Plath's Vibrant Zest for Life
In the latest story of the life of American poet Sylvia Plath, she speaks for herself through her newly transcribed journals in some of her "finest prose," according to one reviewer.
In April, 37 years after Plath's death, the British publisher Faber & Faber published the unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 19501962 in London. The first print run was 20,000 copies, and 16,000 had already been sold by its April 3 publication. The newest edition of Plath's journals was edited and annotated, at the request of the Hughes family, by Karen Kukil, associate curator of rare books in the Smith College Mortimer Rare Book Room.
The American paperback edition of the unabridged Journals is scheduled for release this coming November by Anchor Press, a division of Random House. (An earlier edition of selected Plath journals was published in 1982 but excluded certain controversial entries, which this unabridged edition does not.)
Taking a seven-month leave of absence from Smith to do the work, Kukil edited 933 pages from 23 journals, ranging from 1950, the year Plath entered Smith, until July 1962, the summer her marriage to Ted Hughes began to unravel. Kukil's library colleagues Susan Sanborn Barker and Barbara Blumenthal helped her to transcribe the journals.
Smith has owned some 4,000 pages of Plath's original documents, including her annotated books, journals and letters, since 1981, when they were purchased and given sanctuary on the third floor of the Neilson Library in the rare book room.
A May review in the Times Literary
Supplement said of Kukil's work: "(She) has edited the texts
meticulously, rectifying many errors of transcription, which
marred the abridged journals."
"This edition is as faithful as possible to the original manuscripts at Smith College," Kukil says. "Nothing has been omitted. As an editor, I did not tidy up Plath's words or make her behave. She is a real human being, as feisty and fresh and alive to the reader in the published journals as she is when one has the luxury to read her original manuscripts."
Kukil was a natural choice for the editor's role. For the past nine years, she has supervised the scholarly use of the Plath and Virginia Woolf collections in the Mortimer Rare Book Room.
When Kukil talks about Sylvia Plath, as she has been doing since the April publication of Journals-including an address to the English PEN (an international organization of writers) at the Café Royal in Piccadilly Circus, London-she does so with respect and admiration. "By giving the world direct access to her exact words, a reassessment of Plath will undoubtedly take place," Kukil predicts. "We all know about her zest for death. She committed suicide at the age of 30 in 1963, and there are many poignant allusions to death in her poetry and prose. But I believe the unabridged journals, more than the selected journals published in 1982, also reveal her love of clothes and fine foods -- her vibrant zest for life."
is published by the Smith College Office of College Relations
for alumnae, staff, students and friends.
Copyright © 2000, Smith College. Portions of this publication may be reproduced with the permission of the Office
of College Relations, Garrison Hall, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts 01063. Last update: 9/27/2000.
Made with Macintosh