Birthday Letters

Birthday Letters

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Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters are addressed, with just two exceptions, to Sylvia Plath, the American poet to whom he was married. They were written over a period of more than twenty-five years, the first a few years after her suicide in 1963, and represent Ted Hughes's only account of his relationship with Plath and of the psychological drama that led both to the writing of her greatest poems and to her death. The book became an instant bestseller on its publication in 1998 and won the Forward Prize for Poetry in the same more

Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 124 x 196 x 18mm | 199.58g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 0571194737
  • 9780571194735
  • 27,998

Review Text

Britain's Poet Laureate, the author of many volumes of verse, translation and criticism, here stuns the literary world by writing at long last about his marriage to poet and feminist martyr Sylvia Plath. Thirty-five years after her suicide at age 30, Hughes, the burly bard who usually grunts about cruel nature, instead adopts a more prosey voice for these 88 poems, all but a few spoken directly to the dead mother of his two children. Hughes's typically harsh, compounded adjectives give way to his narrative instincts-this is his version of events now legendary, from their first meeting at a poetry gathering through their courtship, wedding, and honeymoon. From the start, Hughes suggests, he was "the male lead" in her "drama," an intense Freudian struggle with her dead father, who inspired Plath's masterwork, the "Ariel" poems. Readers drawn for its pure salacious value-and who isn't? - will find no great revelations, but Hughes isn't exactly soft either; he mocks Plath's "delirium of suspicions," her fame hunger, and her naive, "American" way of seeing things. "The Minotaur" neatly sums up Hughes's argument, while most of the remaining poems have little value beyond their place in this psycho-saga. But as long as Ariel is read-which will be a long time-this less passionate, less edgy volume will stand by its side. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

"An extraordinary book . . . [Hughes's] subject is Plath herself--how she looked and moved and talked, her pleasures, rages, uncanny dreams, and many terrors, what was good between them and where it went wrong."—A. Alvarez, "The New Yorker" "The critics who are urging us to regard these poems as masterpieces are right. Their intensity of feeling, the clarity of their imagery, the precision, energy, simplicity, and fluidity of their language are still striking."—Paul Levy, "The Wall Street Journal" "An emotional, direct, regretful, and entranced [tone] pervades the book's strongest poems, which are quiet and thoughtful and conversational."—Katha Pollitt, "The New York Times Book Review" "Most of the poems in "Birthday Letters" have a wonderful immediacy and tenderness that's new to Hughes's writing, a tenderness that enables him to communicate Plath's terrors as palpably as her own verse, and to convey his own lasting sense of loss and grief. . . . They shoshow more

About Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes (1930-1998) was born in Yorkshire. His first book, The Hawk in the Rain, was published in 1957 by Faber and Faber and was followed by many volumes of poetry and prose for adults and children, including The Iron Man (1968). He received the Whitbread Book of the Year for both Tales from Ovid (1997) and Birthday Letters (1998). He was Poet Laureate from 1984, and in 1998 he was appointed to the Order of more

Rating details

7,040 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 34% (2,417)
4 35% (2,484)
3 22% (1,536)
2 6% (432)
1 2% (171)
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