The photograph itself is the inlay page of Sylvia Plath's "Ariel" collection of poetry. I specifically wanted a picture of this in order to compare the difference between the US and UK publications of 'Ariel'. I also too photographs of the published year, contents and additional information on the back page of the book. Of course I did this very quietly and tried to escape the watchful gaze of Strand Bookstore employees! Although I did not buy any Plath related books in the shop, I did purchase Jack London's "Call of the Wild" and Carson McCullers "The Member of the Wedding", both of which were great reads.
After driving for over 5,000km and seeing many beautiful sights along the way, I feel a lot more prepared for my PhD. The experience has given me a lot of headspace and also has allowed me to sample all kinds of American culture. I can only hope that this will help give me a greater insight into American literature and in turn, a better understanding of Sylvia Plath and her background and upbringing.
It was very important to me to visit the City Lights Bookshop when I reached San Francisco. I really think that Beat Poetry is some of the most beautiful, freeing, complicated and innovative writing out there. Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" has had a lasting impression on me and I really admire the ethos surrounding publishing that the Lawrence Ferlinghetti-founded shop advocates. In relation to Sylvia Plath, I feel that Sylvia was part of the pioneering movement that the Beat Poets stood for. Plath and other Confessional poets (such as Robert Lowell) broke the mould for poetic content, and indeed I feel Sylvia Plath modernised the way women in literature are read. The bookshop itself is situated in the Chinatown district of San Francisco which is wonderful culture-filled place in itself. The staff were so friendly and chatty; interested in where I was from, my reading interests. Where the Strand Bookstore has a novel or biography or collection of poems for all tastes, the City Lights could be described as for a more specific taste in literature. My favourite part of the whole shop was the staircase to the upper room where all the original beat poets used to have their poetry readings together. I had to take a moment in staring up that staircase, thinking of the literary greats who too had stood where I was standing. It was a powerful experience.
Once up in that top room, the shelves were stacked with volumes of great literature. Everything from Denise Levertov to Marcel Proust! Just as I was about to leave the bookshop, after three or four hours of perusing, I noticed a postcard stand. San Francisco was my last stop on my trip so I really had about €10 left to my name at that stage. But when I went over to the postcard stand, I saw a familiar face smiling out at me... Sylvia Plath. So of course I bought the pretty little postcard and it's now placed on my dressing-table mirror, reminding me to work hard in this PhD and to do Sylvia proud!
Normal service will resume with the blog from this point on:)