º Birthday Letters × Download by ☆ Ted Hughes

º Birthday Letters × Download by ☆ Ted Hughes I need to get something off my chest with this one I d read Birthday Letters a few years ago, I guess when I was first getting into Plath and was not particularly interested in the warzone of the Plath Hughes legacy I also didn t really give much thought to poetry at the time if it was pretty or vaguely shocking, I d nod and think, Well, look how smart I am, for reading this So I think I let Hughes off the hook last time and I should clarify to say that I don t hate Hughes poetry I m not familiar with a large body of it, but I can safely say, having given them a shot on several occasions, that I love The Thought Fox, Wodwo, Pike, and a handful of others, including a few from the Crow sequence, though I can t recall the titles at the moment And I m hoping to read of his work The Hawk in Rain and Crow are both on my list for this year However, getting through this book this time was a bit of an ordeal I am genuinely troubled by the violations on display in this text Yes, I know Hughes wrote them originally without the intent of publishing them I know this was his last book I know the critics fawned over it Kakutani says something about it clearly coming from a poet s core or some sentimental shite like that And I know this is one subjective stance on the Plath Hughes relationship from the perspective of one player, in contrast to the many horror tales we ve heard of Hughes over the years I don t think Hughes is some villain both he and Plath seem similarly awful at moments, and similarly inspired and loving at others, by all accounts But the portrait painted in this text is one that has a somewhat disturbing undercurrent Hughes refers to himself almost obsessively as the dog that scampered alongside or behind Plath and her furies He is, at times, wary, tail wagging, frightened, dumb, loyal, etc Meanwhile, the Plath of Birthday Letters is alternately vicious, appropriative, physically violent, tortured, fated for death and fated as a muse goddess, something Diane Middlebrook pays a lot of mind to in her biography on their marriage, Her Husband , and a pathetic little girl snared in the trappings of MummyDaddyMummyDaddyDaddyDaddyMummy this is almost verbatim the ending to one of the poems in this collection Plath is envisioned as usually helpless, even when furious or taken with the poetic spirit She is the conduit for God in one of Hughes poems, which may have been something she said but constantly, she seems to be the conduit for just about everything, be it the Mummy Daddy one two punch, the muse speaking either to her or to Hughes, the electric jolts of her madness, or for the cruelty Hughes tears down in her poetry Why should I care This is, as people like Middlebrook and a number of other recent critics argue, a book that is in dialogue with Plath s biography and poetic legacy Sure But importantly, this is a dialogue in which Plath can never enter, being dead So 35 years after her death nearly 50 today , Birthday Letters leaves behind a snapshot of their marriage and their poetry that places Hughes in the supplicant position to his almost oracular, frightening, mad, brilliant when he gives her that much , wife I don t intend to run off and chip the Hughes off SP s gravestone, but I wonder what the ethical ramifications of this portrayal are it seems somehow implicitly violent for Hughes to talk back to his wife in a way that not only enables those who blindly mythologize her, but diminishes her poetry as something neither she nor he could help or stand in the way And I say he only hints at her brilliance which he has spoken of, with less trouble, on other occasions , because just as often, he suggests that her poetry is necessarily a nasty outlet for petty rages and gossip Thus, in The Rabbit Catcher speaking back to Plath s poem of the same name , he revises her vision of male violence a poem that beautifully links the masculine adventurer s invasive interest in the natural world with sexual, domestic violence against women to refigure himself as the hapless, lovelorn husband watching Plath cruelly snare people in her poetry But what Plath s poetry never did though of course we like to pick moments that seem so transparently autobiographical was stoop down to trivial gab sessions If someone appeared in a violent poem let s take Daddy for an easy example that person was not that person that person became myth, became conflated with a million other myths Daddy may feature Otto Plath s German heritage and ill fated stubbed toe, but importantly, the poem relates a genuine concern with what Plath took to be a peculiarly feminine interest in domineering men, and in turn, located these issues of male dominance in a global sphere thus, the Holocaust imagery, the wonderfully Gothic conclusion Hughes simply does not do confessional in the way Plath did Plath s goal was always to my mind to take the minute, the private, the domestic, and to weave larger than life scenarios from them Thus, a cut thumb in Cut becomes a narrative of colonization and national violence a jaded hausfrau is a disgruntled Eve, the agonized side of a green Adam Hughes, instead, makes Plath and horribly, her poetry a mockery And if Plath can t speak back, what does this say about the history of women s writing being brought down a peg by the final word of her male counterpart It frightens me that there s such unabashed praise of a text that yes, is tender and sometimes beautiful, and clearly is written with great feeling for their marriage, in good times and bad finally leaves us with the feeling that Plath really was just the madwoman in the attic, and that Hughes, unwittingly loyal pup that he was, merely follows along to sand down the rough edges her audience simply can t handle Not to mention, I don t find the poetry here all that great There are moments where it s quite lucid, quite stunning but mostly, it struck me as the sort of stuff you might see in an advanced undergraduate writing workshop It leaves behind most of what makes Hughes poetry so distinctively Hughes with the exception of some of the descriptions of the natural world I quite liked The 59th Bear, for example , the collection often reeks of maudlin self pity, repetitive imagery which do not build to crescendo, but simmer out , and a usually frustrating speaking I I give it 3 stars because, well, I don t think it deserves less but I do think it needs to be reconsidered on a political level.
Whew I m babbling on Maybe all this will only bother you if you re really into that whole generation of poetry I get my panties in a twist over things like this but perhaps it detracts from my enjoyment a bit too much Any case, just ordered Hughes Collected Poems, so I m still willing to give the rest of the work a fair chance.
Formerly Poet Laureate To Queen Elizabeth II, The Late Ted Hughes Is 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 Twenty Five Years, The First A Few Years After Her Suicide In Some 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 Work Animal, Vegetable, Mythological As Well As On Plath S Famous VerseCountless books Have Discussed The Subject Of This Intense Relationship From A Necessary Distance, But This Volume At Last Offers Us Hughes S Own Account Moreover, It Is A Truly Remarkable Collection Of Poems In Its Own Right I m not actually a huge fan of Ted Hughes as a writer.
As a human being whose life and misdeeds are basically publicly property I have no comment.
I like this, I m almost afraid to say, because it is ugly Self justifying and painful and tender and unpleasant An raw mixture of unspeakable things.
88 What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is what I want.
When I am quiet at my cooking I feel it looking, I feel it thinking Is this the one I am too appear for,Is this the elect one, the one with black eye pits and a scar Measuring the flour, cutting off the surplus,Adhering to rules, to rules, to rules.
Is this the one for the annunciation My god, what a laugh But it shimmers, it does not stop, and I think it wants me.
I would not mind if it were bones, or a pearl button.
I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year.
After all I am alive only by accident.
I would have killed myself gladly that time any possible way.
Now there are these veils, shimmering like curtains,The diaphanous satins of a January windowWhite as babies bedding and glittering with dead breath O ivory It must be a tusk there, a ghost column.
Can you not see I do not mind what it is.
Can you not give it to me Do not be ashamed I do not mind if it is small.
Do not be mean, I am ready for enormity.
Let us sit down to it, one on either side, admiring the gleam,The glaze, the mirrory variety of it.
Let us eat our last supper at it, like a hospital plate.
I know why you will not give it to me,You are terrifiedThe world will go up in a shriek, and your head with it,Bossed, brazen, an antique shield,A marvel to your great grandchildren.
Do not be afraid, it is not so.
I will only take it and go aside quietly.
You will not even hear me opening it, no paper crackle,No falling ribbons, no scream at the end.
I do not think you credit me with this discretion.
If you only knew how the veils were killing my days.
To you they are only transparencies, clear air.
But my god, the clouds are like cotton.
Armies of them They are carbon monoxide.
Sweetly, sweetly I breathe in,Filling my veins with invisibles, with the millionProbable motes that tick the years off my life.
You are silver suited for the occasion O adding machine Is it impossible for you to let something go and have it go whole Must you stamp each piece purple,Must you kill what you can There is one thing I want today, and only you can give it to me.
It stands at my window, big as the sky.
It breathes from my sheets, the cold dead centerWhere split lives congeal and stiffen to history.
Let it not come by the mail, finger by finger.
Let it not come by word of mouth, I should be sixtyBy the time the whole of it was delivered, and to numb to use it.
Only let down the veil, the veil, the veil.
If it were deathI would admire the deep gravity of it, its timeless eyes.
I would know you were serious.
There would be a nobility then, there would be a birthday.
And the knife not carve, but enterPure and clean as the cry of a baby,And the universe slide from my side.
.
.
I need to get something off my chest with this one I d read Birthday Letters a few years ago, I guess when I was first getting into Plath and was not particularly interested in the warzone of the Plath Hughes legacy I also didn t really give much thought to poetry at the time if it was pretty or vaguely shocking, I d nod and think, Well, look how smart I am, for reading this So I think I let Hughes off the hook last time and I should clarify to say that I don t hate Hughes poetry I m not familiar with a large body of it, but I can safely say, having given them a shot on several occasions, that I love The Thought Fox, Wodwo, Pike, and a handful of others, including a few from the Crow sequence, though I can t recall the titles at the moment And I m hoping to read of his work The Hawk in Rain and Crow are both on my list for this year However, getting through this book this time was a bit of an ordeal I am genuinely troubled by the violations on display in this text Yes, I know Hughes wrote them originally without the intent of publishing them I know this was his last book I know the critics fawned over it Kakutani says something about it clearly coming from a poet s core or some sentimental shite like that And I know this is one subjective stance on the Plath Hughes relationship from the perspective of one player, in contrast to the many horror tales we ve heard of Hughes over the years I don t think Hughes is some villain both he and Plath seem similarly awful at moments, and similarly inspired and loving at others, by all accounts But the portrait painted in this text is one that has a somewhat disturbing undercurrent Hughes refers to himself almost obsessively as the dog that scampered alongside or behind Plath and her furies He is, at times, wary, tail wagging, frightened, dumb, loyal, etc Meanwhile, the Plath of Birthday Letters is alternately vicious, appropriative, physically violent, tortured, fated for death and fated as a muse goddess, something Diane Middlebrook pays a lot of mind to in her biography on their marriage, Her Husband , and a pathetic little girl snared in the trappings of MummyDaddyMummyDaddyDaddyDaddyMummy this is almost verbatim the ending to one of the poems in this collection Plath is envisioned as usually helpless, even when furious or taken with the poetic spirit She is the conduit for God in one of Hughes poems, which may have been something she said but constantly, she seems to be the conduit for just about everything, be it the Mummy Daddy one two punch, the muse speaking either to her or to Hughes, the electric jolts of her madness, or for the cruelty Hughes tears down in her poetry Why should I care This is, as people like Middlebrook and a number of other recent critics argue, a book that is in dialogue with Plath s biography and poetic legacy Sure But importantly, this is a dialogue in which Plath can never enter, being dead So 35 years after her death nearly 50 today , Birthday Letters leaves behind a snapshot of their marriage and their poetry that places Hughes in the supplicant position to his almost oracular, frightening, mad, brilliant when he gives her that much , wife I don t intend to run off and chip the Hughes off SP s gravestone, but I wonder what the ethical ramifications of this portrayal are it seems somehow implicitly violent for Hughes to talk back to his wife in a way that not only enables those who blindly mythologize her, but diminishes her poetry as something neither she nor he could help or stand in the way And I say he only hints at her brilliance which he has spoken of, with less trouble, on other occasions , because just as often, he suggests that her poetry is necessarily a nasty outlet for petty rages and gossip Thus, in The Rabbit Catcher speaking back to Plath s poem of the same name , he revises her vision of male violence a poem that beautifully links the masculine adventurer s invasive interest in the natural world with sexual, domestic violence against women to refigure himself as the hapless, lovelorn husband watching Plath cruelly snare people in her poetry But what Plath s poetry never did though of course we like to pick moments that seem so transparently autobiographical was stoop down to trivial gab sessions If someone appeared in a violent poem let s take Daddy for an easy example that person was not that person that person became myth, became conflated with a million other myths Daddy may feature Otto Plath s German heritage and ill fated stubbed toe, but importantly, the poem relates a genuine concern with what Plath took to be a peculiarly feminine interest in domineering men, and in turn, located these issues of male dominance in a global sphere thus, the Holocaust imagery, the wonderfully Gothic conclusion Hughes simply does not do confessional in the way Plath did Plath s goal was always to my mind to take the minute, the private, the domestic, and to weave larger than life scenarios from them Thus, a cut thumb in Cut becomes a narrative of colonization and national violence a jaded hausfrau is a disgruntled Eve, the agonized side of a green Adam Hughes, instead, makes Plath and horribly, her poetry a mockery And if Plath can t speak back, what does this say about the history of women s writing being brought down a peg by the final word of her male counterpart It frightens me that there s such unabashed praise of a text that yes, is tender and sometimes beautiful, and clearly is written with great feeling for their marriage, in good times and bad finally leaves us with the feeling that Plath really was just the madwoman in the attic, and that Hughes, unwittingly loyal pup that he was, merely follows along to sand down the rough edges her audience simply can t handle Not to mention, I don t find the poetry here all that great There are moments where it s quite lucid, quite stunning but mostly, it struck me as the sort of stuff you might see in an advanced undergraduate writing workshop It leaves behind most of what makes Hughes poetry so distinctively Hughes with the exception of some of the descriptions of the natural world I quite liked The 59th Bear, for example , the collection often reeks of maudlin self pity, repetitive imagery which do not build to crescendo, but simmer out , and a usually frustrating speaking I I give it 3 stars because, well, I don t think it deserves less but I do think it needs to be reconsidered on a political level.
Whew I m babbling on Maybe all this will only bother you if you re really into that whole generation of poetry I get my panties in a twist over things like this but perhaps it detracts from my enjoyment a bit too much Any case, just ordered Hughes Collected Poems, so I m still willing to give the rest of the work a fair chance.
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 InBirthday Lettershe 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 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 InBirthday Lettershe 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 Direct speaking 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,Crowto 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 non Americans, 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 close mouthed.
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 much lauded 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 self healing 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 poemHeptonstall 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 1967the 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 estateI hope each of us owns the facts of her or his own life.
There are eighty eight poems in Birthday Letters They are not literalletters , 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 ways accessible 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 centre stage, 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.
TheBirthdayof the book s title probably refers to the poems by Sylvia Plath such asMorning Song , Stillborn , A Birthday Present , Three Women , andPoem for a BirthdayHere she used birth as a metaphor for artistic creation and the birthday itself as a sign of self renewal 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, sayingkiss 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 girl friend NothingExcept her hissing rage in a doorwayAnd my stupefied interrogationOf your blue headscarf from my pocketAnd the swelling ring moat of tooth marksThat 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 puppet master In the fourth poem,Visitwe learn Sylvia Plath s determination to control the drama of their relationshipNor 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 poemSoliloquy of the Solipsistyears ago had said about herselfmy look s leashDangles the puppet people None of these poems is affectionate or tinged with nostalgia Ted Hughes renders very precisely what one biographer called Plath snot nicenessIn the very first poem,Fulbright Scholars , Ted Hughes disinterestedly describes Sylvia Plath s photograph, noticing her false grinfor 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 poemWhere 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 ababy monkey , withmonkey elegant fingersHe describes her face as aCabbage Patch doll , ora tight ball of joy , with eyessqueezed in your faceSometimes he sees a formless face,a prototype face , using words such asmolten , unreal , never a face in itself , ora 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 withDaddy , 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, theirbad moments .
The fifth poem,Sam , deliberately recalls the runaway horse which Sylvia Plath had described in her own poemWhiteness I RememberBut now Ted Hughes imagines himself as the stallion and writesWhen 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 Trophiesis a comeback to Sylvia Plath s famous poemPursuit There is a panther stalks me downHe refutes it, claiming possession he too, had been pursuedStill 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.
InBlack Coathe objects indignantly, giving a sharp response to Sylvia Plath sMan in Black , with the linesI 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 asThe Owl , forOwl , Wuthering Heights , andThe Rabbit Catcherare clearly comments on the poems of the same name InThe Earthenware Head , he criticises Sylvia Plath s poemThe Lady and the Earthenware Head , claiming that her methods of compositions are merely strategies of evasionYou 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 childrenLife 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 InRemission In a free floating 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 achievementsTheir 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 steadfastnessDream Life not knowingWhat had frightened youOr where your poetry had followed you fromWith its blood sticky 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, isApprehensionsfrom 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 timeIs 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 tooMany poems such as this attempt to unveil Sylvia Plath s real, hidden or other self In 1982, Ted Hughes wrotethough I spent every day with her for six years, and was rarely separated from her for than 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 doomedI desire things that will destroy me in the end But there are just a few poems which are enjoyable as anecdotal memories, such asThe 59th Bearabout an episode near the Grand CanyonThe Pink Wool Knitted Dressis about their wedding day, four months after they had first met, onBloomsdayin 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 publishedCrowall those years ago looked up at me and enquired, a little puzzled,Aren t you reading Ted HughesOf 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 beingamazingBoth accessible 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 the evident snapshots of their life together In some ways he opens Pandora s box to reveal of 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, or of an inquisitive prying into a well publicised doomed literary marriage And should we give credence to the last person to speak in their defence Birthday Letters stops short of describing Sylvia Plath s death, but one last poemLast Lettergoes 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 lineYour wife is deadhis 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 itI was there, I saw ithe protests in one of these poems.
But it is difficult to be married to an icon see comments 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.
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 pro Plath and pro Hughes.
Oh and apparently he s quite good at poetry.
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.
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 herArielas 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 workWhat 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, uglyHalf approximation 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 tinyI 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 marriageThe bloody end of the skein That unravelled your marriage, Left your children echoing Like tunnels in a labyrinthThat poem speaks for itself, as does this from The BadlandsRight 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 death row and the Rosenbergs.
They took the brunt of itOn the whole while I may have liked several poems than 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, re using her texts, titles, imagery and language to offer Hughes side of the story Setebos , and Night ride 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 feel cathartic 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 self destructive 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.
I m not actually a huge fan of Ted Hughes as a writer.
As a human being whose life and misdeeds are basically publicly property I have no comment.
I like this, I m almost afraid to say, because it is ugly Self justifying and painful and tender and unpleasant An raw mixture of unspeakable things.