28 February 2009

Bere on Letters of Ted Hughes

Just one link to pass on this week...

Carol Bere recently published "Getting Out of the Flames" - her review of the Letters of Ted Hughes - in Contemporary Poetry Review. Enjoy!


panther said...

Thanks, Peter, for pointing us towards this review.

I love Ted Hughes' letters. Bere is quite right to describe some of them as batty, but even those ones are very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, for this wonderful review. The writer really "gets" what a great collection of letters this is. I just can't praise it highly enough. If you pick it up and start reading anywhere, it's impossible to put it down, Hughes' witing is so compelling, regardless of what he's talking about.

What I was most impressed by, what I found most fascinating, was how, when he speak of Sylvia the poet, even when criticizing her, his tone is one invariably one of admiration. Here is a short passage from a letter to Aurelia:

"...Sylvia was not a poet of the Lowell/Sexton self-therapy, or even national therapy, school, but was a mystical poet of an altogether higher--in fact of the very highest--tradition. ...There is simply nobody like her. I've just finished reading all of Emily Dickinson for a small selection, and my final feeling is that she comes quite a way behind Sylvia. As for Lowell etc, if he is a fine doctor, she is a miracle healer. There is no comparison."

Of course, at times he is quite obviously telling the recipient what he/she wants to hear. For example, when writing to Robert Lowell, trying to distinguish Sylvia's poetry from the Lowell/Sexton school without unduly disparaging Lowell's work, he writes:

"I was trying to defins Sylvia's poetry as something that moves in spirit or in the dimension of spirit rather, and to distinguish it in this way from yours and Anne Sexton's which seem to me to share at least this, that they move in the dimension of nature and society....my own preferences lie with poetry that moves-- like Shakespeare and Tolstoy after all-- in the dimension of nature and society. And it is the other kind of poetry which I feel needs the defence..."

--Jim Long

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