Monday, September 30, 2013

Ted Hughes' Final Book of Poetry - Birthday Letters - A Review

In "Birthday Letters," Ted Hughes final published book of poetry in his lifetime, the great poet reveals many intimate details of his life and marriage to his former wife- the late, great Sylvia Plath. If you are familiar with Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, this collection of poems is a must have for your library. Those not familiar with the two literary greats would still enjoy this body of work as the poems are rich with description and emotion.

The poems have a deeply personal and confessional tone. The poet's voice is calm, yet below the surface the reader can sense the trouble Ted Hughes had being married to a manic-depressive woman who continually saw the world through a dark, negative and hostile lens. A poem or two also is about 'the other woman' for whom Ted Hughes left Sylvia Plath, who was the mother of his two children.

Ted began writing the collection of poetry soon after Sylvia Plath took her own life. The volume is a constant dialog that Ted Hughes had with his former wife up until the day he died. "Birthday Letters" was published two weeks before Ted Hughes' own death of natural causes. Some of the content was most likely edited as Ted Hughes was vilified for Sylvia Plath's death. What is left is a remarkable portrait still of the inner workings a man who understood his wife to a large degree and who simply had difficulty in accepting her and her illness. Many of the poems document specific scenes and occurrences that the two literary greats shared together. The 'snapshots' are a remarkable view into a very private world.

In conclusion, Ted Hughes only volume of poetry specifically relating to Sylvia Plath is a work unlike any other. The poems vividly portray a husband and wife living together, traveling, sightseeing, dining etc as most married couples do, combined with a confession of the deepest nature of a man who simply could not stay with the mother of his two children because of her angry, hostile depression. Ultimately, the marriage failed and Ted Hughes lived while Sylvia Plath died and the poems, "Birthday Letters" are what remain of the aftermath. They are a must have for any fan of modern poetry.

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