Thoughts on Working With Others’ Art

Amnesiac by Sylvia Plath
Recently I was reading this article on rejection letters to famous artists (found via I Believe in Story), and when I got to the bit about Sylvia Plath’s poem “Amnesiac” being published posthumously as two pieces, I bristled. She intended for it to be one poem, and while people are entitled to the suggestion that she separate it in two, to do so without her consent after she’s died rubs me the wrong way.

I love constructive criticism. I love adaptations of works, from fanfiction to movies. I love watching people be inspired by others. But I do not love people taking the work of someone else, deciding it’s wrong, and changing it to be “better” without consent–especially after death. To say that’s rude would be an understatement. With the status that published work is given–as something official or approved–for publishers to change the piece to what they prefer is both a spit on the shoes and a false depiction of the artist. To work together with an editor and come to an agreement on change is productive and positive; to change someone’s work without knowing what they want (or knowing and disregarding) and then publishing for profit is disrespectful.

I’m glad to hear that not only is Plath’s work published true to form in Ariel: The Restored Edition, but also that I have that version. It’s fascinating to sit and read, with scribbles and scratches (as few as there are) left by her while she worked. The process of creation by the people who interest me the most always intrigues me, from Gerard Way posting drawings on twitter to artist friends sharing updates on Instagram to this facsimile of Sylvia Plath’s writing.

Take note: If this ever happens to me after I die, I’m coming back to haunt some people.

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One thought on “Thoughts on Working With Others’ Art

  1. I’ll try to do what I can to make sure your work is left as it’s meant to be posthumously. I’m always fascinated by the textual differences in publications – just looking at the different interpretations of Blake’s work (where lines end and new ones started) and the like gets to me. The poet wrote them that way for a REASON.

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