” I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.”
-Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
She was my brave Esther and I had her back. Even if she was dead.
It was on a Monday that I decided that I hated Ted Hughes because my muse Sylvia Plath had stuck her head in an oven and died. He refused to share her unfinished work, which was a very mean thing to do since he was the reason she died in the first place.
Having idolized Sivvy since I was like 5 or 15, I was naturally protective of her. Even if she was dead.
I was livid when Mr. Hughes was named Poet Laureate in 1984. It seemed unfair, to say the least. It didn’t matter to me if he was a highly distinguished and gifted poet.
The beloved and beatific master of poetic license was in actuality a murderous, proud monster who would be Poet Laureate until he died. I decided to start a ” We hate Ted”club. We would drink Earl Grey in dainty tea cups with cucumber sandwiches and scones on Saturday afternoons at 2 while refusing to read his work.I wanted to hate you, Mr. Hughes. I couldn’t.
It was another dreaded, morbidly correct Monday that I bought “Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of the Birthday Letters”.
When I dug deeper, I found an unexpected treasure. Along with profound sorrow, understanding, and respect for the man I had talked myself into hating- without even giving him a chance.
I hadn’t imagined the weight of holding your wife’s unseen manuscripts, unable to move from the limbo that was your purgatory. Literary agent and legal (though estranged) spouse did not make a happy couple. Not terribly surprising -but it surprised me still. What transformed you into my eyes, Mr. Hughes was the revelation that you didn’t seem to care so much about protecting yourself as you did shelter your children and Sylvia’s mother, Aurelia. Sylvia style was so blatantly confessional and painfully honest, it couldn’t help but sting. I like to paint you as the true romantic who saw no need to torment them with the prelude to the only release Sylvia had left: A legacy of herself thrown into print, disturbingly poignant, brilliant and perfect.
Please forgive me, Ted Hughes. You were silent when hounded and accused. Dragged through the mires and still – you remained stoic and strong. Your perceived guilt was of no essence to you. You were loyal, fiercely protective and the much-needed voice of reason.
Old, despicable Ted – an anomaly in a sea of fame, power and copyrights. You chose the fiery path right through the gates of hell – where you were the villain in Sylvia Plath’s history books.
I bought “The Birthday Letters ” on a warm Saturday- a sunny, balmy, glorious Saturday when the air is the sweetest. The title was so happy, just reading it made me sad. The previous script was a wash of clarity with a voice that soothed, as it transversed through my world. Down the path of a multifaceted gem, it will never be dulled by time.
Once written, words become immortal. As are you. As are you both.