Anything and everything fascinates me when it comes to Sylvia Plath. So when I saw this CD, I just had to get it! Feels as if she's really in the room with you upon hearing her voice. Gone but never forgotten!
Product details and other reviews list the poems and other readings in this selection, so I will not repeat them here. Suffice to say it is an invaluable and rare opportunity to hear Sylvia Plath reading her own work, or discussing its genesis. Many poets do not read their own (or others') work well. Not so Plath. Considering the mythology surrounding her life and early death, this is a must for all her readers, a chance to listen to the voice so early stilled and hear the words spoken with the expression the poet wanted. It does not contain all the poems she wrote and misses out some of her her best, but it is worth the small investment for the general reader and an essential purchase for students of her work..
While not including readings of her more well known works - no 'Daddy' or 'Lady Lazarus' for example - this collection of BBC recordings does provide an opportunity to hear the poet's voice not just in literal terms but in the sense of gaining an insight into the person behind the words and, perhaps more usefully, to place her works into the context of the time. It is when we hear Plath being introduced as "Mrs. Ted Hughes" that the reality of someone struggling against the confines of being perceived as a 'woman writer' that we get some idea of where her anger and frustration came from. This recording doesn't provide a great insight into Plath's personal demons or what drove her to her creative peak, but it would be useful for anyone wishing to get a better understanding of Plath's works within their social context.
This BBC recording os Sylvia Plath's poetry is very clear and pleasant to hear. It is 73 minutes in duration. Included are two interviews, one with her at-the-time husband Ted Hughes and the second with Sylvia answering the question why she stayed in England. At the end of the recording Plath comments on trends in modern American poetry, including quotes from the work of 6 poets, including Robert Bly and James Merrill--and these are quite brilliant analyses. This was an unexpected bonus! Also, I count 12 individual poems, with individual introductions by Ms. Plath to 8 of them.
Some poets, in my mind, are not as good at reading their poetry as they are in writing it. Consequently, at times I have preferred readings of some works by actors, instead of their poets. This is not the case with Ms. Plath. She reads beautifully and makes her own words, as well as the poetry of others, more easily comprehensible. Her style reminds me, some, of the way Dylan Thomas read his poetry, assertively, powerfully and with little held back.
This recording is among my treasured poetry possessions, for sure. Highly recommended.
It's been a long time coming. For British audiences, there have been three key audio releases concerning the US poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) up to now: Sylvia Plath Reads (1977/1992), The Poet Speaks (1982/1995), and The Voice of the Poet (1999). But this new CD is special: it contains a previously unreleased live recording of Plath reading a poem in a London theatre, providing listeners with the chance to experience the poet with new, tantalising immediacy. All of her other known poetry recordings occurred in radio studios (usually at the BBC or the British Council). But here, she is introduced by a male host to a live audience and loud applause. She was a relatively unknown poet at the time, more famous as the wife of British poet Ted Hughes than as a writer in her own right.
The Spoken Word CD also contains a 20-minute interview with Plath and Hughes, in which they talk about where they were born, how they met, the differences and similarities between their writing styles, and their placidly domestic life in north London. In contrast to the dark myth that rose about her following her suicide in 1963 aged 30 and which rapidly spread as more and more poems - partly of an unforgiving, terrifying nature, but which also showed sharp wit and humour - came to light, Plath sounds relaxed, chatty and open. In another recording included here, What Made You Stay, Plath is interviewed alone and really comes into her own (it was conducted a month before her marriage collapsed in the wake of Hughes's affair with Assia Wevill). She talks wittily of her first impressions of England, being offered the choice of a hot water bottle or a cat before she went to bed, and her wonder at seeing real dead pigs and slabs of meat at the local butchers instead of neatly cellophaned chops filling the shelves of the supermarkets she knew from her childhood in Massachusetts.
The recordings, which are presented chronologically, took place in the last two and a half years of her life between October 1960 and January 1963. Alongside these interviews and the live theatre recording, Plath reads nine of her poems, mostly from the 'earlier' period of her writing career. Peter K Steinberg, author of the blog Sylvia Plath Info, provides a 6-page introduction in the booklet. The CD ends on what was probably the last audio recording that Plath made: a mere 32 days before her suicide (the influenza that deepened her difficulties and sense of hopelessness towards the end can be heard), the poet discusses and reads extracts from a new anthology of American verse. This is unmissable, essential listening. (5 stars)
Track listing (the speaker is Plath unless noted otherwise):
1. a) Leaving Early b) Candles 2. Two of a Kind a) Radio interview with Plath and Ted Hughes, 18.01.1961 b) Mushrooms (+ introduction) c) Pike (read + introduced by Ted Hughes) 3. a) The Disquieting Muses (+ introduction) b) Spinster (+ introduction) c) Parliament Hill Fields (+ introduction) d) The Stones (+ introduction) 4. Live poetry reading at the Mermaid Theatre, London, 17.07.1961 a) Plath introduced by unknown male moderator b) Tulips (+ introducton) 5. The Surgeon at 2 a.m. (+ introduction) 6. What Made You Stay? Recorded interview with Plath on why she chose to live and work in the UK 14.04.1962 7. Berck-Plage 8. Plath reviews a recent anthology entitled Contemporary American Poetry, 10.01.1963