Friday, 17 December 2010

Happy Christmas from Sylvia Plath!

This Christmas card inlay (click here for larger view), from Sylvia Plath to her beloved English Literature teacher, Mr Crockett was sold at auction in 2009. It is not unlike the card I saw at the UCD Archives, written to Jack and Máire Sweeney, but far more personal and warm. I have transcribed her sentiments as the following:

Dear Mr Crockett,

I was delighted to have your good(?) letter and to know 'The Colossus' is safe in your discerning hands. Most especially Ted and I were joyous to learn of your award and year in New York! We have always longed for the 'excuse' or 'gift' of a year in that superb city, and it is fire to hear how hear how admirably you and the family take to the rich life.

We are extremely happy in our small northern(?) niche in London where Regents' Park, Primrose Hill and the Zoo are our backyard, so to speak and long for a house in an adjoining street. We get ourselves on the cheap play tickets, foreign films, galleries and all the best fare, while living like anonymous creatures, Ted studiously avoiding the requests for public appearances that find their way to us. We had a wonderful dinner with T.S. Eliot (who is an editor at Ted's publishing house), his charming Yorkshire wife and Mr and Mrs Steven Spenser at the Eliots' home here. I was thrilled. Eliot has suggested revisions for Ted's children's book of light verse which Faber is publishing this spring and we treasure the memo with his notes on it. A warm welcome awaits you here anytime you pass through London again!

Fondest Christmas wishes to you, Mrs C and Debbie and Steve!

P.s. Frieda Rebecca Hughes arrives on April first 1960 - at home, delivered by a little Indian midwife and is the sun of our life - we both dote on her!

How lovely to see such a card inlay! Especially now in our era, where sending Christmas cards is now a thing of the past. I have received so many e-cards this year but do miss having bright coloured physical cards on my mantlepiece!

Things have been winding down in University for the winter break. We had a lovely mixer a few weeks ago with mulled wine and mince pies. It was a great opportunity to meet other graduate students within the University. Sometimes I think I can be a little odd in conversation, but I don't think I made any huge mistakes! Working on a project like this PhD, I have found, can be a little lonely at times. I am so grateful and glad to be here and to be studying such a fantastic topic, but there are some days where I miss conversation! Although being holed up in a dark corner of the library watching the snow eternally fall can be really great too. The more I read about Sylvia, the more real a person she becomes. I started off this work trying to seperate myself from her - to do the poetry justice, I needed to distance myself. But I just can't. Reading her journals and letters, looking at Christmas cards and personal memoirs like that of Nancy Hunter Steiner's "A Closer Look at Ariel" have just opened me up to the warmth, wit and wrath of Sylvia Plath! Every day brings something new and interesting. Life as a Plath fan is never dull!

As this blog-entry is more personal than fact-finding, I would like to link to a blog I recently discovered which I feel is just fantastic. BrontëBlog is devoted to the life and work of the Brontë sisters. It is updated practically every day and discusses and links to many essays, books and general information. Really a great site! The Brontës and Victorian Literature are another passion of mine.

Finally, as it's getting near Christmas, I want to finish this entry with a present to anyone who stops by to read! I have talked a little about my literary passions, but not at all about my musical interests! And in fact, there is a Plath-ian link here! My absolute favourite musician in the world is Ryan Adams. And the reason I got into him was that way back many years ago, one of my best friends put a song on a mix-tape for me by him. The song? 'SYLVIA PLATH'.

So as a present (mostly to myself), here is a recording of the terrific, wonderful and talented Ryan Adams singing all about Syl.

You can purchase this song or the amazing album Gold, which features the track on iTunes or Amazon. Better yet, check out the independent record label Ryan has just set up: paxam - and get your kicks from his kaleidoscope of songs. I bet Sylvia would have been a fan!

Merry Christmas everyone!


Anonymous said...

Love Ryan Adams and Sylvia Plath. I wonder, do you feel there is a genuine connection between his lyrics and who Sylvia Plath was/what she wrote about?

The Plath Diaries said...

I've often thought about this! I think that the song is really RA's interpretation of what he thinks Sylvia Plath would be like. I think the fact he mentions things like cigarettes, swimming, baths - actual things give the character of Sylvia Plath he's singing about qualities and makes this version of her really alive. Plus, I think the whole lyrics are very vintage-sounding, they really take me back to the feeling of the 1950s-era.

Although critically speaking, there are no links between what he's singing and actual facts in Sylvia Plath's life, I do think he picks up a lot of the sensuality of Plath; using hard-sounding words like "mansion", "carpets" reflects the rigid form she employed in her poetry. Ryan Adams is a Plath fan (he used to post about her a lot when he had a blog of his own) so I think it's definitely true to say that he knows her poetry well, this song reflects this knowledge at least. To me, the song and the general vibe of Plath's poems connect.

"The kind that goes out and sleeps for a week", for some, provide references to Plath's initial suicide attempt. To me, it reflects the intensity of Plath's personality - that it is so forceful and strong that it is exhausting, demanding sleep for a long time after one social event!

I think it is such a beautiful song, it takes me to a dystopian place in my mind littered with Diane Arbus paintings and people lying on floors, smoking, drinking gin and looking at the ceiling staring into nothingness. Of the calmness of the sea and in turn how death can be seen as calming, "she was swimming away, she was winking at me. Telling me it will all be ok".

So really, I think that there is a genuine connection in terms of empathy Ryan Adams feels for Plath. He wants to establish a connection, a friendship or a sexual one. I think he channels a lot of Plath-ian concepts in the lyrics, but a lot of the images are his own imagination. His wish for "a Sylvia Plath".

I think it is definitely the best song out there about Plath - and there are many!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas!

I hope you enjoy some time off. I'm back in N.I. - trying to catch up with the work I should have done in term time!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I am enjoying reading The Plath Diaries. Tks!

Zoë said...

Oh wow, I was just scrolling down the page and I saw Bronte Blog on your blogroll and I thought "we're well suited to be friends!". I love the BB feed, it means I can pick and choose what I want to read.

I am still a firm believer in sending xmas cards, I didn't even get any e-cards and no Christmas cards even though I sent out ten, which makes me sad! I would have sent you one if I'd known your address! I love how Sylvia personalised the card too, rather than a banal 'merry christmas from the hughes family!'

The Plath Diaries said...

@Zoe - I love Brontë Blog! It's really such a great resource! I love how they update with even the smallest Brontë-related story! Some day (when I get the time) I would hope to have this Plath blog half as good!

Hope you've had a great Christmas xox

Rehan Qayoom said...

In the transcript of your letter (a fascinating find and a great job you posting it here) in the fifth line of the letter I'm sure it reads 'the 'excuse' or 'gift' OF a year' rather than 'or a year.' I point this out in all reverent humility but [יד] הוא היה אומר, אם אין אני לי, מי לי; וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני; ואם לא עכשיו, אימתיי ['If not me, who? If not now, when?' Rabbi Hillel. Pirkei Avot 1].

The Plath Diaries said...

@Rehan - Thank you for your correction!