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Sylvia Plath’s ‘Sheep in Fog’ Drafts to Be Sold

By Harriet Staff

5-6-13_Plath

In the latest Sylvia Plath news, ArtDaily reports that the complete working papers for Plath’s “Sheep in Fog” poem are to be sold on May 8th for a sum between £30,000-35,000. That is certainly a lot of weight for a single draft, but as the article reports, the drafts “provide a vivid and detailed insight into the fragility of the poet’s mind in the days leading up to her suicide on 11 February 1963 at the age of just 30. The precise dating of every handwritten change, as Plath’s increasing fragility overwhelmed her, makes these papers, arguably, the most revealing and important set of poetic drafts ever.” The article goes on give details of the poem’s composition and Plath’s drafting process:

Sylvia Plath completed the first draft of Sheep in Fog in December 1962 during a surge of inspiration which began in August of that year. As her husband Ted Hughes subsequently wrote in an essay on the work (all the drafts and final version of which amounting to 60 pages are also included in the sale, £4,500-5,000), the tone at that time was positive reflecting Plath’s own ‘positive resolution’. The final stanza in the 1962 version reads:

Patriarchs till now immobile
In heavenly wools
Row off as stones or clouds with the faces of babies

When Plath revised the poem on 28 January 1963, however, at the beginning of her final brief burst of creativity, the mood had darkened as the new ending shows:

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.

A dark turn indeed. Make the jump here to read the rest of the article, including the provenance of the drafts.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, May 6th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.