Ted Hughes + Sylvia Plath: starcrossed to the extreme

October 22, 2010

I’ve been reading a bit of poetry by Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, inspired to go back to it by the movie, Sylvia, starring Gwyneth Paltrow. {Gwyneth was great, Daniel Craig also.}

Handsome poets who teach college have always been popular {and susceptible to nubile coeds & wily wives} and Hughes was no different. Handsome, talented, erudite; such magnetism that two of his wives (poets, both) committed suicide, apparently over him.

Sylvia Plath’s story is well-known, but most people don’t know that the woman he left her for (and married) also committed suicide. He betrayed both women and then used his poems to imply that it wasn’t his fault.

Uh huh.

These are all photos of Ted and Sylvia. They sure look happy together. But starcrosssed, they were.
Plath’s a better poet than her image as a depressed divorcee and mother would have us believe. She died so young–30–so much lost potential.

But Ted Hughes is increasingly being talked about in the same terms as Yeats and other “name-brand” poets. And his work clearly illustrates his power over words.

In reading some of the poems from Birthday Letters, his book about Sylvia, it’s clear how his love affair with her –and her death– haunted him the rest of his life.
And now, an anguished new Ted Hughes poem has been released by his widow. One that was held back from Birthday Letters.

It’s incredibly moving.

Unfortunately, the New Statesman has the publishing rights to Last Letter and hasn’t put it on line. I had to dig around to find it, and never could find the whole poem. I found an excerpt that was read on BBC, and now it’s been pulled off the internet. So here’s a story about it and a tiny snippet of the reading.


And then, here’s an even more dynamic reading of a couple of Hughes’ letters about Plath’s death. Even in his letters, his torment comes through loud and clear. So does his talent:

Ah, la amor. Inspiration for some of the best writing ever.

One comment on “Ted Hughes + Sylvia Plath: starcrossed to the extreme
  1. I have never been among the Hughes-haters, and I think most poets now are tough enough to outshine any perceived abuse. Case in point – the 21st century’s Sylvia Plath is Carolyn Srygley-Moore, the strongest woman poet in decades. No ovens there.

    Lesson herein for gays being bullied etc: Physical violence must be stopped immediately, but don’t let intimidation lead you to suicide. Be stronger, outwit them.

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