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Birthday Letters I read this because I am teaching a postwar American fiction class this spring and we are reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (and some of her poetry) for the class I hadn't wanted to read it so much, I hadn't wanted to revisit my anguished feelings about her life and poetry prior to her suicide, but I had given the enrolled students a chance to choose novels from this period, and some of the class wanted to read it, so I added it Then, I recalled never having read this book by Ted Hughes, her former husband and equally famous poet Hughes is a fabulous poet who has been vilified to this day for being partly responsible for her suicide, as he was having an affair when they were married (and knew she was suicidal when they were married), divorced her… and then, to add fuel to this particular fire, the woman who he had had an affair with also killed herself and their son… and then later, Plath's and Hughes' son committed suicide So you can' very well ignore all this, and it might be best to read all the biographies attending to all this mess, but I haven't done that I just read the poems and skimmed a few dozen of my fellow Goodreads reviewer's reviews, and my assessment is that Hughes is a terrific poet and these poems (which he began writing after she died and wrote until his death in this, his last book, poems we are told he had never intended to publish, until he finally chose to…), written as letters to his exwife, are wonderful, brilliant Some see them as selfserving, as a character assassination, as a justification for his leaving her and as a castigation of her madness and suicide and suicidal poetry, and while I can see that, my reading of these poems is that they are, as poems, amazing, and as a kind of biographical exercise (flawed as they all are in some respects?) amazing, moving, and ultimately loving, his coming to terms with what she was to him There are some that do seemself serving such as Rabbit Catchers but you know, it and other places such as this seem just searingly honest and self revealing and anguished and not whiningly self justifying Maybe if I readof the biographies I might fault himas a man, but the poetry seems brilliant to me, poem for poem, attempt after attempt to understand in one of the only ways he knows how, through the writing of poems Do you need to have read Plath to appreciate it? Well, he is in dialogue with many of her poems, and even if you read this book without revisiting the poems, you will (as I will) read or reread her poems (and maybe life, too), in part through his poems Maybe, if you hate Hughes as some kind of murderer (and I don't, I don't blame him for her death, not based on what I know, anyway), you will see this as his getting the last word, but I don't read it this way It's great art, great literature, and sometimes such work is accomplished by imperfect human beings, even assholes, but for me, I don't know about him, but his poetry in this (and in other volumes), is amazing. I wanted to hate this I've read enough by Sylvia Plath to know that I love her I've read enough about her relationship with Ted Hughes to know that I hate him What bullshit is that?Of course I know nothing about either of them I know what's been written of their marriage, it's breakdown and the next chapter of suicides in Ted's life That tells me nothing What I read in this collection was rawness of love and loss His side of their relationship Was it any truer than the accusations that followed? Who knows But it seems you can be both proPlath and proHughes.Oh and apparently he's quite good at poetry. Formerly Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II, the late Ted Hughesis recognized as one of the few contemporary poets whose work has mythic scope and power And few episodes in postwar literature have the legendary stature of Hughes's romance with, and marriage to, the great American poet Sylvia PlathThe poems in Birthday Letters are addressed with just two exceptions to Plath, and were written over a period of than twentyfive years, the first a few years after her suicide inSome are love letters, others haunted recollections and ruminations In them, Hughes recalls his and Plath's time together, drawing on the powerful imagery of his workanimal, vegetable, mythologicalas well as on Plath's famous verseCountless books have discussed the subject of this intense relationship from a necessary distance, but this volumeat lastoffers us Hughes's own account Moreover, it's a truly remarkable collection of poems in its own right If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.Black Thread: “Birthday Letters” by Ted Hughes(Original Review, 2002)Hughes acknowledged he repressed his own feelings for many years after Plath’s suicide The poems he wrote before his death, “Birthday Letters”, were an outpouring of these feelings about his love for Plath It was a top seller If Hughes had published them as a younger man it would have helped his development as a great poet, but due to the repression, it did him untold harm, so he falls short of being a great poet Plath was an extremely talented artist, writing both novels, children’s books, doing pictures She wrote two main collections of poems, “Colossus”, where she writes very tight, word perfect poems, but she hasn’t found her true voice. Some of the poetry in this novel is absolutely amazing and gripping, others in my opinion not so much There does seem to be some, for lack of a better phrase, filler Either way it's still a good collection with a lot of creativity to it. 'She and I slept in each other's arms,Naked and easy as lovers, a month of nights.Yet never made love once A holy lawHad invented itself, somehow, for me.But she too served it, like a priestess,Tender, kind and stark naked beside me' 'The dark ate at you And the fear Of being crushed 'A huge dark machine','The grinding indifferent Millstone of circumstance' After Watching the orange sunset, these were the wordsYou put on a page They had come to youWhen I did not When you tried To will me up the stair, this terrorArrived instead While I Most likely was just sitting''You waited,Knowing yourself helpless in the tweezersOf the life that judged you, and I sawThe flayed nerve, the unhealable facewoundWhich was all you had for courage.I saw that what gripped you, as you sipped,Were terrors that had killed you once already Now, I see, I saw, sitting, the lonelyGirl who was going to die' 'How tiny an adventureTo stay so monumental in our marriage,A slight ordeal of all that might be,And a small thrillbreath of what many live by,And a small prize, a toy miniatureOf the life that might have bonded usInto a single animal, a single soul''You were weepingYour biggest, purest joy The placentaAlready meaningless, asphyxiated.Your eyes dazzling tears as I thoughtNo other brown eyes could, ever''Your writing was also your fear,At times it was your terror, that all Your wedding presents, your dreams, your husbandWould be taken from youBy the terror's goblins Yout typewriterWould be taken Your sewingmachine Your children.All would be taken' 'I remember your fingers And your daughter's Fingers remember your fingersIn everything they do.Her fingers obey and honour your fingers,The lares and penates of our house' Ted Hughes wrote Birthday Letters across his life and published it shortly before his death Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath had once been married and divorced before Plath committed suicide This anthology of poetry is as a result a collection of poems addressing Plath as 'you' like a letter, a response to her Ariel (as seen in the references to 'ariel' and 'bees' in various poems One problem of criticism of the poetry however, is a criticism that haunts many books unfairly That this is merely about Plath and Hughes relationship and can only be enjoyed, or has only been successful due to the 'inside glimpse' at a fascinating character of literary fame However I personally dislike labels for anything and to put this anthology into a box as 'merely about Plath' limits the potency of each poem I cannot deny that they focus on Plath but that said, as poems they are brilliant on their own.Take the following extract from The Blue Flannel Suit as an example of the simple elegance of Hughes' work What assessorsWaited to see you justify the costAnd redeem their gamble What a furnaceOf eyes waited to prove your metal I watchedThe strange dummy stiffness, the misery,Of your blue flannel suit, its straitjacket, uglyHalfapproximation to your ideaOf the properties you hoped to ease into,And your horror in it And the tannedAlmost green undertinge of your faceShrunk to its wick, your scar lumpish, your plaitedHead pathetically tiny I particularly love the virtuosity of the above poem The phrasing of what a furnace / Of eyes waited to prove your metal in this particular poem is particularly fascinating The imagery is vibrant and evocative while also dissociative A reader would not normally link furnaces and eyes but in the way Hughes does this it makes you think about the heated stares, the molten emotion of those eyes looking to find fault.Each poem is individual and addresses different elements of daily life with Plath or who Plath was as a woman Yet each poem fits neatly into the anthology as part of a whole I have not read any other anthology that maintains such a constant style, as I mentioned while reading there is a unique symmetry in this poetry I am a fan of various mythologies and references to those mythologies litter Hughes' work here The Minotaur is only one of those and uses mythology to refer to the breakdown of their marriage: The bloody end of the skein That unravelled your marriage, Left your children echoing Like tunnels in a labyrinth That poem speaks for itself, as does this from The Badlands: Right across AmericaWe went looking for you LightningHad ripped your clothes offAnd signed your cheekbone It cameOut of the sun's explosion Over Hiroshima, Nagasaki,As along the ridge of a mountainUnder the earth, and somehowThrough deathrow and the Rosenbergs.They took the brunt of it On the whole while I may have liked several poemsthan others (The Badlands, The Blue Flannel Suit, The Moonwalk, The Rabbit Catcher and The Minotaur for example) I found this to be a great whole collection of poetry There were no obvious flawed poems to say the least I certainly recommend this as one of the better poetry collections I have read And I would finish by noting that it certainly does not deserve to be passed off as 'merely talking about Sylvia' It is a magnificent work of planned and lyrical poetry. Given Hughes' notorious reluctance to speak about his volatile marriage to Sylvia Plath, this collection came as a shock when it appeared in 1998 Comprising poems written since Plath's suicide in 1963 this is both intimate and a public dialogue, a way of speaking back to Plath, her poems, and also the world which sometimes turned Hughes into a patriarchal monster of a husband.The best of the poems draw on Plath's own works, reusing her texts, titles, imagery and language to offer Hughes' side of the story: 'Setebos', and 'Nightride on Ariel' are both particularly vindicatory, blaming everyone else from Plath's mother, to her college patron and even her psychiatrists for her ultimate fate notably all female And 'Freedom of Speech' is a macabre and bitter vision of Plath's 60th birthday party.These feelcathartic than anything else and the deliberate comparisons they draw with Plath's own work, especially the Ariel collection, serve to highlight the brilliance of Plath even at her most vitriolic and selfdestructive So these may not be the best of Hughes' poetry, but as one side of a contentious and ongoing poetic and personal dialogue these are indispensable. Ted Hughes has an uncomfortable place in the room where Sylvia Plath killed herself (and another in the room where his next wife, Assia Wevill, killed herself and their only daughter) he was the gas, he was the ovens, or he was the mark to which the the dial was turned Maybe he was the sealed doors In Birthday Letters he places himself in and around that first room, Plath's room And those places are horrifying, those he occupies and also those spaces he seems to have to leave empty. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath A marriage made in heaven—or in hell? A tempestuous marriage akin to Anthony and Cleopatra Passion and drama played out on a very public arena Many will know of the controversial couple, yet perhaps not know Ted Hughes’s poetry.It is Sylvia Plath who has the adulation, the tragic story; committing suicide in 1963, seven years after her marriage to Ted Hughes At the time I was not aware of this, being a little too young I did come across Ted Hughes’s poetry as a teenager, and enjoyed the poems I read by him I did vaguely know he had been married to another poet, an American, who had killed herself, but who had not written much Her works didn’t seem very easy to find, and at the time I tended to not read much poetry from outside the UK Sylvia Plath passed me by for many decades.Ted Hughes had a commanding presence He was a solid, bulky, tall man, who seemed dark in both looks and voice, speaking as I did then (my accent has softened over the years) with a marked Northern accent I liked the dour, dark timbre of his voice He had no pretensions, or as we Yorkshire folk would say “no side” I was interested to read , thinking of him as a local boy made good, born and bred as I was, in what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire, and into a working class family Directspeaking intellectuals from the North of England always held a fascination for me; it was not long since the “angry young men”, and kitchen sink dramas My boyfriend gave Ted Hughes’s fourth book of poems, “Crow” to me for my birthday, when it was first published in 1970.It was very different Ted Hughes was finding his unique poetic voice I wasn’t sure I liked this one, or fully understood it Since then I have dipped in and out of his adult poetry collections, always finding them brilliant but challenging reads.Often his imagery is raw and brutal Most of his poetry is deliberately impersonal, and he is said to have despised the direct use of autobiographical material, believing that to make poetry of any value, direct experience needed to be imaginatively transformed But was this approach to writing, a defence mechanism? Was it possibly anything to do with the hatred which was targeted at him? To understand the shift in both focus and style in this volume of poetry, and also appreciate its uniqueness, it is probably necessary to look a little deeper at its context.During the 1970s the work, life and death of Sylvia Plath became very high profile And the furore that followed her death was fierce and vindictive Many Americans, and some nonAmericans, blamed Ted Hughes for her early death, and were bitter that her great talent; her potential for perhaps writing future works of poetic genius, had been snatched away For some, it became a feminist political concern, having little to do with the poetry of either It became part of an agenda of masculine oppression, in which Ted Hughes was very much the bad guy, and was publicly vilified He remained closemouthed.Whatever demons Ted Hughes might have been facing about his young wife killing herself, he only made tentative forays occasionally, with single poems published in magazines Meanwhile his relationship with Sylvia Plath had been the theme of five biographies of her, most of them hostile to Ted Hughes, as well as her own writing which often featured their relationship, directly in her journals and indirectly in her poetry Ted Hughes built a protective wall around himself, and continued to write poetry about the wild, and about animals But these were increasingly brutal, harsh, bitter poems; impersonal poetry which gave little away about the inner man.To add to the pressure, not only did the muchlauded Sylvia Plath, viewed as the martyr and heroine under his tyrannical regime, commit suicide, but six years later, Ted Hughes’s mistress Assia Wevill also took both her own life, and that of her young daughter “Shura”.* Much later, a third tragedy was the suicide of Sylvia and Ted’s son Nicholas, who hanged himself in 2009.**Ted Hughes certainly suffered He felt that only imagination could heal, and that poetry was the expression of this imagination In his later life he felt cursed, and explored myths, Buddhist meditation, and esoteric practices such as shamanism and alchemy, trying selfhealing to cure his suffering and feelings of loss, acute illnesses and guilt Yet always in the shadows there was Sylvia Plath; the rumours, detractors and the critics Incredibly, over 25 years, Sylvia Plath is explicitly mentioned only once, in the 1979 poem “Heptonstall Cemetery”.And now we know that, in secret, he wrote the poems in Birthday Letters, his final collection of poetry, published significantly only months before his death He had said the right time to tell the truth was just before he was going to die, and sure enough, he died that winter suffering a heart attack after almost two years of surviving cancer All are about, or addressed to Sylvia Plath, despite all the (very public) affairs he had had with other women and his current marriage to Carol, a nurse far younger than him, whom he had married in 1970 Carol remained loyal to Ted Hughes, fiercely defending his privacy on the Sylvia Plath issue, until his death It seems strange to realise that Birthday Letters was published twenty years ago, in 1998; the fascination with the myth and mystery of Ted and Sylvia is so strong and perpetuating It sets out to put the record straight, and correct the distorted, gossipy speculations he had been subject to for so many years As he wrote in 1967:“the struggle truly to possess his own experience, in other words to regain his genuine self, has been man’s principal occupation … ever since he first grew this enormous surplus of brain.”Prescient words indeed And again in 1989, in a letter answering criticism about his handling of Sylvia Plath’s estate:“I hope each of us owns the facts of her or his own life”.There are eighty eight poems in Birthday Letters They are not literal “letters”, as one might suppose, nor sentimental or cosy, as the title may imply Expecting softness from Ted Hughes is rather like expecting Thomas Hardy’s novels to be cheerful and optimistic No, these poems are in some waysaccessible than many of his other adult collections, but they are as brittle and uncompromising as any he had written He is writing to his strength, and never sweetens the pill It means that they are difficult to read on an emotional level, and the reader may need to pause, and take a breath now and then Even when refined and distilled into poetry, it is a heady concoction of dark passion, madness, and violent dispute They do not read as High Art, but mostly as explicit, unashamed, sometimes indignant and accusatory poems ostensibly addressed to Sylvia, but actually intended for the public He is quite direct: we know who he is writing about, and what he is writing about For far too long their public lives and the tragedy had been centrestage, and the poetry had taken second place Now Ted Hughes turns round to face us squarely; he wants us to hear his side of the story.The “Birthday” of the book’s title probably refers to the poems by Sylvia Plath such as “Morning Song”, “Stillborn”, “A Birthday Present”, “Three Women”, and “Poem for a Birthday” Here she used birth as a metaphor for artistic creation and the birthday itself as a sign of selfrenewal Clearly this accords with Ted Hughes’s intention.The collection was written over a period of at least 25 years, and the numerous drafts held in the British Museum are much edited and scrawled over They are virtually illegible, having been worked over so much Ted Hughes’s secret “work in progress” was perhaps cathartic: a way of dealing with the vilification he experienced.It is chronological, charting their relationship from 1956, when they met for the first time at a party in Cambridge Sylvia Plath records being mesmerised, both by this powerful and imposing figure, and also by his work In her journal, she describes their first meeting, saying:“kiss me, and you will see how important I am …and I was stamping and he was stamping on the floor, and then kissed me bang smash on the mouth …when he kissed my neck I bit him long and hard on the cheek“It makes readers wonder what the others in their circle of friends made of their volatile relationship Did they stand back, feeling the fizz of an electric charge emanating from them?The book jacket is a painting by the poets’ daughter Frieda Hughes Similarly explosive, it shows a flow of lava; a bubbling eruption of red and yellow on a lesser background of blue and brown And here is part of Ted Hughes’s seventh poem, “St Botolph’s”:“You meant to knock me outwith your vivacity I rememberLittle from the rest of that evening.I slid away with my girlfriend NothingExcept her hissing rage in a doorwayAnd my stupefied interrogationOf your blue headscarf from my pocketAnd the swelling ringmoat of toothmarksThat was to brand my face for the next month.The me beneath it for good.”Sylvia Plath had shocked him by biting his cheek, thus branding him Such a violent gesture must have been a portent of things to come Many of the poems describe Ted Hughes being stunned, trapped and manipulated by Sylvia Plath, the puppetmaster In the fourth poem, “Visit” we learn Sylvia Plath’s determination to control the drama of their relationship:“ … Nor did I know I was being auditionedFor the male lead in your drama …As if a puppet were being tried on its strings,Or a dead frog’s legs touched by electrodes.”echoing precisely what the speaker in Plath’s poem “Soliloquy of the Solipsist” years ago had said about herself:“ … my look’s leashDangles the puppetpeople.”None of these poems is affectionate or tinged with nostalgia Ted Hughes renders very precisely what one biographer called Plath’s “notniceness” In the very first poem, “Fulbright Scholars”, Ted Hughes disinterestedly describes Sylvia Plath’s photograph, noticing her false grin:“for the cameras, the judges, the strangers, the frighteners”.We see the measured distance between Sylvia Plath as her true self, and the Sylvia Plath she presents to her public Moreover we see an impartiality, a distance between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath The first line of the poem: “Where was it, in the Strand?”, establishes a vagueness of memory, another crucial distance We see this objective view of Sylvia Plath throughout the poems Sometimes he even seems to dislike her, likening her to a “baby monkey”, with “monkeyelegant fingers” He describes her face as a “CabbagePatch doll”, or “a tight ball of joy”, with eyes “squeezed in your face” Sometimes he sees a formless face, “a prototype face”, using words such as “molten”, “unreal”, “never a face in itself”, or “a stage”.The poems have a narrative feel, and flow easily, so we feel we may at last be getting a candid look into the private lives of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, after years of speculation at Ted Hughes’s inexplicable silence There are many signs that Sylvia Plath herself was filled with a sense of tragic inevitability But there are references to people and events which were private, and may not have significance except to the writer Many poems remind us of Sylvia Plath’s obsession with “Daddy”, which disturbs, intrudes, and dominates many of them ***As well as these uncomfortable observations, there are poems in which Ted Hughes seems to want to answer poems written by Sylvia Plath about himself; to present his defence—or is it an attack? He has clearly felt exposed by Sylvia’s writing about him; about what he once called in a letter, their “bad moments”.The fifth poem, “Sam”, deliberately recalls the runawayhorse which Sylvia Plath had described in her own poem: “Whiteness I Remember” But now Ted Hughes imagines himself as the stallion and writes:“When I jumped a fence you strangled me …Flung yourself off and under my feet to trip meAnd tripped me and lay dead Over in a flash.““Trophies” is a comeback to Sylvia Plath’s famous poem “Pursuit” (“There is a panther stalks me down”) He refutes it, claiming possession; he too, had been pursued:“… Still smilingAs it carried me off I detachedThe hairband carefully from between its teethAnd a ring from its ear, from my trophies“Without the reference, it would be difficult to understand the relevance or significance of this poem.In “Black Coat” he objects indignantly, giving a sharp response to Sylvia Plath’s “Man in Black”, with the lines:“I had no idea I had steppedInto the telescopic sightsOf the paparazzo sniperNested in your brown iris“Many poems are answers, which feel like retaliations; tit for tat The list goes on: a straightforward narrative poem, “Ouija”, is a deliberate contrast with Sylvia Plath’s highly complex descriptive poem of the same name Others target and reference specific poems, such as “The Owl”, for “Owl”, “Wuthering Heights”, and “The Rabbit Catcher” are clearly comments on the poems of the same name In “The Earthenware Head”, he criticises Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Lady and the Earthenware Head”, claiming that her methods of compositions are merely strategies of evasion:“… You ransacked thesaurus in your poem about it,Veiling its mirror, rhyming yourself into safety…“The reader may wonder, isn’t this exactly what Ted Hughes himself was doing, before he wrenched this collection from his bowels?Ted Hughes even seems to feel the need to reclaim his own children:“Life After Death:“…Your son’s eyes, which had unsettled usWith your Slavic AsiaticEpicanthic fold, but would becomeSo perfectly your eyes,Became wet jewels.The hardest substance of the purest painAs I fed him in his high white chair“In “Remission”:“ … In a freefloating crib, an image that sneezedAnd opened a gummed mouth and started to cry.I was there, I saw it.“The last sentence seems to be a cry from the heart.It would be easy to think of these poems as antagonistic, but that would be a travesty Their tumultuous relationship was very complex, and the reader sees violent passions at its core, both of love and such ferocious dispute that it borders on hate.Take this, where Ted Hughes describes the response of critics to Sylvia Plath’s early achievements:“Their homeopathic letters,Envelopes full of carefully broken glassTo lodge behind your eyes so you would see”“Nobody wanted your dance,Nobody wanted your strange glitter, your flounderingDrowning life and your effort to save yourself,Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,Looking for something to give.”Surely the poet who wrote this, felt her pain as his own And in a dream recounting Sylvia’s hideous recurring nightmares, full of images to do with graves, her father’s illness and death, we have a rare sight of his gentle steadfastness:“Dream Life:“ … not knowingWhat had frightened youOr where your poetry had followed you fromWith its bloodsticky feet Each nightI hypnotized calm into you,Courage, understanding and calmDid it help? Each nightYou descended again …”One of the most significant, and poignant, poems which I feel offers an insight into the closeness of their relationship, is “Apprehensions” from 1962 This is again a reply to a poem of the same name by Sylvia Plath, which is a probe into her uneasy mind She describes her pain and terror at the time:“ … Is there no way out of the mind?Steps at my back spiral into a well.There are no trees or birds in this world,There is only sourness …”Her poem is full of symbolism and colour, in which calm images only heighten her utter dark despair, and fear of death.In answer to this, Ted Hughes’s poem is a direct personal message to her: a descriptive analysis which takes both snapshots of her life, as well as images, from her poems Apprehensions:“Your writing was also your fear,At times it was your terror, that allYour wedding presents, your dreams, your husbandWould be taken from youBy the terror’s goblins … You could see it, there, in your pen.Somebody took that too.”****Many poems such as this attempt to unveil Sylvia Plath’s real, hidden or other self In 1982, Ted Hughes wrote:“though I spent every day with her for six years, and was rarely separated from her forthan two or three hours at a time, I never saw her show her real self to anybody – except, perhaps, in the last three months of her life.”Sylvia Plath seemed to know from the start that their relationship was doomed:“I desire things that will destroy me in the end”But there are just a few poems which are enjoyable as anecdotal memories, such as “The 59th Bear” about an episode near the Grand Canyon “The Pink Wool Knitted Dress” is about their wedding day, four months after they had first met, on “Bloomsday” in 1956, purposely chosen in honour of James Joyce It is filled with joy, expectation and a little trepidation about marriage And another, “Chaucer”, is oddly unrepresentative I let out a giggle reading this poem, whereupon Chris (who had given me a copy of the newly published “Crow” all those years ago) looked up at me and enquired, a little puzzled, “Aren’t you reading Ted Hughes” Of course I then had to read him the whole poem, which is an hilarious description of Sylvia Plath declaiming Chaucer to a field of cows Ted Hughes could write humour! Who knew?Unlike some, I do not think this collection is the best thing he ever wrote I think some of his best poems lie elsewhere But it is unique, and deserves 5 stars for being “amazing” Bothaccessible than many of his other poetry collections, it also has many deeper layers, for those who wish to explore Allusions and references to Sylvia Plath’s own poetry abound, as well as theevident snapshots of their life together In some ways he opens Pandora’s box to revealof himself than many ever expected him to do It is often regarded as Ted Hughes’s legacy, and is one of the highest selling poetry titles of all time, selling over half a million copies One wonders whether this is from a wish to read his poetry, orof an inquisitive prying into a well publicised doomed literary marriage And should we givecredence to the last person to speak in their defence?Birthday Letters stops short of describing Sylvia Plath’s death, but one last poem “Last Letter” goes some way to solving the mystery of what happened, the weekend before Sylvia Plath killed herself in 1963 Apparently Sylvia Plath had written Ted Hughes a kind of suicide note on the Friday, and it perversely arrived too early, so that he read it The poem was read on Radio 4 in 2010 by Melvyn Bragg, who had found it at Carol Hughes's prompting At the last line “Your wife is dead” his voice wobbled and he nearly broke down ****What we will never know, is how balanced this poetry is It is by no means a final statement of “fact” Clearly Ted Hughes felt that these poems were honest: a true representation of their intense relationship as he saw it.“I was there, I saw it” he protests in one of these poems.But it is difficult to be married to an icon.*see comments


About the Author: Ted Hughes

Sylvia Plath The couple made a visit to the United States in 1957, the year that his first volume of verse,


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