Archives for posts with tag: Sylvia Plath

Just back from The 2016 York National Book Fair which was held at the city’s racecourse. It’s the largest out of print and antiquarian book fair in the UK with dealers from around Britain, Europe and North America exhibiting their stock.

I picked up an impressive catalogue produced by one of the American dealers and it fell open at a double page devoted to an association copy of The King’s Henchman by Edna St Vincent Millay. The association? Why the book originally belonged to Aurelia Schober who late married Otto Plath and gave birth to daughter Sylvia. Yes, that Sylvia.

The book bears both Aurelia and Sylvia’s names, Sylvia’s “ex-libris” book plate and annotations by Aurelia after her daughter’s death. The bookseller’s catalogue description is well-written and the book’s price tag nudges close to ten thousand dollars.


Sylvia Plath has left an emotional as well as a literary legacy and as a result any book, letter or manuscript is seen as desirable by collectors. I’d argue that Aurelia helped to generate the market in her daughter’s work by editing and publishing Sylvia’s letters to her back in the 1970s.

Plath was an early influence on my work and I treasure a pristine first edition copy of Ariel I was given by the late great bookseller Nigel Williams when I worked for him in his central London bookshop back in the mid 1990s.

The young Sylvia longed for recognition as a writer and in the early days of her relationship with Ted Hughes, she described them as working together as a creative team. She wrote to her mother from Cambridge in 1956:

” We want to work and work. Success will never spoil either of us. We are not dependent on the social arty world but scorn it, for those who are drinking and calling themselves ‘writers’ at parties should be home writing and writing. Every day one has to earn the name of ‘writer’ over and over again with much wrestling…”

These 60 year old words are true and I have them typed and displayed in my office. I know the meaning of “much wrestling” and that is why I offer monthly creative writing workshops and one to one mentoring. I want to help folk with their creative wrestling.  I hope this is another example of Plath’s legacy



I run Poetry with Friends and creative writing workshops via Happy Planet Creative Arts which operates out of Boo Boo and Ted, 264 Whitley Road, Whitley Bay, NE26 2TG.

Poetry with Friends sessions continue to enthrall and inspire thanks to the choice of poems and the conversations in between the poems. Recent sessions at both Boo Boo and Ted on Tuesday evenings and Thursday mornings at Whitley Bay library have instigated debate on The Budget, coughs and colds, “people of a certain age”, poetic inspiration, education, astrology, EU referendum, terrorism and equality.


In between these topics we’ve shared poems by poets including Emily Dickinson, Colette Bryce, Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath, W.B Yeats, John Betjeman, John Keats, Jackie Kay, William Wordsworth, Gerard Manley Hopkins and numerous poems by at least six members of the Poetry with Friends gang. One of them, Alan continues to amaze us by writing there and then. On the night!


Poetry with Friends returns in April. The first Thursday morning one is April 14th and the first Tuesday evening is April 19th.




Last Tuesday Poetry with Friends at The Mission transferred to The Station Masters’ Community Wildlife Garden next to Whitley Bay Metro Station. It was the first of four visits by Happy Planet’s Poetry with Friends groups to the garden as it celebrates its own Year of Art in 2015.

The weather was a worry but thankfully the rain held off. As the night set in we needed blankets and cups of sweet tea to keep us warm but…it was worth it. Great poems and wonderful conversation.

Attendees brought their favourite poems including work by Dorothy Parker, D.H. Lawrence, Shakespeare, Gavin Ewart and Lewis Carroll plus self-penned work by Linda, Elizabeth and Ken.

station master

I took my usual pile of books but read from only one: Limehaven by Vicky Arthurs. This is my current favourite poetry book. I can’t quote from Vicky’s introduction as I’ve lent my copy to Elizabeth. The collection is marvellous. It’s a tribute to Vicky’s grandparents and is full of well-written, heart-felt beautiful poems. I love it and that’s why I chose so many poems from it. Check out Vicky’s website


Oh yes and it was Bloomsday the 16th June and the annual celebration of James Joyce and his book, Ulysses. Last Tuesday was also the 59th wedding anniversary of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath who were married in St George the Martyr Church in Holborn on Bloomsday. I always think of them as I walk past the church on my regular visits to the capital.

st georges

Poetry with Friends returns to the Station Master’s Garden this Thursday 25th from 11 am to 1pm and we’ll be back for another Tuesday evening and Thursday morning in July. Thanks to Sara Lee for sorting out the seating for us last Tuesday. Much appreciated.

Poetry with Friends at The Mission is back in the usual Lower Rudyerd Street venue next Tuesday June 30th. Check Happy Planet’s website

and facebook page for more information



The Counsel of Trees is a fantastic poem by Vicky Arthurs. I shared it at Poetry with Friends at The Mission tonight. I’d set tonight’s theme at our last session. We had discussed local councils so I suggested Council/Counsel as tonight’s theme.

We shared a range of poems by Robert Browning, Alice Walker, Spike Milligan, Michael Longley, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Hentry Normal, Hillare Belloc, Pam Ayres and everyone’s fave poet, Anon.

alice walker

Poetry with Friends regulars Harry, Elizabeth and Ken shared their own poems. Subject matter ranged from the sea, eclipses to the wisdom of Nana.

The next Poetry with Friends at The Mission will take place on Tuesday 21st April. The theme, suggested by Harry is “Names”.

We’re a very friendly group and new attenders are always welcome. The only thing we ask is that you book a place, so we know how many people to expect.

You can book via email to

Happy Planet

Happy Planet

Last night’s Poetry with Friends was exceptional. Every aspect of the session worked. The group has well and truly bonded, aided by existing friendships outside of the fortnightly sessions. I’m delighted to see new friendships popping up like snowdrops as a result of Poetry with Friends.

This was our first session of 2015. The theme was Beginnings but we decided we won’t need to set themes for future evenings as the dialogue flows on its own.

Chat, laughs, poems, claps. Echoes of ideas and sentiments. Values aired and shared. Four attendees read out their own work. Natural links: Ruth Padel (Charles Darwin’s great-great grandchild) to Carol Ann Duffy’s poem about Mrs Darwin. Holocaust Memorial Day to Sylvia Plath, ee cummings’ in just spring to Sappho’s My Love it is spring. David mentioned the word “hipster” and Ken quoted Ginsberg’s Howl at length. This was verbal jamming..a world away from stitled conversation and “how are they wife and kids?”

Allen Ginsberg - 1979

Poetry matters. Friends matter. Our Poetry with Friends sessions mean something to us all. We ended the evening discussing bullies from playground horrors, workplace rotters via familial monsters to world stage dictators. As Tracey Thorn sings in Little Hitler: “Little Hitlers, Little Hitlers grow into Big Hitlers. Look what they do”. The song also half quotes Sylvia Plath and that takes me back to the natural links of last night’s session.


I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated last night in The Mission. Join us next time on February 10th. No theme. No rules (apart from pre-booking with Gail ) and definitely no bullies.

Matsuo Bashō’s Haiku, William Carlos Williams’ Imagist classics plus poems by Ellen Phethean, Craig Charles, Sylvia Plath, Liz Lochhead, Charles Causley and more. Tonight’s Poetry with Friends at the Mission was a lively and enjoyable do. So good to see new faces alongside our regulars.

The theme was Food Glorious Food and not one but four (Fab Four!)  Roger McGough poems were shared over the two hours. Newcomer Jen’s version of The Demon Drink by William McGonagall got a round of applause. What delivery!


I threw in Rudyard Kipling’s If because…he does write exceedingly good poems.

Our next session is on Tuesday 7th October.  Our theme is Black History Month.  We start our new Poetry with Friends at Whitley Bay Library next Thursday 2nd October from 11 am.

Happy Planet’s exhibition runs at Whitley Bay Library this week until Friday and our Open Day takes place the next day at The Mission

happy planet open day


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