Monday, 28 February 2011

Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes

This book had me mesmerised when I first read it and even now I like to return to it occasionally. If you ever wondered how Ted Hughes felt about Sylvia Plath's suicide and how he coped, this collection of 88 poems reveals so much and may answer some of your questions. -  It certainly did mine. No one knew these poems for Plath existed until they were published shortly before Hughes's death in 1998.  He thought them too "raw and unguarded" for publication. 

Sylvia Plath married Ted Hughes and they had two children together.  Both were poets.  Hughes had an affair with another woman and left Plath and the young children for her.  In 1963, Plath left food beside her childrens' beds and gased herself in an adjoining room.  Ted went on to marry his mistress, but in a bizarre twist she later also committed suicide.  These events read like bad fiction, but something of the inner-drama experienced by Ted Hughes is revealed in the poems contained in this collection.
Here's a taste from 'A Pink Wool Knitted Dress', where Hughes is remembering their wedding day in 1956:

'In that echo-gaunt, weekday chancel
I see you
Wrestling to contain your flames
In your pink wool knitted dress
And in your eye pupils – great cut jewels
Jostling their tear-flames, truly like big jewels
Shaken in a dice-cup and held up to me. '

I recommend it for all poetry lovers or just for all lovers.

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