Last May I mentioned on this blog that as literary agent I was developing a book project with an author client who would be writing an important new book on Sylvia Plath. I’m happy to announce that that proposed book is now under contract with a publisher, and the author and I very excited about the arrangement we’ve made. The book will be titled The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, and the author is prolific biographer Carl Rollyson. We’ve sold it to the University Press of Mississippi. In a concise narrative, Rollyson will chronicle the last four months of the poet’s life, drawing on hitherto unexamined sources, including the archive of Harriet Rosenstein, a controversial figure who in the 1970s undertook a biography of Plath that she never completed or published. Rollyson’s book will be an imperative study apt to re-shape the way readers view the end of the poet’s tragically abbreviated life. I posted an announcement of the deal earlier today at publishersmarket[dot]com (listing below). The manuscript will be delivered to the publisher in early 2019.
The Guardian’s Danuta Kean reports on a startling discovery of previously unknown poems by Sylvia Plath, found to have been typed on carbon paper in an old notebook that belonged to her. The timing of this may prove helpful for myself and an author client of my literary agency as I am currently submitting that writer’s nonfiction book proposal about Plath and Ted Hughes to publishers in the US and the UK. This comes on top of many other developments about Plath and Hughes revealed in the past few months that point to the baleful influence Hughes exerted on Plath in the last months of her life.
As an editor, I first became involved with the Plath-Hughes story when in 2007 I edited and published The Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival, and Ted Hughes’s Doomed Lover, which Publishers Weekly reviewed as “Assiduously researched, compulsively readable…an important book.”
I will post more about the new book in the weeks to come. You can read the article via this link, and I’ve pasted in a screenshot of the Guardian story’s opening paragraphs below.
Weekend Update: I’m glad to see that Andrew Sullivan’s site The Dish also eulogized Seamus Heaney in a post sharing the same video I posted below, with the reading of “Digging.” Author of the guest post, poetry editor Alice Quinn, has lovely things to say about Heaney’s affection for other poets–George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, etc.
#FridayReads, Aug. 30, Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist, his debut poetry collection published in 1966, a copy of which I bought at a reading he gave in New York in the late 1980s, and which I’m dipping in to tonight. Heaney was a warm and personable reader who embodied his poems with great solidity and clear voice. The news of his death at age 74 was announced earlier today, with eulogies and obituaries appearing in many publications, including the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Irish Times, and the Boston Globe, where I found the video I’ve posted below of Heaney reading his poem “Digging,” which I recall he read at the event almost 25 years ago.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.