‘White Godiva, I unpeel’

Sylvia Plath’s Drama of Poetic Revisioning

Sally Bayley will explore the elaborate life on paper of poet Sylvia Plath. Working with archival manuscripts (from The Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College), Sally will draw participants into the dramatic redrafting process of Plath’s writing life. Beginning with the well known poem, ‘Lady Lazarus’ from her Ariel collection, Sally will move to the complex and multi-layered drafts of Plath’s 1962 summer poem, ‘Berck-Plage’.

Plath’ life on paper is one of call and response: with the work of her husband Ted Hughes and with a long literary tradition. ‘Berck-Plage’ is in direct conversation with the drafts of Ted Hughes’s lost play, ‘The Calm’, whose dramatic remnants survive only on the back of Plath’s manuscripts. The poem plays with several forms of monologue, film stills and photographs. Sally will encourage a response to Plath’s poem that draws from the form and language of photography, film stills and dramaturgy.

Over the course of this day-long workshop, Sally will work with Ted Hughes scholar, Jonathan Bate, and course-participants, to create a voice-piece that brings to life the buried layers of Plath’s several poetic personae.plath-in-blue-at-typewriter

This image is taken from The Girl Who Would be God (2007), an animation by film maker Suzie Hanna exploring the early creative life of Sylvia Plath.