09 September 2010

Birthday Letters -- Ted Hughes...

This post is not designed to be an in-depth review nor an expose for anyone studying them in Module C of Advanced English for the 2010 HSC. Rather, just a short note to note that I have enjoyed reading them. I really should get back into the habit of reading much more poetry. I used to read poetry almost every day but a masters degree has certainly put a dent in the time that I used to spend reading for pleasure. Oh well.

Ted Hughes was married to Sylvia Plath. Sylvia Plath committed suicide. The Birthday Letters apparently is a collection of poems that Hughes wrote on Plath's birthday every year after her death. There are 88 poems in the collection. As a collection, it is an interesting look at the Hughes / Plath marriage and relationship. It is without a doubt Hughes' take on that relationship, which leaves many feeling unfulfilled if they were looking for some kind of cathartic moment where Hughes purges his soul, admits some wrong doing or contributing to the early death by suicide of Plath.

I think my favourite was Fulbright Scholars. It is simple in the sense of being simply deceptive. Any one who reads it with any prior knowledge of the Hughes and Plath relationship and marriage will read so much into this poem.


Fulbright Scholars
Where was it, in the Strand? A display
Of news items, in photographs.
For some reason I noticed it.
A picture of that year's intake
Of Fulbright Scholars. Just arriving -
Or arrived.  Or some of them.
Were you among them?  I studied it.
Not too minutely, wondering
Which of them I might meet.
I remember that thought.  Not
Your face.  No doubt I scanned particularly
The girls.  Maybe I noticed you.
Maybe I weighed you up, feeling unlikely.
Noted your long hair, loose waves -
Your Veronica Lake bang.  Not what it hid.
It would appear blond. And your grin.
Your exaggerated American
Grin for the cameras, the judges, the strangers, the frighteners.
Then I forgot.  Yet I remember
The picture : the Fulbright Scholars.
With their luggage?  It seems unlikely.
Could they have come as a team? That's as I remember.
From a stall near Charing Cross Station.
It was the first fresh peach I had ever tasted.
I could hardly believe how delicious.
At twenty-five I was dumbfounded afresh
By my ignorance of the simplest things.

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