Friday, May 26, 2017

Sylvia Plath and I

I just read a report on the discovery of two unknown poems of the poetess Sylvia Plath - whose husband, Ted Hughes, betrayed her with a Jewish Palestinian (Israel had not yet been declared), Assia Gutman Wevill -

via carbon paper hidden in the back of an old notebook. The poems were deciphered from a carbon paper on which Plath had also typed up a table of contents for Hughes’s groundbreaking collection The Hawk in the Rain.

And therein lies a tale.

Some 20 years ago, I was contacted by the op-ed page editor of the Los Angeles Times and asked, for payment, to compose a 750-word column. But it had to be done within five hours.

I agreed.

I sat down and found out that my computer was not at all cooperative.

No problem, I thought.

I went up into the attic and hauled down an old portable typewriter.  I put in paper and began to bang away.  I typed with my head fixed at the keyboard and only at the end of three lines did I look up.

To see nothing.

The carbon ribbon had worn out.

Almost one hour gone.

A quarter of an hour later, I had my solution.

I took out two pieces of paper, placed carbon copy between them and typed, basically blind. At the end of every line I would halt, open up to the second underneath page and see what appeared and make the necessary corrections.

It worked, while a bit slow, but I finished, sent it by fax and received payment after it was published.

Carbon paper can come in quite handy.


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