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Tags: Sylvia Plath Ted Hughes poetry Books
I care less about Huges and Ploth than about a stone on the road.
Sylvia Plath was a wonderful poet that is used in college level courses around the world as a base of study not only in Psychology, but Creative Writing, and Literature as well. She was on anti-depressants that sadly counteracted with the serotonin levels in her brain. She was a victim to depression. Even today medications can do the same thing;however, we are just more aware. She had a lot on her shoulders. Her husband left her with her children at the early age of 30. Her sporadic social change could be the cause of her estrangement, detachment, and overall depression. She sought medication to help as a lot of people do. It's a desperate plea, and reviewing her life events and her work, even before the medications she had decided suicide was the only way out from the constant darkness, and pain she felt within. To say she is not a great poet is ridiculous. If she wasn't great she would not be discussed 47 years after her death. Her writing is timeless, and about real life decisions and situations. If you say she is not great, it is only because you simply don't understand nor appreciate the process of "Reading in between the lines."
christ, don't read it then, no-one's making you
@Cass - Exactly, well said!
They were both complicated people. I was not in their marriage so I don't know what happened. She was obviously mentally ill and had attempted suicide and been hospitalized. He was compulsive sexually and wanted that high "im in love" feeling all the time. Could he have done more? Perhaps. A determined person will succeed eventually. We don't know if he freaked out over her behavior that weekend and ran off to this other woman due to the constant stress of dealing with his and her serious issues or if he really believed that she would not harm herself.
I do feel that suicide was selfish in light of her children. However, we forget the horrible stigma against seeking mental health and the difficulty in dealing with depression.
There should be compassion enough for both. To some extent we are eternally plagued by our weaknesses. Hughes certainly was. Two women in his life took the ultimate revenge on him. It's complicated.
A little, no, a lot of compassion is due all three principals in the case (Ted, Sylvia and Assia), three very gifted (Sylvia ,the genius in my humble view)people in the net of Eros, who paid a very high price. The case is (now) very well documented and the more you read, the less any intelligent person would rush to simple-minded judgments
Rest in Peace Sylvia and Ted and Nicholas.
Why do fans have to feel that they need to be in one "camp" or the other?
Personally, I think Ms Plath's death represents a tragic loss to the literary world, and often wonder what more she would have contributed had mental illness not overshadowed her life and if she had lived to the age of 70 or beyond. I have no doubt her best writing still lay ahead of her.
I'm also a great admirer of Mr Hughes' poetry, and find it easy to appreciate both poets without reference to the soap opera built up around their lives, the reporting of which is usually misinformed, emotional, and riddled with politics, and obscures their actual times and influences rather than illuminating their work.
Ms Plath's illness was often the subject of her poems, but these were carefully and finely crafted, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the real story of interest. It's a shame that an overzealous feminist political literature, and the anti-feminist response, distorted the voice Ms Plath gave her life to crafting and gave Mr Hughes a bad reputation for posterity.
I would like to see the poetry of both revisited some twenty years after the death of Mr Hughes when the interest in the scandalous soap opera details has died down and their work studied by researchers who are removed by time from the details of their lives and who perhaps will be capable of greater objectivity in relating these poets to their context.
So...my copy has no sign of this poem. Why??
I had some correspondence with Ted Hughes, now in the British Library, after I wrote an essay "ECT and the Life and Work of Sylvia Plath" which was published in Thumbscrew, Oxford, and on my website
The essay sets out the reasons as to why I think ECT was causative in her death.
Philip Larkin on Plath/Hughes
Sylvia Plath—lonely in her flat
And me—lonely librarian at Hull
Mulling about the stacks—doing deskwork
She and I—had something in common
We both believed—in “Pwetry”
As Kingsley used to call it—but there
Just wasn’t enough good poetry
To go around—so I quit writing
Plath, of course—was good at it
In a Yankish way—carrying around her
Roget’s Thesaurus—but until Sheg Shay
Got into the balmy stunt—nothing to say
Plath began saying—more or less
That she thought—madness would pay
And found out—she could do it well
But then she—fell face down into it
Personally I think—the only things
One can do—about Literature are
Writing it, reading it—publishing it
The rest—is a waste of time
Ted Hughes—as Poet Laureate
I suppose—he’ll do the job all right
Except for writing anything readable
His Mytholmroyd crap—puts me to sleep
We had the—Old Crow over at Hull
Recently looking—like a Christmas present
From Easter Island—he’s all right
I suppose—when not reading
At a recent—literature festival
A woman shrieked—and vomited during
A Ted Hughes reading—I must say I’ve never
Felt like shrieking—vomiting maybe tho
Did you know—Auden got a rectal fissure
From being buggered—by a sailor & had to
Have an operation?—“Letter to a Wound”*
People take the fun—out of life don’t they?
*Part of Auden’s The Orators (1932)
To ask people for a close tolerenced reply when placed where it is is like asking Jesus to referee a rugby match. Come on people.
How about Stevie Smith, doing her usual on youtube?
This is NOT a unique situation. In our self-absorbed society, there are a lot of wannabe Sylvia Plath's out there . . . sick, alone, but carrying a pathological need for a one-true love and celebrity, but not mentally or emotionally equipped to handle either.
R.I.P. to both. . .let's move on.
after reading the article my views of ted has changed
I cannot find the poem to read it. Does one have to go for the trial subscription to read the poem (other than the illegible scribblings that are included in this brief article?
There is Lynette Roberts as well, from Argentina, believe it or not,
this is good
DEVO was also quite a pleasing expression of art in its form, way back, even, in the mid-1970s,
Marylyn. Its all over the internet. Just google it.
It should be poets, not poet's !
I would like to commiserate with WWP. It can't be easy being such an unthinking creature, incapable of understanding the difficulties experienced by people like Sylvia Plath. Maybe he should read some poetry? It might help.
I see I was wrong in guessing that "Susan" was a pseudonym for Assia Wevill! There was a real Susan Alliston, a poet and a neighbor of Ted's, who was his lover also. I wonder how Assia felt about THAT? I started Assia's biography last night, and her story is amazing also.
and a bloke called Carwyn, once,
and more visulisations of the triumverate of the three rivers which Taf was of concern here, apart from Towy and Gwendraeth,
I gave up reading some of these comments because they were so off-topic. I understand that admirers of art and artists themselves are always drawn to the motive and the reasons as to why the art was created in the first place. But poetry, just like drama, painting, sculpture is about the essence of humanity. Don't analyse what Hughes and Plath experienced together, just read what they had to say, and appreciate it. Or don't. Your choice.
This is good too:
“And my head, worn out with love, at rest
In my hands, and my hands full of dust,
O my lady.”—Ted Hughes, “Song”
I'm so sick of seeing people like WWP and philip muldoon attacking and criticising Sylvia for something she had no control over - her severe bouts of depression. You have the audacity to say that she "offed herself because the world revolved around her"; I can't even begin to say how ignorant and rude your comments are. Something we learn in our first years of school are manners and the ability to empathize - clearly you two lack these abilities. Why don't you just keep your mouth shut for future reference, you might get another "crazy feminist" like me on your case. May Sylvia rest in peace... she was a genius whose life was cut much too short...
Same problem as Marilyn C Why can't the NS publish up front.
@Kat D Susan Alliston died of Hodgkins disease in 1968, I think. The della robbia thing is very obscure... I think its just a way of saying my 'charming distraction'... plus its a nice word having that slight sense of a moment stolen to it. Cant help more than that!
Im a bit disappointed by this blog - loads of comments on a soapbox with personal agendas, and little actual reading. The danger of writing poetry it seems, is bad readers. No comment on that stupid misprint which has been faithfully reproduced all round the web I see.
+++ sigh +++
couldnt cope with that! bloody actors, hamming it up. I guess you know this:
followed by this:
which is a whole load more compelling ... if unfunny
still... its the best to be found on the web, and I found it a startling corrective to all this hypothesising about people dead and gone...
(the Larkin is half awful, half excellent btw)
Too bad for artists and poets, but most people are motivated to become interested in actual human experience, not art (unless it's film and has enough drama and lowest-common-denominator stuff). That's why I've put "Sylvia" on my Netflix queue! I do like the poems, too, and often cover one of Plath's in my literature class that I teach. And the biographies are teaching me a lot of history I would otherwise not have become familiar with. The "art" itself is too pure for me without the sweet-sour mix of journals, biographies, gossip, letters, and fellow fanatics. Simply by being HUMAN, you bring to any poem your own experiences that come to semi-consciousness as you are reading the poem. All we are doing is gathering others' experiences as well as our own, and many of us are doing it prior to reading the actual poetry (especially Hughes' which I haven't read much of). Guilty as charged, but only in your court, Guest.
Whatever the truth may be about Sylvia and her mental illness, Ted knowingly married a mentally fragile woman. He then decided to betray her trust in their marriage... so why is it so unbelievable that he actually had part in her decision process to commit suicide? Yes she had attempts in her past, but he chose to be flippant about betraying a mentally unstable woman... he has to admit part in her eventual death. That aside, i just really want to read this follow-up to "Birthday Letters". In the end everyone has their own opinion on what happened, but only they would have ever known the truth... this poetry is just a glimpse into their world.
Thank you! Thank you, kcwatcher! I had been googling it, Jack, with nothing coming up...
and further on the dellarobbia route... it seems that Vasari accused him of 'over-finishing' work... so dellarobbia might also mean 'delicate but over-refined...'
I can only guess it was a phrase that has since dropped out of use and I can only speculate about its meanin.
Thank you keencloudwatcher!
@Kat D ... although knowing Ted Hughes interest in Arts and Crafts, it seems more likely to me that he is referring to the british arts and crafts style ceramics 'dellarobbia'
... his inimitable, dangerous and generally brilliant way of summing up a person, or a thing, or a mood with one well-chosen and startling word.
I dont know of Susan Alliston well enough to judge if dellarobbia is a fit epithet, but I guess it probably is.
Nice looking, quite chunky ceramics, with vivid colours.
More closed London artistica going on here NS.
Lord - is that a sware word alright for you?
Did Susan Alliston write the “Last Letter” poem—and not Hughes?
pleasure! I hope Im not about to be walloped by the NS! Its very long... and takes a bit of digesting... Rosemarie Rowley's essay is persuasive if only half the story... I agree with backflipper above - none one more than hughes knew that Plath was a genius, and he spent the rest of his life proving it to the world - but still... I think Last Letter is another admission that he cant forgive himself, or be forgiven. Bleak stuff.
Carmarthen Bay with their three rivers could become a future artistic stronghold. I will tell you this, the local population would love it, big time, you culture vulture makers. Yes, they'd piss their pants to have you.
Yes. But... it doesnt really hit the nail on the head does it? To me, the whole thing is a kind of potlach and some people grasp their death like that, as a gift that cannot be returned. That's the way I see it, really. And you can't deny that her suicide has been an enormous potlach, a big gift to readers, poets, bloggers, academics, publishers, ... to everybody. So - to hell with melancholy and sadness! - it's a gift.
By the way, I met, so to speak, Lynette Roberts in St. Davids sanitorium in 1983-85, or an asylum, if you want, when I worked there as a hospital porter.
Remember her walking the grounds and breaking out in south american spanish, and just generally doing the lost minded things people do.
That's life for some, sadly.
Poems and Journals 1960–1969
Introduction by Ted Hughes
ISBN: 978-1905512768, 128 pages
Susan Alliston was born and educated in England. In 1960 she moved with her husband to Tunisia, returning to London in 1962. At first a secretary and later a reader for Faber & Faber and Penguin Books, she was friendly with a number of writers who met at the Lamb pub in Holborn. Among them was Ted Hughes. He encouraged her writing, and the journals cast light on aspects of his life and work. Susan Alliston died in 1969.
Yes. But... it doesnt really hit the nail on the head does it? To me, the whole thing is a kind of potlach and some people grasp their death like that, as a gift that cannot be returned. That's the way I see it, really. And you can't deny that her suicide has been an enormous potlach, a big gift to readers, poets, bloggers, academics, publishers, ... to everybody.
So - to hell with melancholy and sadness! To hell with haters and onesided partisans! To hell with liberal cowards! - it's a gift.
Yes. But... it doesnt really hit the nail on the head does it? To me, the whole thing is a kind of potlach and some people can grasp their death like that, as a gift that cannot be returned. That's the way I see it, really. And you can't deny that her suicide has been an enormous potlach, a big gift to readers, poets, bloggers, academics, publishers, ... to everybody.
St. Davids' asylum in Carmarthen, by the way.
Marriages break up all the time. There is culpability in both spouses, whether they are women or men (and whatever combination thereof). Mental illness, depression, etc., adds another dimension whenever a relationship is in trouble due to financial, emotional, work and other issues. Not everyone understands the complexities, particularly when intimately involved, in living with someone who fights mental demons all the time. Plath and Hughes had outlets in the writing and both produced some remarkable stuff. But for Hughes to be continually vilified even in death for leaving doesn't seem fair. Perhaps it was the only way he knew how to cope; Plath's way of coping was to end her life. Looking at it as someone not involved, neither one did the right thing.
Suicide following separation or divorce is hardly unheard of. The ony reason this gets attention is who they were. The whole thing is very sad, particularly for their daughter, who has now lost a mother, a stepmother, half sister and brother to mental illness and suicide. As a society we need to do a better job helping those who need to be reached out to.
“still... its the best to be found on the web, and I found it a startling corrective to all this hypothesising about people dead and gone...”
I agree. The same with this clip of Plath reading “Daddy.” Her breakthrough into Ariel…
I am disturbed by persons with large nostrils. Also, ants eat plants.
Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.