Ted Hughes’s ‘Last Letter’ to Sylvia Plath October 7, 2010Posted by pacejmiller in Blogging, On Writing.
Tags: Birthday Letters, Last Letter, New Statesman, poetry, suicide, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes
A few months ago I studied poetics and became fascinated with the tragic lives of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (I even wrote a post about it). Yesterday, a friend and former classmate brought my attention to ‘Last Letters’, a newly discovered poem by Ted Hughes that was not published in Birthday Letters. The most amazing thing about the poem is that it was about the night Plath killed herself. When I read it it sent chills through my entire body.
(Super quick update for those who don’t know the story. Plath and Hughes were both superstar poets that got married and had two kids. Hughes began an affair and Plath killed herself by sticking her head in the oven. The woman he had an affair with later killed herself and their child in the same manner as Plath. Hughes was vilified for years but never broke his silence until 1998, when he published Birthday Letters, a collection of poems about his relationship with Plath. Hughes died shortly after. Hughes and Plath’s son Nicholas committed suicide in 2009. For the full story read my earlier post.)
Apparently, the new poem was ‘discovered’ by the New Statesman in the British Library archives and will be released in full in the paper’s hard copy edition. Excerpts have been released and they paint a haunting image. The poem begins:
What did happen that Sunday night?
Your last night? Over what I remember of it
Double-exposed to my last sight of you
Burning your farewell letter to me
As if you had not meant it
Yet with that strange smile. As if you have meant
Had it reached me sooner than you planned?
Had you thought out a plan?
Another part of the poem imagines those final hours:
What happened that night, inside your hours
Is as unknown as if it never happened
What accumulation of your whole life
Like effort unconscious, like birth
Pushing through the membrane of each slow second
Into the next, happened
Only as if it could not happen
As if it was not happening
And it ends with the words:
Your wife is dead
Shudder. I can’t wait to read the poem in its entirety.