Thursday, 10 February 2011

Audio Books and Poems

I have been a bad blogger for the past week and a bit! Apologies for the lack of updates! My time has been spent arranging insane deadlines with my supervisor (first chapter draft due March 1st - eek!) and finishing off reading some interesting books. I aim for my next post to be a review of 'The Other Sylvia Plath', by Tracy Brain. Other than that, I went to a Woodstock Revival night over the weekend for my friend's birthday which was really enjoyable. The weather has changed into a much milder climate and now that the evenings are getting a bit longer, there's a real sense of optimism in the air, I think!:)

I received an email the other day from Ellie Russell at the British Library - it was such an honour to have someone from that fine institution email me. I hope to get the chance to peruse the Hughes archives at the BL in the near future. Ellie drew my attention to the 'Sylvia Plath: The Spoken Word' audio set, which includes Sylvia reading some of her own poems, and an interview between her and Ted Hughes. You can view more information and have the opportunity to purchase this product by clicking here.

I have not had the pleasure of listening to this cd yet, but I have heard Sylvia read her poems a lot: free cd's from The Guardian and youtube videos have been my source. To be quite honest I am not especially fond of Sylvia's speaking voice. The first time I heard it I thought she seemed quite haughty and my opinion hasn't been much changed since! Sorry Syl! For those of you who have not heard Plath read, here's a clip of her reading 'Daddy'. Let me know what you think of her voice!

However, I do think recordings like this are extremely important in the study of Sylvia Plath. One of the key elements Plath herself noted of her changing poetic style was the fact that she felt her poems needed to be read aloud. Plath commented that with her poems in 'The Colossus', she was more concerned about how they looked on the page. But with 'Ariel', it was different. I believe she was talking more about the poems written after her move from Devon to London here. Poems like 'Edge', 'The Munich Mannequins' and the "dolorous bells" of 'Sheep in Fog' sound so beautiful when spoken aloud. However no-one can deny the effectiveness of the nursery-rhyme chantings that resonate through 'Daddy' also.

While on the topic of audiobooks, I want to recommend what I think is possibly the coolest audiobook around (maybe excepting Stephen Fry and the 'Harry Potter' books). One of the best indie-film actresses around, Parker Posey narrated Betty Friedan's 'The Feminine Mystique' a few years ago and it really is such a pleasure to listen to. Posey has perfect diction and illuminates the text. It's available on iTunes as well and although a little expensive, I think it's a must-have for anyone who enjoys audiobooks!

To me, 'The Feminine Mystique' is one of the most important books ever written for women. The first time I read it, I felt as though a lot of what Friedan spoke about still had relevance in my own life. It's one of those books that change how you view yourself, your parents and your society as a whole. And the fact that Parker Posey, one of the best (and most underrated) acting talents around narrated it, only adds to how great an audiobook this is! :)


MamaBlanks said...

Interesting post! I know what you mean about Plath's voice. I was taken aback when I first heard her speak--I'm American and have spent some time in Massachusetts, but never in my life have I met anyone with her accent. It doesn't sound natural to me at all, although in interviews she tones down her enunciations and is a bit easier to listen to.

I saw a clip of her daughter on youtube & her voice is very similar.

The Plath Diaries said...

@ - MamaBlanks
Thanks so much! I'm glad you think her voice is a little stange too! It must have been the time she spent in England. I know when I'm in the States I lapse into a faux American accent sometimes - perhaps it was the same with Sylvia!

Anonymous said...

I like her voice It sounds like a educated, correct type of person from her time and place. Maybe not a voice you hear everyday.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Some of Plath's readings are amazing, some leave me wanting. I was fortunate enough to work with the British Library on their Spoken Word Plath CD (wrote the intro to it), so I feel protective or biased I guess about the publication. If you order via my blog or website (links on the main pages), you can save 10%...I make nothing, so please don't think my mentioning this is financially (or otherwise) self-serving!

Just as her written authorial comments on poems like "Daddy," "Letter in November," and "Ariel" summarize her take on her poetry, I feel Plath's recordings do - more than anything - instruct on how the poems ought to be heard, how she in fact listened to them, and therefore offer deep insight on how they can be read. Wheat I find particularly amazing is how you can hear her breathing. So we have the sound of her voice and the sound of her breath - along with in the BL CD, the dexterous sound of paper shuffling - long after her breath ceased.


The Plath Diaries said...

@ Peter - Thanks for the heads-up Peter! The BL are going to send me out a copy of the CD for review so I will be sure to recommend your offer when I post about it! :)

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