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Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of the Visual [Hardcover]

Kathleen Connors , Sally Bayley
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 Oct 2007
Eye Rhymes brings to light a side of Sylvia Plath that is scarcely known: her serious involvement in the visual arts from a very early age. She moved between art-making and writing constantly, integrating their elements with ease and pleasure. As a child she considered a poem she had written or transcribed to be complete only when illustrated by a picture. As a young teen she recorded 'technicolor' dreams that told complete stories. Her diaries, letters, and school notebooks are full of doodles and self-portraits - all revealing important truths about her. Until her junior year at Smith College, she considered her two favorite disciplines as offering equally promising choices. It was only at the age of 20 that she decided to leave fine art behind her as her chosen career, and opt for the written word. Eye Rhymes presents a magnificent range of Plath's art, most of it seen in print for the first time: childhood sketches, illustrated diaries, portraits, rich modernist and expressionist paintings, fashion images, photographs, and more. The book offers a myriad of new insights into Plath's creative energy, revealing unexpected themes and ideas that first saw light in visual form, to be re-born later in her greatest poetry. Drawing on the large collections of Indiana University's Lilly Library and Smith College's Mortimer Rare Book Room, it presents an in-depth examination of Sylvia Plath's visual art and literary studies, and their uses in her writing career. Kathleen Connors's illuminating account of Plath as artist and writer opens a rich seam of ideas developed further by distinguished Plath scholars Sally Bayley, Christina Britzolakis, Susan Gubar, Langdon Hammer, Fan Jinghua, and Diane Middlebrook. The writers contextualize approximately sixty of Plath's works within her writing oeuvre, starting with juvenilia that reveal the extensive play between her two disciplines. The book gives special attention to Plath's unpublished teen diaries and book reports, which contain drawings and early textual experiments, created years before her famous 'I am I' diary notes of age seventeen, when critical examination of her writing usually begins. The contributors offer new critical approaches to the artist's multidimensional oeuvre, including writing that appropriates sophisticated visual and colour effects years after painting and drawing became her hobby and writing her chosen profession. Essayists demonstrate Plath's visual art interests as they relate to her early identity as a writer in Cambridge, her teen artwork and writing on war, her mid-career 'art poems' on the works of Giorgio de Chirico, her representations of womanhood within mid-century commercial culture, and her visual aesthetics in poetry. Eye Rhymes offers exciting new material on the life and work of Sylvia Plath, designed for the general public as well as Plath specialists, on the 75th anniversary of her birth in 1932.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (15 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019923387X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199233878
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 18.9 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 380,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


These images are fascinating resources for a biographer, or anyone interested in the development of Sylvia Plath's drive. (Literary Review)

[A] superb illustrated work, which includes fresh perspectives on Plath's creative energy and a rich collection of paintings and drawings which have never been published before (Oxford Times)

a lavish OUP volume. (The Spectator)

A visual feast for the readers' senses. (Mslexia)

About the Author

Kathleen Connors served as director and curator for "The Arts of Sylvia Plath" project at Indiana University in 2002, featuring a literary symposium, an exhibition of Plath's art and manuscripts and a 70th year birthday commemoration. With Sally Bayley of Oxford, she is co-director of the Sylvia Plath 75th Year Symposium at Oxford in October 2007.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sylvia Plath - another view 9 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
We know Sylvia Plath the poet, Sylvia Plath, the wife of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, the suicidal wife, mother, poet and troubled teenager. Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley (editors) in their heavyweight text worked hard to create the person, not just the stereotypical myth many know. (It is heavyweight both in terms of its research and the fact that the hardcover is printed on high quality paper and is physically impressively heavy!)
Apart from quoting and adding to the scholarly interpretations of her poetry, they build a picture of the all-round nature of Plath's creative life as an artist (sketcher and painter), actress, editor and as someone generally interested in the arts, e,g. page 53 has a picture of Plath the actress, between pages 180-181, there is a collection of her paintings and collages showing the range of her interests and talents and, between pages 52-53, a selection ranging from the her 1947 illustrated diary, the moving street scene in tempera (1948) and the clip-on, cut-out dresses for "Stella", the blonde cut-out doll.
Their writing and investigations probe into the troubled life of Plath trying to explain how this young person - so "normal" in many ways but so wonderfully and exceptionally talented in others - developed into the woman she did and why her life with Ted Hughes ended so tragically with the poignant and moving scene of her meticulously arranged and planned suicide.
For students of Plath (and Hughes?) an essential book.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley have edited a book of Sylvia Plath's Art Work: `Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art of The Visual' OUP ISBN 978-0-19-923387-8. The Book is out now.

Significant, challenging, interesting, yet in some way you know you don't quite see her properly. Sylvia Plath has been written as a poet who died for her art, like a soldier fallen in battle or some limbless Venus, always perfectly and partially formed in our imagination. This book reconnects Plath with her gift, but what is fascinating, is the connection with how the drawing and painting informed a poetry that in itself, can now be seen as conceptual art.

Because she was unidentified as an artist means that much has been written blindly about the art of her poetry, the obsessive way she charted and detailed each domestic life event. That each poem was itself a conscious substitute, a smoothing over, a calming, of her inability to sufficiently defamiliarise yet familiarise the space she inhabited to produce deeper, satisfying work where she could find a sense of authority and autonomy.

Art is work.

Poetry was a substitution for art. She tried to make the poems more than poetry, playing with words and images, but you get the feeling that there was little space for the kind of acknowledgement of the importance of the work and the working space local to artists that we take for granted in most cities today, for example.

Today artists and writers still complain about the pressures on them to relocate to London, yet they really do have rich, portable, `localising' networks wherever they are, now, where they can have an identity as an artist yet be part of what's happening in their neighbourhood, without having to cross the world to collect experience and credibility.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sylvia Plath's art 25 Jan 2008
By Peter K. Steinberg - Published on Amazon.com
Sylvia Plath is in the midst of a renaissance. Since the publication of her Unabridged Journals in 2000, hardly a week goes by without her name appearing in the news, and the publication of a succession of books continues to re-evaluate the poets status in the literary world. Although Plath proved to be one of the most contentious, interesting, and passionate writers of the 20th century, the 21st has been much kinder. The books about Plath published in the last seven years each attempt and succeed to change the way we read her works, examine archival material to enrich our readings, and call our attention to lesser-known poems, stories, and other creative products. This is most evident in Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Visual of the Art edited by Kathleen Connors and Sally Bayley.

In addition to six wonderful essays by leading scholars, Eye Rhymes publishes for the first time more than 70 art works by Plath. The earliest dates from when she was just seven years old, and the latest is her Cold War collage, perhaps the most familiar and talked about piece she created. The book marries the artwork and Plath's creative writing, illustrating a one-to-one translation between the two types of creativity; what Susan Gubar in her Afterword calls the "sister arts" of Sylvia Plath.

The essays draw heavily off the Sylvia Plath Materials held at the Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington. It is evident, however, that The Sylvia Plath Collection at the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College was used extensively as well. Plath's artwork informs and inspires each essayist; and it is Plath's writing, either contemporary to the artwork or her later, more mature writing, that allows for a clear, steady progression of Plath's talent. Often times, the essays show a kind of conversation taking place between ideas and themes present in Plath's art that resurface either immediately or much later in her poetry and prose. In a way then , Plath is talking back to herself, in addition to talking back to Ted Hughes by writing on the verso his compositions. Eye Rhymes, then, "follows the entire trajectory of Plath's creative genius, from her first signs of artistry on the seashores of New England, to the final culmination of her craft as a poet, essayist, and novelist..." (1). What the essays make perfectly clear that from early childhood straight through to her death, Plath continually worked creatively and that her adolescent and young adult interest in art translates and manifests itself in her best writing. The aim of the book is to "shed new light on Sylvia Plath as artist, critic, and intellectual, and the creative processes she employed throughout her life" (3).

As I state in my own biography of Plath, her pre-Smith years (1932-1950) are overlooked most often by scholars and researchers. Her published journals and letters both select her Freshman year at college as their starting point. Her Collected Poems start even later, in 1956. However, it is the formative, pre-college years that gave birth to this poet and, in the end, are responsible for The Bell Jar and the Ariel poems for which she is most famous. All the tools and values Plath needed to succeed as a writer came from this period, and it is a shame that it is so frequently neglected. No longer, as any reader of Eye Rhymes will develop a new appreciation for Plath the precocious child, Plath the driven adolescent, and Plath the talented artist. Eye Rhymes is a monumental contribution to Plath scholarship.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Rhymes: Sylvia Plath's Art 30 Sep 2008
By M. szymanski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is both a revelation and a must-have for fans of Sylvia Plath's creativity. The illustrations in this book, beautiful art well-laid out,
show the breadth of Plath's creativity. I've been a long-time reader of Plath, and didn't know how much art-work she did in her life. The book is worth the price, and very well-done.
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