10 July 2010

Huws & Ariel

I received recently and read even more recently a copy of Daniel Huws' Memories of Ted Hughes, 1952-1963. In length it is Beckeresque. In content, it is a wholly unremarkable - substanceless. Sylvia Plath figures very minorly as one might expect, although the dates associated with the book in the title are quite inclusive of the years in which Plath was very much a part of the picture.

The book is in two parts, with an afterword. I've no doubt his memories, and the memories of Hughes' other friends, is and are far different from the Ted Hughes portrayed in Plath's biographies and in articles about the pair. The book basically says, "He was my friend and you [i.e. Plathies] got him all wrong." Well, we are all many different people to many different people. Thanks. Huws suggests that they had a lot of fun at Plath's expense in 1956, and likely beyond. Huws did seem to feel friendly and kindlier to Plath after 1960, after she brought Ted back to London as it were. Huws' wife Helga, also appears to have gotten on admirably with Plath, too.

Accompanying Huws' printed memories in the little parcel was the new Faber hardback Ariel. In person it is far more attractive than what I though having seen it only in the interweb, and the endpapers are lovely too. It is the "original" 1965 Ariel, beginning with "Love" and ending with "life." The Hughes edition. No doubt we can recognize many images from the poems contained in the collection on the cover & endpapers. Ariel, in this format, forms part of the Poetry Firsts series; the cover and endpaper designs are by Sarah Young.

But, this confuses me some. Ariel. Two versions. One published forty-five years ago the other just six years ago. Why reprint the older version when I, like some, wish to forget it (to a degree)? I think the reason for this publication is printed on the back of this new Faber book, "It is it the volume on which her reputation as one of the most original, daring and gifted poets of the twentieth century rests." Perhaps it is that some (Faber, The Estate, etc.) rely too heavily on this version of Ariel and its messages, the order of the poems, the somber conclusion, etc. But, so much has changed since 1965 and the perception and reception of Plath is in a far better place, I think.


Julia said...

Interesting, indeed.

There is value to the first edition, too, I think. It got a few different (and some very good) poems out there. It is a model of the working relationship of Plath and Hughes, versus raw and pure Plath. But I think that we can all agree that raw and pure Plath was better.

I promise you that the perception of Plath will just continue to get better. :-)

Anonymous said...

I wish I could get a copy of that Huws book. I wouldn't worry too much about the perception of our beloved Sylvia. You have to remember that this is Ted's friend. A friend always sticks up for the other.


Peter K Steinberg said...

I definitely think there is value to the first edition (and not just monetary). I hope the perception keeps getting better. Lord knows we're all trying!

Amy! So true. Cornell University has it, I wonder if you could request an inter library loan? You could also request an inter-Steinberg loan, too...


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