The BOOKPRESS April 1998

A Brief Review of Ted Hughes

John Bowers

A Brief Review of
Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters
From England comes exciting news:
Breaking at last his vow of silence,
The Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes,
Recalls at length the misalliance
Between himself and Sylvia Plath.
He was, he feels, cast as the baddy,
Made the object of her wrath,
Because she saw in him ‘Daddy’,
Who died when she was only eight.
For him the story is simple and sad:
Sylvia was the victim of Fate;
Otto’s betrayal drove her mad.
But here’s the problem with Ted’s theory
(This he still has not confessed):
His postpartum infidelity
Left her alone, angry, depressed.
Granted, he could not have known
She soon would commit suicide,
But once her fragile life had flown,
How could his fault be denied?
That blame should be affixed is not
The moral of this tragic tale.
Responsibility’s our lot:
It must be taken when we fail.

     —John Bowers
John Bowers is a professor of
linguistics at Cornell.

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