Friday, May 7, 2010

September - Ted Hughes

Tragically, Ted Hughes (1930 - 1998), one of England's best poets of the last century, is known to many mostly as the husband of Sylvia Plath, the American poet who committed suicide in 1963 at the age of 30.  The side-long glances and unspoken questions that surely follow loved ones of all suicides were amplified in his case by the admirers of Plath who blamed him for her death the year following his leaving her for the woman who would become his second wife.  (The fact that she too died by her own hand - after killing their daughter - probably didn't help.  His third marriage, however, lasted almost thirty years, until his own death.)  Reams have been written - mostly critical, as Hughes became a symbol of "male oppression" - about Hughes and Plath.  My two cents?  NO ONE on the outside knows all that goes on within a marriage relationship OR the mind of a suicide, so assigning blame - barring direct, incontrovertible evidence - should be avoided by anyone with compassion.  Sadly, these events in his personal life have often overshadowed his literary legacy.  Though a bit difficult, his poetry is very worth reading for its use of myths and animal imagery.  His children's books include "The Iron Man", which was later made into an animated film, "The Iron Giant" (1999), that bears seeing - I liked it.  This  poem is a bit of a departure from the poetic themes for which he is known.  It also comes from an earlier period in his career. (I chose this photo from many because it makes him look a bit like Hugh Hefner here.)

We sit late, watching the dark slowly unfold:
No clock counts this.
When kisses are repeated and the arms hold
There is no telling where time is.

It is midsummer: the leaves hang big and still:
Behind the eye a star,
Under the silk of the wrist a sea, tell
Time is nowhere.

We stand; leaves have not timed the summer.
No clock now needs
Tell we have only what we remember:
Minutes uproaring with our heads

Like and unfortunate King’s and Queen’s
When the senseless mob rules;
And quietly the trees casting their crowns
Into the pools.
                                                                                            Ted Hughes - English

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