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Whitney Roberts Is My Hero! May 9, 2007

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hi long-lost readers!

I have a friend (whitney, obviously) studying abroad in London this summer and she went on a secret mission to take photos of Plath’s house on Chalcot Square….so…for an exciting pre-graduation/pre-summer treat! Here are some photos:

Chalcot Square
The Sign For Chalcot Square

The Blue Plaque

Sylvia Plath’s House from 1960-61

The Basement
The Stairs to the Basement

The View From her house
The View From Her Front Porch

Wow…she was thorough, she even rang the bell 🙂 So, there you have it. I haven’t completely abandoned the blog…and I’m still urging our friend in London to allow me to publish the poem. I’ll check back when I visit Indiana!

Thanks again Whitney 🙂 🙂 🙂

For What It’s Worth… April 28, 2007

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For poetry class we had to review three volumes of poetry. My third review is of a brand new volume of poetry written about Sylvia Plath’s life. Here’s what I had to say:

Stephanie Hemphill’s poetry volume, Your Own, Sylvia; a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath attempts to create a timeline of Sylvia Plath’s life through the voices of her family and friends using Plath’s unique sound. This is an incredibly ambitious project and could truly have transformed Plath’s biographical landscape, but it seems as though in an effort to complete the book quickly, Hemphill falls short. Because of my obvious and often stated obsession with Sylvia Plath this semester, I was incredibly excited to find this volume of poetry, I was slightly worried by the lack of quotes on the back cover, but still hoped that it was just under-recognized. Apparently the quotes or lack-there-of is a telling feature. However, the copyright is 2007, so I suppose there is still time for this book to gain a modicum of attention.

As stated, the 151 poems chronologically chronicle both the small snapshots and huge milestones of Plath’s life, and are all written from the viewpoint of a large variety of people living around Plath, from her mother to the paramedics who found her body. To complicate matters further, some, not all of the poems are written to mimic Plath’s poetic voice and other poems are given the same title as actual Plath poems. The poems themselves are relatively short and matter-a-fact. I think Hemphill fails because although impressive, her overall goal is impossible. She essentially loses her own voice to the voice of Plath and the imagined voices of the people she assigns each poem to, all this while trying to simplify and summarize a life. For example, in the poem where she relates the suicide entitled “Monday Morning; Myra Norris, nurse hired to care for Frieda and Nick February 11, 1963” she has Myra Norris say, “Inside the flat, we rush to turn off the gas,/ Mrs. Hughes’s head inside the oven/ like another awful fairy tale, the one/ where the witch dies inside the stove” (235). In a sense, having an actual account of the situation by the nurse who found Plath would be interesting, but having only an imagined reaction comes across as awkwardly irreverent.

In another poem Hemphill tries to embody Plath’s supposed manic depression mimicking the form of Plath’s poem “Aerialist” found in The Collected poems. This poem is called “Manic Depression: Imagining Sylvia Plath In the style of “Aerialist” December 1952” and the first stanza reads: “She balances night./ She floats on days./ She cannot see the shift–/ Her smile of light,/ Her frown of haze,/ She’s constantly adrift” (54). She is clearly working so hard to maintain the meter and rhyme scheme of Plath’s poem, that she loses the conceit and the lines come out sounding incredibly contrived and once again, rather irreverent. I characterize these poems as irreverent, because I believe by creating or conceiving of this project, it was Hemphill’s mission to honor Plath’s life as a poet (which is a noble goal) but by failing to create actual great poetry herself, she often sounds like she’s mocking Plath.

Overall, I am glad that I own this book because it has some interesting biographical footnotes at the end of each poem, as well as a nice collection of photos in the center, but the poetry is severely lacking. I commend Hemphill’s goal and effort because 151 poems is a ton of poetry, but the poems fail to convey anything new about Sylvia Plath’s short life, if anything they simply highlight the fact that Plath’s poetry is wholly unique to Plath.

* So, there you have it….it is an interesting volume that i’d definetly check out but possibly not purchase.

Clarification April 23, 2007

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Clarification: In light of recent discussions with Anna Journey in a comment exchange on this blog under the post “So Wierd” I feel compelled to clarify some things concerning this blog:

1. I am sorry if Ms. Journey’s feelings were hurt by any of the comments made here. This blog is just that a “web-log” it is a place I set up as a replacement to a normal notebook, where I can and have recorded my reactions to things as I discover them. While I am always slightly aware that other’s can read it, my faithful group of readers remains small and I do not and will not censor myself because it would be untrue to the idea behind a blog.

2. I will re-assert (again and again if necessary) that I am extremely glad that Blackbird went through all of the time and work necessary to get “Ennui” published. The only thing I have ever refuted is the common misconception that there “may” be other unpublished poetry when there so clearly is. However much this misconception was perpetuated by the press is really not my concern, as any quotes taken out of context by the Post or other papers were not made by me, and I will believe what I read in the Post if the parties concerned don’t make an issue out of it.

My goal concerning Plath’s juvenilia is simply to get the chance to publish the poem I recieved, just as Blackbird published “Ennui”. I want to be given the chance to state very clearly that there IS catalogued, unpublished juvenilia at the Lilly Library. It is there just waiting to be read and it should be published for all enjoy, not piece by piece as we are having to do now.

I am an undergraduate student. I have no background in journalism and no aspirations towards being a journalist. This independent study was my idea and any decisions I have made have been my own. This blog represents my thought process, and it should be read just as that. Blogs are public domains, but it is also the individuals perrogative to start one. There are numerous sites that offer free blog space to anyone who feels compelled. I will always be happy to answer any concerns about my study or the contents of this blog. So please comment here if you have any comments or questions.

The Paper April 20, 2007

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Here is a copy of my final paper for this independent study on Sylvia Plath. This does not mean i’m done with the blog though, hopefully I’ll be able to pay a visit to the Lilly Library over the summer, and get that poem published, so don’t go away!Enjoy the paper! 🙂

Six Degrees of Separation with Sylvia Plath April 17, 2007

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A math professor (Dr. Edmunds) at UMW sent this e-mail to Professor Emerson and she passed it on to me. It’s a really good story:
My brother recently dug up this poem by Sylvia Plath, I thought you might enjoy it. It’s about the house in Winthrop, Mass. that my mother grew up in – my grandparents bought it from Sylvia’s grandparents. It is also mentioned in The Bell Jar as a place she contemplates for various forms of suicide. We spent a lot of time there as kids as it’s right on the ocean in a beautiful spot. My mother met Sylvia when the transaction was being made, they were both about 11 at the time. My mom said they were sent upstairs to play and Sylvia was totally freaked by my mom’s dolls as she had apparently never seen one! She just held one and stared at it for the longest time…

Sylvia Plath would have been 11 around 1943 and here are what the dolls might have looked like:

I have an eleven-year-old sister, so maybe I am biased by circumstance, but it is completely unbelievable that she would never have seen a doll before. It brings up all kinds of questions about her parents and her childhood: what did she play with? what did she think of the dolls? and, did she ever give Frieda dolls? I wonder how Sylvia Plath internalized this situtation, as obviously Dr. Edmund’s mother remembers it…

Personal anecdotes about Sylvia Plath are rare, but rarer still are ones about her as a child. I love this story, it is extremely poetic!

Here is a link to the poem “Point Shirley.”

Ps. Thanks to Mark for making this excellent post on his blog for Dr. Campbell’s class….go check it out and enjoy the song: http://blogs.elsweb.org/marksawesomeblog/2007/04/13/ignore-this-seriously

April 16, 2007 April 16, 2007

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My heart goes out to everyone at Virginia Tech. I cannot express how deeply sorry I am for your tragedy. You are in my thoughts and prayers.:(

“Retrospect shall not soften such penury-
Sun’s brass, the moon’s steely patinas,
The leaden slag of the world-
But always expose

The scraggy rock spit shielding the town’s blue bay
Against which the brunt of outer sea
Beats, is brutal endlessly.”
Sylvia Plath from “Departure” (51)

Nerdy Easter Fun April 8, 2007

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If they told you I’m mad, then they lied.
I’m odd, but it isn’t compulsive.
I’m the triolet, bursting with pride;
If they told you I’m mad, then they lied.
No, it isn’t obsessive. Now hide
All the spoons or I might get convulsive.
If they told you I’m mad then they lied.
I’m odd, but it isn’t compulsive.
What Poetry Form Are You?

HAHAHAHAHA I found this quiz and this is possibly the funniest result I could have come up with. I would totally be the obsessive compulsive form of poetry 🙂 and if this blog didn’t already exhibit this, then this quiz confirms it!

I have to find out if Sylvia Plath ever wrote a poem in triolet!


Sylvia Plath; The Hollywood Version April 6, 2007

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So, still no news about the possible publication of “Words of Advice to an English Prof.” but I always feel a little guitly neglecting my blog so here is a brief response to the movie version of Sylvia Plath’s life “Sylvia” starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath and Daniel Craig (2006’s James Bond) as Ted Hughes. I watched this movie last night with a couple of truly awesome Plath fans (and critics….Tyler). We ate her Tomato Soup Cake and it was generally a great time….except the movie really plays up the myth.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this….I mean it’s Hollywood, that’s typically how they do. I saw this film for the first time this summer. I guess it didn’t really bother me as much then, because I was reading her journals and had that careless summer attitude. Watching it this time after working almost exclusively on Plath for an entire semester really made me feel sick. You can tell that they (the director, screenplay writer, producers etc…) really tried very hard to make Ted Hughes look like the jerk that he was, but in the end they also made Plath look like a paranoid mess. Okay, I realize that Plath did have her problems and no, the ending was not surprising. What was surprising were the instances before they show Hughes starting his affair with Assia where they seem to present Plath as this super insecure, crazy person who rather drove Hughes to have an affair!

The film ends (and trust me, i’m not ruining anything) with a slow motion montage (set to the film’s main theme music) of the events of the morning they found Sylvia Plath dead in the kitchen. You see the nurse and a police man rescuing the children from their tape-barracaded room, you see two men carry Plath’s body out on a stretcher covered in a red cloth, and you see Ted Hughes standing over her desk where there is only a neatly stacked manuscript labeled “Ariel”. This gives Hughes some definite hero status in the end. He also gets HUGE credit in driving her to her suicide. The night before she commits suicide he comes over to see her and she’s made herself all pretty just for him, they sleep together and as their lying on the couch and she’s telling him that she forgives him and wants everything to be like it was before only better and he just lets her rant and rant and rant and then when she pauses for his consent, he says “Assia’s pregnant” SO LAME and then to make a terrible situation even more terrible, she just lays her head back down on his chest.

Those were the pivotal moments in the film, but for the literature minded folk who might want to see how they portray Plath writing her masterpieces, allow me to describe it for you. Typical Plath writing scene: Plath gazes at self in mirror, looking generally crazy, then she writes and writes and writes and the voice-over tells us that she’s totally creating her masterpieces right then and in perfect form. Meanwhile little Frieda is toddling around too-often by herself and nicholas is just crying and crying in his playpen. In short: this film is pure chaos!

The only good scenes are when Plath recites Chaucer to the cows from a boat and when Aurelia (Blythe Danner) tells Hughes that if he hurts her daughter she’ll kill him (only that is sullied because clearly it never comes to fruition).

Anyway, I understand any kind of reasonable portrayal of the life of Sylvia Plath would be a totally boring movie, and that it is the movie’s job to play-up life events to make them more interesting, but I was dissapointed. I know that probably the easiest way for people to learn about a life is by watching a film and if people want to learn about Sylvia Plath, that is the resource they will likely turn to.

Student Academy March 31, 2007

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Me and Professor Emerson...master presenters

I believe this was at the beginning of the presentation when I introduced Professor Emerson as Sylvia Plath….oops

So, today was the fourth (I think) annual Student Academy in Combs, where a number of students from different disciplines and courses shared their work with technology and said courses. I presented this blog along with Professor Emerson (thank you for being there) and I was really happy with how it was percieved. I was mildly worried that my innevitable ranting about Plath and not so much the blog would take would make my presentation irrelevant to the situation, but it turns out that technology has been absolutely key in my success with this project. I truly would not have been able to recreate this experience without the blog, and I’ve come to rely on it more than i’d even realized (until I presented this morning). I love having this resource that allows me to share and record my thoughts and findings quickly but then stores and organizes them forever. I also really like the idea that i’m conversing with or addressing people through this medium. While I rarely censor myself, I’m also always aware of an “audience” and I think this has helped me try to articulate my ideas better. I mean they are scattered, they have poor spelling and even worse grammar, but trust me…they are much MUCH clearer then any of the thoughts that run through my head 🙂

Anyway, i’m one of those students that never really considered technology either way. I mean, I appreciate it when it helps me, but i’m easily frustrated and don’t really experiment with it on my own. This study has given me many advantages but one that I will no longer take for granted is my new willingness to take advantage of technology as it becomes available to me.

I was super nervous to present this morning, but the atmosphere was incredibly welcoming and I am now really glad I shared my experience. It’ll be nice to have people maybe mention my blog on their blogs and then even if I don’t get publishing rights, at least my ideas will be spread beyond my relatively small circulation.

Sooooo I guess I just wanted to share my experiences and thank those of you who pushed me to use technology and then talk about it!

So In honor of Technology….I figured out how to do something new! Look A Picture (to me this is a VERY big deal)

Look What I Can Do

Publishing adventure update: I am writing a letter to Ms. Edwards asking for her permission….still no word

Update??? March 29, 2007

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So, I got a little word back from the Lilly Library! I got an e-mail today from one of the librarians. Titled “publishing rights” which of course got my immediate attention…she simply had a few questions for me, however she did not just laugh at my request so that’s a positive!
First and foremost she told me that the Londoner who owns “Words of Advice to an English Prof.” is a woman, not a man….this was an embarrassing correction…so my apologies to MS. Ros Edwards (probably short for Rosalyn). I will go back and correct that throughout my blog.
Secondly she wanted to know who I got the copy from, in their records I had asked for and recieved a copy of “Ennui” which was curious, so, I answered that I had neither requested, nor recieved that poem.
and finally, she asked If I had been in contact with Ms. Edwards. I have not. and I told her as much, but asked if perhaps writing her a letter would facilitate my request?!?!

On the plus side, the librarian seems to understand my request, she specifically referred to my desire to publish this poem on my “student research blog” and like I said, she gave me no impression that this will be impossible or even unlikely so that’s good. I baisically told her that i’m not above begging to make this happen, so we’ll see….

also, I have a comment from Indiana University (the university in conjuction with the Lilly Library) that shows that they have been reading my blog!!!

Anyway, it’s fun keeping track of this progress….i’m sorry if it’s kinda boring compared to an actually informative post about Sylvia Plath proper.