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Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) was one of the writers who defined the course of twentieth-century poetry. In the Letters, we discover the art of Plath’s correspondence. Most has never before been published, and it is here presented unabridged, without revision, so that she speaks directly in her own words.
The letters document Plath’s extraordinary literary development: the genesis of many poems, short and long fiction, and journalism. 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 drawings, they masterfully contextualise what the pages disclose.
This later correspondence witnesses Plath and Hughes becoming major, influential contemporary writers, as it happened. Experiences recorded include first books and other publications; teaching; committing to writing full-time; travels; making professional acquaintances; settling in England; starting a family; and buying a house. Throughout, Plath’s voice is completely, uniquely her own.
‘We should rejoice that Plath’s Letters are now published in full … Plath’s energy and vivacity shine through ... The dynamite in this collection is a recently discovered batch of letters from Plath to her psychiatrist in which she charts her feelings of betrayal with astonishing candour.’
‘[Plath’s late letters] are astonishing in themselves, terrible in their intensity and as raw as freshly sliced meat. As a real-life depiction of a mind in agony they are, as far as I know, unmatched in literature.’
‘A tour de force … Plath’s epistolary style, as the editors suggest, is “as vivid, powerful, and complex as her poetry, prose and journal writing”. Her energy even when she is doing or observing the most ordinary things vaults off the page.’
‘“The doors are open,” [Plath] writes in the spring of 1957. “One only has to slave & work & live for the art of writing as well as living with the utmost integrity & emotional sympathy.” That is always how Plath endeavoured to live; this final volume of her letters offers further proof of that. How vital she was, how hungry for love and life and art. And – it should hardly need saying – what an artist.’
‘A project handled with thorough sensitivity by its editors [whose] chief concern is to illuminate Plath’s exuberant commitment to her writing life … What is most striking in this long run of letters is Plath’s sure commitment to friendship, coupled with a barve resilience in the face of recurring bouts of illness.’
‘Such was the impact of [Plath’s] exploration of both inner and outer landscapes in staggeringly intense, brutal and lyrical language that her loss to the literary world has been mourned ever since … Despite the thousands of words written about Plath since her death, it is never not shocking to read about those final days.’
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