15 October 2010

Al Alvarez gets harsh...

Al Alvarez has posted a short follow-up on the Guardian Books Blog "Ted Hughes's 'Last Letter' to Sylvia Plath: Second thoughts." The subtitle being, "On reflection, I realise I wasn't harsh enough on the poet when I considered the poem." I can see Alvarez wiping his hands clean and I suspect that the haze of the first impressions craze has died down and we're moving into possibly the more contemplative phase.

7 comments :

Dirt said...

While I agree on one hand, I have to wonder if this "second thought" is Alvarez trying to assuage his own guilt of "abandoning Sylvia"?

Joseph Hutchison said...

I get tired of the way every discussion of Plath and her work gets dragged into psychology—that is, the way it becomes a tool for analyzing the poet. The greatness of her best work is rooted, in part, in the non-utilitarian nature of it. It is elemental, chthonic, archetypal, radiant—a midsummer night's nightmare. Let's look at and into it rather than putting the ghost of Sylvia on the analyst's couch.

Catty said...

I read the poem the Friday after it was published at an Arvon advanced poetry workshop (in the Ted Hughes Room, no less). It wasn't well received. A lot of people (myself included) felt it was too prosey and filled with a lot of "getting to somewhere" bits. It could certainly have done with some editing. That whole bit about the downstairs neighbour didn't really add anything.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi Catty,

I suspect the prosiness feeling is a result of the poem being largely unfinished. Didn't they kind of compromise on a version or something, there being no typed, final draft?

Of all the poems considered to be Birthday Letters poems that I have read, this one does have a rawness to it. However, on the whole those I think that part of what makes Birthday Letters a cohesive entity is in many respects, that many poems do have a prosiness about them. So I see it fitting, even though it is technically not complete.

pks

Marion McCready said...

Hi Peter, in a Guardian article concerning the poem it says that Hughes had given Carol (Hughes) a "typed fair copy of it". Don't you think that this sounds like a final draft?

Peter K Steinberg said...

Marion,

Yes, indeed it does. Thank you for the comment. I have to admit I gave up reading the media coverage surround "Last Letter" finding it severely deficient and quite poorly written: so I missed this bit o' information.

pks

George Fitzgerald said...

And still, since Hughes chose not to include it in "Birthday Letters" -- typed version notwithstanding -- we needn't judge it against those he did include. His judgement is what counts. its value is in the expression of raw feelings and of what, we may presume, actually happened. It's a tiny segment of biography -- we're all obsessed with his and her biographies and so naturally it is valuable. It is sensational and adds poignant details we had no knowledge of until this unpolished poem's unearthing. It adds, too, to the hurt we know of those tragically tangled lives. I'm grateful for it.

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