July 7th, 2012
I like days when you can breathe all day. When you’re not late for anything. You don’t have to drive fast on any freeways. I made dinner tonight—this yoghurt avocado dip and cold artichokes and beet salad. It was good. And Mark made salsa. The peppers and tomatoes are coming in pretty well. The herbs and flowers too. I want to plant more flowers but it’s nearly 100 so I have to wait until it cools down. I’m reviewing a book that’s Ted Hughes letters to Keith Sagar. It’s a very strange book to read because as an American poet and editor, everything I think about Ted Hughes is colored by how I feel about Sylvia. Well Sylvia and Assia.
Ted was an unknown poet when he met the already famous Sylvia Plath. They married and had two children. And then as we all know, Sylvia killed herself when she became aware that Ted was cheating on her with Assia.
Ted married Assia who began to use Sylvia’s things and wear her clothes and had a daughter Shura. When Shura was four, Assia also stuck her head in an oven, as did Sylvia, and Assia killed her daughter as well. Part of the reason for Assia’s cheating was that Ted was cheating on her with Carol Orchard and another woman as well.
Her pleasure in telling her friends about Ted’s “ferocious lovemaking,” was over. Ted had two girlfriends and of the two, he chose to marry Carol Orchard.
When I think of Ted, I think of the great problem between admiring creative work and knowing perhaps too much about the biographical.
We know Pound was an anti-Semite. We know Eliot hated women. Hemingway was brutal to women and hated Blacks and Jews. Of all of them, the one that is hardest for me to read is Hughes. I am aware of how good the poetry is but still, the man himself grates against me. Even Eliot whose treatment of women seems loathsome is easier to read perhaps because he’s long dead.
America’s king of poetry is Robert Frost whose life was plagued with problems. His dad died when he was 11 leaving the family $8. Five years later his mother died. Then his sister went crazy and had to be committed. The whole family was depressed including his mother, hid daughter who he had to commit and his wife and Frost himself. Of his six children, one died in a mental institution, one committed suicide, three died in childbirth.
Frost is someone we love in spite of his difficulties. But the Ted Hughes story is something different. The suffering in his life was caused by him. His son Nicholas also committed suicide. Ted’s daughter Frieda says that he is not a monster. She would like us to know that. She would like the reading public to simply enjoy both of parents’ work. But sadly, we can’t do that. There is too much story available hanging in the air, stories hang and rumble and swirl over the pages of poetry, blurring the words.