Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes: Introduction Post

Welcome to the first post of my Sylvia Plath/Ted Hughes Reading Exploration. I wasn't really sure what to title this series of postings, but then I got to thinking about what exactly I mean to do with this read-along. I am trying to explore the differences and similarities in Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath's poems. Both masters of their craft in their own right, Plath and Hughes were drawn together by their poetry, and have one of the most famous real-life relationships in all of American Literature. Like most authors and poets, they are volatile, emotional, and occasionally full of despair and depression. For those of my readers who are not here because of Ms. Elizabeth Daumer, check out this interview with the famous duo. It really gets to the heart of who they are as a couple. At least while they were still happily in love and married.

 When it comes to my knowledge regarding Sylvia Plath, there really couldn't be another poet that I know less about. I literally knew two things about her when approaching her for the first time: She committed suicide, and she wrote some poems once. I'm excited for this deeper exploration of who she was as a person. From the outside looking in, it's always easy to judge, or to write someone off as "that crazy lady who wrote Daddy and The Bell Jar". I'm excited to get to know my own interpretation of Sylvia Plath as an author, as a poet, and as a person.  You are welcome to join me on the journey. I will be spending the next Ten weeks or so looking at her different poems, as well as the poetry and life of Ted Hughes.

Here are the different books I am reading and what I'm going to be looking at and when. Feel free to read along if you like, I will already have at least three fellow explorers on the journey to find out who Plath and Hughes were. It's a kind of book-group, if you will, only online and can be shared with anyone. I know if it's a lot. Feel free to chime in when you feel like it, and stay quiet when you don't. I know some people who love the Bell Jar, but hate Sylvia's poetry. While this post may seem focused on Sylvia, I am doing a comparison of both Plath and Hughes, and will be alternating by reading one and the other every week.

Sylvia Plath.
1.      The Collected Poems. New York: HarperPerennial, 1992. CP
2.      Ariel: The Restored Edition.  New York: HarperPerennial, 2004. Ariel
3.      The Bell Jar

Ted Hughes.
1.      Selected Poems 1957-1994.  New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995. SP
2.      Birthday Letters. New York: Farrar, Straus and Girous, 1998. 

Tentative Dates and Schedule of Planned Readings: 
   The Sources of Creativity:
Plath’s early poetry, collected as “Juvenilia” 
 “Aquatic Indigo”; “Family Reunion”; “Female Author”; “To Eva Descending the Stair”; “Cinderella”; “Bluebeard”; “Prologue to Spring”; “April Aubade”
 “Ocean 1212-W”

 Hughes’s Hawk in the Rain (SP 3-21)
Study: “The Thought Fox”; “The Jaguar”; “Song”; “Famous Poet”; “The Horses”; “Relic” (SP); “Hawk in the Rain” (EC); “Wodwo”
Hughes, “Fantastic Happenings and Gory Adventures” and “Capturing Animals” (EC)

Plath’s poetry (CP 21-58)
Study: Plath, “Pursuit”; “Winter Landscape, with Rocks”;  “Spider”; “Sow”; “The Goring”; “Black Rook in Rainey Weather” (CP)\

Fears, Dreams, Desires:
Hughes’s Lupercal and Wodwo (SP 23-87)
Study: Hughes, “Song”; “Fallgrief’s Girlfriend”; “To Paint a Water Lily”; “Pike”; “Thrushes”; “Meeting”; re-read “The Thought Fox” and “Wodwo”
“The Burnt Fox” (EC)
“The Poetry of Violence” (EC)

Plath’s poetry (CP 58-176)
Study: Plath, “Ode for Ted”; “The Disquieting Muses”; “Night Shift”; “On the Decline of Oracles”; “Two Sisters of Persephone”; “ The Lady and the Earthenware Head”; “Poem for a Birthday”; “The Hanging Man”; “Tulips”; “Insomniac”; “The Moon and the Yew Tree”; “Little Fugue”
“Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams”

Study: “The Colossus” (CP)
Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (EC)
Gubar, “The Blank Page the Issues of Female Creativity” (EC)
Woolf, “Professions for Women”

Study: Plath, “Epitaph for Fire and Flower”; “Wreath for a Bridal”; “Alicante Lullaby”; “Ouija”; “The Other”; “Words heard, by accident”; “Burning the Letters” (CP)
“Day of Success”; “The Wishing Box” (EC)
Hughes, “A Pink Wool Knitted Dress”; “Your Paris”; “You Hated Spain”; “Ouija”; “The Literary Life”; “The Table” (BL)
Recommended: Vera John-Steiner, “Felt Knowledge: Emotional Dynamics of Collaboration” (EC)

 Plath, “Metaphors”; “You’re”; “Morning Song” (CP)
Hughes, “Full Moon and Little Frieda” (SP); “Lines to a New Born Baby” (EC)
Hughes, “Isis” (BL 111)
Recommended: Diane Middleton, “The Poetry of Plath: Call and Response” (EC)

Compare: Plath, “Soliloquy for the Solipsist” (CP) with Hughes, “Hawk Roosting” (SP);
Hughes, “To Paint a Waterlily” and “Pike” (CP) with Plath, “Full Fathom Five” and “Elm” (CP):
Recommended: Heather Clark, “Affinities and Assimilations” (EC)

The Bell Jar 

Plath, Ariel Poems 
Frieda Hughes, “Introduction to Ariel”

Plath, Ariel
Jacqueline Rose, “Daddy” 

Hughes, Crow (SP)
“Crow on the Beach” (EC)

Hughes, Crow (SP) 
Heather Clark, “Crow and Counter-revision

Hughes, Birthday Letters

For those of you willing to comment. What do you know about Sylvia Plath? Do you have any preconceived thoughts or ideas about who she was? Do you know anything about her at all? What about Ted Hughes?

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