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Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) was one of the writers who defined the course of twentieth-century poetry. Her vivid, daring and complex poetry continues to captivate new generations of readers and writers.
In the Letters, we discover the art of Plath’s correspondence, most of which has never before been published and is here presented unabridged, without revision, so that she speaks directly in her own words. Refreshingly candid and offering intimate details of her personal life, Plath is playful, too, entertaining a wide range of addressees, including family, friends and professional contacts, with inimitable wit and verve. The letters document Plath’s extraordinary literary development: the genesis of many poems, short and long fiction, and journalism. Her endeavour to publish in a variety of genres had mixed receptions, but she was never dissuaded. Through acceptance of her work, and rejection, Plath strove to stay true to her creative vision. Well-read and curious, she offers a fascinating commentary on contemporary culture.
Leading Plath scholars Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, editor of The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950–1962, provide comprehensive footnotes and an extensive index informed by their meticulous research. Alongside a selection of photographs and Plath’s own line-drawings, the editors masterfully contextualise what the pages disclose.
This selection of early correspondence marks the key moments of Plath’s adolescence, including childhood hobbies and high school boyfriends; her successful but turbulent undergraduate years at Smith College; the move to England and Cambridge University; and her meeting and marrying Ted Hughes, including a trove of unseen letters post-honeymoon, revealing their extraordinary creative partnership.
Sylvia Plath was not only a great poet, she also forged some of the best prose of the 20th century … she wrote letters of extraordinary wit and vivacity. Their publication is a major literary event … Peter K Steinberg and Karen Kukil, the world’s two leading Plath scholars, have executed their task with devotion … Hitherto unpublished letters offer a wealth of detail explaining the origins of [Plath’s] poems.
The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, expertly edited by Karen V Kukil and Peter K Steinberg … offers a portrait of the artist as a young woman, in her own words. This collection is inspiring, humorous and varied, and challenges everything we thought we knew about Plath.
Expertly edited … these letters are by turns poignant, revelatory, banal, hilarious and self-absorbed, documenting as they do the changing moods, ambitions and intellectual and creative development of one of the 20th-century’s most celebrated poets … While Plath’s personality may resist definition, these letters serve as a step towards a greater understanding of one of our most compelling modern poets.
What resonates most is Plath’s energy, passion and vitality … reading her letters is a journey into the mind of a literary icon.
The publication of these complete letters offers more pieces in the puzzle of Plath’s life … what the reader comes away with is a renewed sense of Plath’s wonderfully powerful appetites, for literature, for love and, indeed, for food … And how hard she worked! That’s no secret but it is striking to see over the course of more than 1,000 pages … [Plath’s] life had so many facets - she called these letters “slices of myself” - but this aspect of her young life, her determination, is never less than inspiring for the reader privileged to see her correspondence so long after her death.
Part of the experience of reading these letters is to see Plath firmly in her own time … In her correspondence we find more of the writer she was without [Hughes], and the artist she could have been had she survived.
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