Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

Birthday Letters

Ted Hughes

This book makes more sense the more you know about the life of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. It works well if you read it as you would a story or novel, straight through from start to finish, as the poems are roughly chronological. Each poem, though, stands successfully on its own as well. This is Hughes' side of the story, and he tells it with sorrow, regret and immense tenderness and compassion, without shying away from the gruesome realities of his relationship with Plath.

Extract


I wanted to make you a solid writing table
That would last a lifetime.
I bought a broad elm plank two inches thick,
The wild bark surfing along one edge of it,
Rough-cut for coffin timber. Coffin elm
Finds a new life, with its corpse,
Drowned in the waters of the earth. It gives the dead
Protection for a slightly longer voyage
Than beech or ash or pine might. With a plane
I revealed a perfect landing pad
For your inspiration. I did not
Know I had made and fitted a door
Opening downwards into your Daddy's grave.

from The Table

Parallels
  • Ariel by Sylvia Plath
  • The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson
  • Tom and Viv - the film

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