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IU Northwest English professor William Buckley publishes Volume Three of Plath Profiles

The online journal, dedicated to poetess Sylvia Plath, contains essays, poems and artwork from scholars, students and devotees from around the world


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Emily Banas
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Plath Profiles

Sylvia Plath Blog

The legacy of American poetess Sylvia Plath lives on at Indiana University Northwest nearly half a century after her death.

Professor of English William Buckley, Ph.D., has long been intrigued by the worldwide appeal of Plath, whose work has been translated into more than 30 languages. In August 2008, Buckley created the first-ever online journal dedicated to the scholarly examinations and personal reflections related to Plath’s work.

Plath Profiles has received international notice, and in August 2010 the third volume of the online journal was published.

“The online journal has received thousands of visitors from around the world,” Buckley said. “And even from some countries you wouldn’t expect like China, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates.”

Plath, who also wrote a lone novel, The Bell Jar, received the Pulitzer Prize posthumously. But her struggles with mental illness, her tumultuous marriage to British poet Ted Hughes, and the sorrowful details of her death have become as much a part of Plath’s cultural legacy as her writings.

Buckley said Plath’s words still resonate with readers around the world. In particular, Plath’s poem regarding her father has struck a chord with generations of women, he said.

“It’s all because of that book Ariel, and especially her two poems, Daddy and Lady Lazarus,” Buckley said. “That book appeals to so many people.”

Volume Three

Each fall, Buckley opens the door to Plath devotees for a chance to have their work featured in the next volume of Plath Profiles.

Buckley said he was not necessarily surprised, but did feel honored, when he receives essays, poems, translations, and artwork from people spanning the globe.

“Volume Three includes submissions from individuals from throughout the United States, Brazil, Canada, China, Cyprus, England, India, and Romania,” he said.

Buckley works to make each volume of Plath Profiles unique and believes this latest collection of work is the most original to date.

“I asked if Kate Moses, a famous novelist who based her first book on Sylvia Plath, would be willing to develop an essay for Volume Three,” Buckley said. “What she sent to me was an essay she entitled, Baking for Sylvia. Plath loved to cook, and so does Kate Moses, so the essay is about her relationship between baking and writing and in the context of Sylvia Plath.”

Another special feature is a memoir by Gail Crowther and Elizabeth Sigmund, entitled, A Poem, A Friend. Buckley explained that Sigmund was one of Plath’s closest friends in the last year of her life. In the essay, Sigmund and Crowther engage in a conversation about Plath.

“The paper explores Sigmund’s conscious and unconscious relationship with Plath and includes a discussion of Sigmund’s poem Shep-en-mut,” Buckley said. “This submission was a real coup for Plath Profiles.”

Something new to Volume Three is a special section in which three essays focus on Plath’s novel The Bell Jar. One of the essays is from Steven Axelrod, an English professor from the University of California, Riverside. In this section, Buckley paired Axelrod’s essay, where he argues that Plath’s positive conclusions are elusive given the deep alienation that the novel reveals, with two essays from a community college teacher, Andru Lugo, and a recent college graduate, Stephanie Tsank.

Volume Three also includes translations of several of Plath’s more famous poems into Hindi, Macedonian and Portuguese, as well as artwork from Buckley and a Chicago-based artist, Izzy Oneiric.

Volume Four

Submissions for Volume Four have already started to arrive. Buckley recently received a memoir from a professor originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who currently teaches at Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland.

The submission recounts the professor’s memories of growing up in Belfast in the 1960s and reading Plath when the IRA was rebelling against the British Empire.

Buckley encourages all who have an interest in Plath to submit their work for consideration to be included in Plath Profiles.  He is particularly interested in submissions from high school students.

The Volume Four submission deadline is April 2011. To view the submission guidelines, please visit http://www.iun.edu/~plath/subguide/.

Special Supplement

Plath Profiles will publish a special supplement to Volume Three on Oct. 27, the 78th anniversary of Plath’s birthdate. According to Peter Steinberg, Webmaster for Plath Profiles, the special supplement also is intended to recognize the 10th anniversary of the publication The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath.

Steinberg said that contributors to the special supplement were asked to write on any aspect of The Unabridged Journals, and each essay continues the Plath Profiles mission to present smart, original, interesting, and provocative work honoring Plath.

The supplement will be published on the Plath Profiles Web site. Steinberg, a Plath expert, also is the creator of a blog dedicated to the life and work of Plath.

To view all three volumes of Plath Profiles, visit http://www.iun.edu/~plath/.

To view Steinberg’s blog dedicated to the life and work of Plath, go to http://www.sylviaplath.info/.