviews and sales that would eventually make it one of the best-selling volumes of poetry to be published in England and America in the 20th century. Plath’s ‘Collected Poems’ (1981), assembled and edited by Ted Hughes, would win a Pulitzer Prize. ‘I am made, crudely, for success,’ Plath stated matter-of-factly in her journal in April 1958. … As her literary executor, Hughes had the power to publish what he wished of her work, or to publish it in radically ‘edited’ (that is, expurgated) versions, like ‘The Journals of Sylvia Plath’ (1982); or, if he wished, he might lose or even destroy it, as Hughes bluntly acknowledged he had done with two of the journal notebooks written during the last three years of Plath’s life. As the surviving, perennially estranged husband, Hughes excised from Plath’s journals what he called ‘nasty bits’ and ‘intimacies,’ as he had eliminated from ‘Ariel’ ‘some of the more personally aggressive poems,’ with the excuse that he wanted to spare their children further distress. This new, unabridged and unexpurgated edition of the journals assembled by Karen V. Kukil, assistant curator of rare books at Smith College, is ‘an exact transcription of 23 original manuscripts in the Sylvia Plath Collection,’ containing more than 400 pages of previously unpublished material that suggest that the person Ted Hughes most wanted to spare from distress and exposure was himself. …”
NY Times: Raising Lady Lazarus by Joyce Carol Oates (Audio Sylvia Plath Reads)
Reviving the Journals of Sylvia Plath
New Yorker: The Silent Woman By Janet Malcolm
The Creative Tension Between Vitality and Fatality: Illuminating the Mystery of Sylvia Plath Through Her Striking Never-Before-Revealed Visual Art
[PDF] The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
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Collage (Includes images of Eisenhower, Nixon, bomber, etc.) by Sylvia Plath, 1960

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