08 October 2010

Guardian Podcast features segment on Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

The Guardian Books section recently posted a Podcast in which they discuss, among other topics, National Poetry Day and the "difficulties surrounding the publication of a newly discovered Ted Hughes poem written immediately after Sylvia Plath's death." Written immediately? Seriously?


Anna said...

Yeah... this is crazy how fast the rumors start, how fast people are staring to mix and make things up!

Not even 24 hours passed sinde the publication of the poem and I already found three "myths" http://lovingsylvia.tumblr.com/post/1268330468/last-letter-myths

1) Ted Hughes’ LOST Poem On Sylvia Plath’s Suicide Unveiled

2) LOST-UNTIL-NOW Ted Hughes poem about Sylvia Plath’s suicide

3) Ted Hughes’s LAST poem

4) Never before poem BY Sylvia Plath just published

I really don't get how or why people don't care, don't listen or whatever!

But these are only "regular" people... however, this is also how rumors start and in a year nobody will know what's true or not... I bet, we'll find a headline "Ted Hughe's last, lost until now poem written immediately after Sylvia's suicide... by Sylvia Plath herself"


Anna said...

I found something else, but I'm not sure what to think about this


"He seems to have wrestled with the poem for some 30 years"

What do you think, Peter? I mean, why someone assumes he was working on it for over 30 years? Only, because there are three drafts and because he never published it? Isn't it a little far-fetched?

Anonymous said...

Anna, it may have been Roy Davies who commented that Hughes didn't start writing about Sylvia and their relationship until the
1970's. So that would have been about 30 years before he died. But you are correct in that we don't know when Hughes wrote it or how long he labored over it. kim

phdavies said...

Ugh, this podcast is the least illuminating piece I have heard on Last Letters so far. This whole debate about whether the poem should or shouldn't be published is surely irrelevant? The estate sold his papers to the British Library (which I imagine he had got into some order before his death knowing for a long time that he was ill) and his widow, Carol Hughes, approved its publication. Surely she of all people would know what her husband would have wanted? This poem is too important to not be out there!

Anna said...

Can someone enlighten me about SUSAN, pls? I'm not sure if I understood everything, because I'm not an English native speaker, but he is talking about a real woman, isn't he?
Can it be some kind of a pseudonym for Assia?

Peter K Steinberg said...


That is Susan Alliston, a poet that Hughes knew - I guess in both a platonic and biblical sense. Recently Alliston's poems were published with an intro Hughes wrote for them by the same press that published Daniel Huws' memoir and Lucas Myers new memoirs.

If we take the poem at face value Hughes was still married to Plath, but seeing both Assia and Susan. A revelation for sure.

You can learn more about her here.

Anonymous said...

Anna, he is speaking about Susan Alliston, a poet and friend of his(although it appears their relationship became more intimate around the time of the demise of his marriage to Sylvia. Susan died of Non Hodgkins lymphoma (I think that's right) around 1969. I found the book of her poems published fairly recently, on Amazon.com.uk - waiting for it to arrive in the mail. I think, too, she worked as a secretary at Faber & Faber. That's all I know off the bat. So, no, Susan is not an alias for Assia. kim

Anna said...

WOW!!!!! Now that's really a revelation (at least for me!).

If it's ok, my gonna reblog your answers on my blog, because a few people wrote to me and asked my about who Susan was!

Julia said...

Yeah, I think the most important thing to come from this poem is the clarification of Hughes' relationship with Susan Alliston.

And then I step back, and wonder if any of it really means anything at all of importance?

I just bought Susan Alliston's book of poems yesterday (I got the last one on Amazon. Check Alibris and other sites) and am awaiting its arrival. Thanks to L for the tip-off!

Anonymous said...

Julia, you will laugh, I'm sure, when you hear that I bought the Alliston book last night from Amazon - I think it said there was one left, then I saw a UK seller had a copy for $10 including shipping, so I bought it from that seller - great minds must think alike :-) kim

Melanie Smith said...

Bought it from book depository :)

Anonymous said...

Melanie, you must be psychic! :-) kim

Peter K Steinberg said...


Sorry to be deliquent. Rather than reblog comments (unless you already have) it would be better (and easier I think) to simply refer people to this blog. If other readers have comments why separate them from the original context?


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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.