Saturday, 30 May 2009


Ted and Sylvia
Lately courtesy of BBC 4 t.v. I have been following the career of Amercan poet Sylvia Plath and the traumatic culmination of her life at 30 by suicide. She was of course famously married to English poet laureate, Ted Hughes and their stormy relationship has been the subject of much speculation over the years. After her tragic death Hughes became the scapegoat of blame especially by feminists but for a long time he maintained a stoney silence only breaking it a few years before his own death in a volume of poetry called ‘Birthday Letters’. The book is a collection of letters written by Hughes to Sylvia each year on her birthday clearly showing the intensity of their connection and for many readers the tender tone of this volume forever puts to bed questions about his culpability in her death.
It is worth noting that Hughes had an obsession with the occult ,an interest which he introduced to the young Plath, this can only be viewed as a negative influence on her sensitive poetic temperament. Their first meeting at a party in Cambridge in the Spring of 1956 is dealt with by Hughes in this piece… “Ten years after your death, I meet in a page of your journal as never before the shock of your joy, then the shock of your prayers, and under those prayers your panic that prayers might not create a miracle, then under the panic, the nightmare that came rolling to crush you. Suddenly, I read all of this, your actual words as they floated out through your throat and tongue and onto your page, just as when your daughter, years ago now, drifting in, gazing up into my face, mystified where I worked alone in the silent house asked suddenly, 'Daddy, where's mummy?' The freezing soil of the garden as I clawed it all around me--that midnight's giant clock of frost and somewhere inside it, wanting to feel nothing, a pulse of fever--somewhere inside the numbness of the earth our future trying to happen. I look up, as if to meet your voice with all its urgent future that has burst in on me, then look back at the book, the printed words, you are 10 years dead. It is only a story, your story, my story."
In the last year of her life Plath produced her finest collection of poetry ‘Ariel’ which today is considered a classic of literature, many of these later works suggest the melancholy and despair which would eventually overcome her. On February 11 th. 1963 she set out a tray of milk and cookies for her sleeping children, opened their bedroom window and sealed off the kitchen where after overdosing on sleeping pills she gassed herself to death. In a tragic footnote one of those children, Nicholas whom she so carefully protected on that night went on to take his life earlier this year.

Gerard O'Shea


I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

What ever you see I swallow immediately

Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.

I am not cruel, only truthful--

-The eye of a little god, four-cornered.

Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.

It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long

I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.

Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

I am important to her. She comes and goes.

Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.

In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Sylvia Plath

No comments: