Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath

Poet Ted Hughes, (books by this author) born in the town of Mytholmroyd, England (1930). He grew up in the countryside, surrounded by moors. He joined the air force and was assigned duty as a wireless mechanic in an isolated spot in rural Yorkshire, where he read Shakespeare all day. He went to Cambridge and studied anthropology and archaeology, and he was especially interested in mythology. A few years after he graduated, he helped found a literary magazine, and at the launch party he met an American student named Sylvia Plath. They were married less than four months later.

Sylvia Plath (books by this author) worked on her own writing, but she also helped her husband. She typed up his poems and sent them out to magazines, and she encouraged him to enter a contest sponsored by the Poetry Center in New York City, a contest whose judges were W.H. Auden, Marianne Moore, and Stephen Spender. Hughes won first place, and his poems were published as The Hawk in the Rain (1957), which got great reviews and made Hughes famous.

Hughes and Plath had two children together, but they separated in 1962 when Hughes had an affair with another woman. The next year, Plath committed suicide. Hughes didn't write his own poetry again for years, but instead, spent his time editing and collecting Plath's poetry. A few years after Plath's death, Hughes' lover killed their four-year-old daughter and then herself.

In 1984, Ted Hughes became the poet laureate of Britain. He died in 1998, a few months after publishing Birthday Letters, a book of poetry about his life with Sylvia Plath, a life that he had refused to discuss in the 30 years since her death.

Ted Hughes wrote many books of poems, including Crow (1971), Moortown (1980), and Wolfwatching (1990), and also children's books, including The Iron Man (1968).

He said: "It is occasionally possible, just for brief moments, to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions inside the head and express something — perhaps not much, just something — of the crush of information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did one day a dozen years ago. Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are, from the momentary effect of the barometer to the force that created men distinct from trees… and in that same moment, make out of it all the vital signature of a human being — not of an atom, or of a geometrical diagram, or of a heap of lenses — but a human being, we call it poetry."

courtesy Writers Almanac

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