Burnt Letters and Buried Manuscripts: the Plath/Hughes Drama Continues…

The New Statesman has announced it is publishing “The Last Letter,” a poem by the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, found in various drafts in the Hughes papers. The article, along with scans of some of the drafts of the poem, can be found on New Statesman’s website, here.  Also, a portion of the poem can be heard read in the BBC4 coverage on the poem’s publication here. Ted Hughes had admitted to burning Plath’s last notebooks, and the poem itself touches on his burning her last letter to him.  Hughes mentioned elsewhere that the draft of a novel-in-progress by Plath “vanished” at some point as well. It’s been this destruction of such documents, as well as the circumstances surrounding Plath’s suicide, that cast a shadow over the rest of his life. He remained silent on this subject, even while he was acting as the executor of Plath’s literary estate.  This silence was broken at the very end of his life, when he published The Birthday Letters less than a year before his death.  This newly-found poem could almost be seen as the unpublished emotional center of that last book.

No word yet, at least that I can find, from Frieda Hughes, the surviving child of Plath and Hughes, on the publishing of the poem.  A poet herself, Frieda Hughes has often spoken out on the media’s treatment of her mother’s suicide, most  pointedly on the recent film on Plath’s suicide, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.  It has also been the subject of the most immediate and striking poems in her books Forty-five and Stonepicker and the Book of Mirrors.


~ by dblomenb on October 7, 2010.

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