Ellie Russell from the British Library sent me a CD copy of Sylvia Plath: The Spoken Word a few weeks ago. I put it in my ipod and have been taking long beach walks listening to the poetry and interviews on the CD.
Although in previous entries I talked about my dislike for Sylvia Plath's reading voice, in actuality, this CD really gives a better feel for her voice. The reading of 'Parliament Hill Fields' and 'The Stones' particularly sound so luscious.
The collection of poems included on the CD range from work published in 'The Colossus' to 'Ariel', so it really covers a lot, and it definitely gives food for thought regarding the evolution of themes Plath focused on with her work. If we listen to 'Introduction to Stones', Plath talks about the speaker in the poem being re-born and becoming complete - topics that the 'Ariel' poems deal with repeatedly. I'm very interested in looking at themes and subjects that Plath held onto and revisited throughout her poetic lifetime, the ideas that "hooked" onto her, to use the Plathian phrase!
This CD is very much "of it's time" as well, with the following quote illustrating how few women actually imprinted on the literary circles of 1950s US/UK - so much so that this realisation didn't even impact upon the organiser until Plath was put on the bill!
"It's a pleasure to present a woman poet; we have such a predominantly masculine week here, a fact that really didnt strike me until the programming was complete. What that shows about my taste I don't know, but I'm very glad we have at any rate one very fine woman poet this evening, Miss Sylvia Plath".
A further sign of the times is apparent when Plath discusses poetic movements of the time - with reference particularly to Robert Lowell (recorded on 10th January, 1963). Lowell taught creative writing in Boston and Sylvia Plath (along with Anne Sexton) attended his courses. Lowell's poetry is considered to be one of the major examples of 'Confessional' style poetry, something which was very much en-vogue in Plath's time. He really was a brilliant poet (and a huge influence on Sylvia), one of my favourites; so I feel I must suggest my favourite poem of his, 'For the Union Dead'.
The Spoken Word CD is really great to listen to because of the 'placing' of Plath in her era and with her contemporaries (be they Lowell or indeed Hughes who joins Plath in an interview and records/introduces 'Pike'); and also by allowing us to listen to Sylvia read her work, the poems and Plath herself become alive.
To hear which words Plath accentuates, how fast she reads certain lines and the way her accent pronounces the vocabulary give additional layers of enjoyment and understanding to the work. The Spoken Word CD really is such a treat to listen to.
As well as that the inlay of CD features an Introduction by Peter Steinberg from Sylvia Plath Info so you know that there's an expert at the helm!;) If you do feel like purchasing this CD, Peter reminded me that there are some special discount codes - you can receive 10% off if you quote:
PLATH: Order through University of Chicago Press.
BLPLATHBLOG: Order through British Library.
The Spoken Word CD really is a great collection of some of Plath's best poems, as well as an insight into her life and even her humour. A casual Plath-fan would enjoy listening to this selection, so I would definitely recommend it:)