Wednesday, May 25

QOTW: Ted Hughes on Sylvia Plath

Sylvia and I met because she was curious about my group of friends at university and I was curious about her. I was working in London but I used to go back up to Cambridge at weekends. Half a dozen or so of us made a poetic gang. Our main cooperative activity was drinking in the Anchor and our main common interest, apart from fellow feeling and mutual attraction, was Irish, Scottish and Welsh traditional songs - folk songs and broadsheet ballads. We sang a lot. Recorded folk song was rare in those days. 

Our poetic interests were more mutually understood than talked about. But we did print a broadsheet of literary comment. In one issue, one of our group, our Welshman, Dan Huws, demolished a poem that Sylvia had published, "Caryatids." He later became a close friend of hers, wrote a beautiful elegy when she died. That attack attracted her attention. Also, she had met one of our group, Lucas Myers, an American, who was an especially close friend of mine. Luke was very dark and skinny. He could be incredibly wild. Just what you hoped for from Tennessee. His poems were startling to us - Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens vocabulary, zany. He interested Sylvia. In her journals she records the occasional dream in which Luke appears unmistakably. When we published a magazine full of our own poems, the only issue of St. Botolph's, and launched it at a big dance party, Sylvia came to see what the rest of us looked like. Up to that point I'd never set eyes on her. I'd heard plenty about her from an English girlfriend who shared supervisions with her. There she suddenly was, raving Luke's verses at Luke and my verses at me.

Once I got to know her and read her poems, I saw straight off that she was a genius of some kind. Quite suddenly we were completely committed to each other and to each other's writing.
Hughes is known for his children's novel, The Iron Man
 (also known as The Iron Giant).  Image: reeway 2007
Hughes was an English poet and children's writer.  He was British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998. Plath was an American poet, novelist and short story writer, best known for The Colossus and Other Poems and The Bell Jar.  The pair were married between 1956 and 1965, when Plath died by committing suicide.