Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

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Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters are addressed, with just two exceptions, to Sylvia Plath, the American poet to whom he was married. They were written over a period of more than twenty-five years, the first a few years after her suicide in 1963, and represent Ted Hughes's only account of his relationship with Plath and of the psychological drama that led both to the writing of her greatest poems and to her death. The book became an instant bestseller on its publication in 1998 and won the Forward Prize for Poetry in the same year.

About Ted Hughes

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Ted Hughes was born on August 17, 1930 in England and attended Cambridge University, where he became interested in anthropology and folklore. These interests would have a profound effect on his poetry. In 1956, Hughes married famed poet Sylvia Plath. He taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 1957 until 1959, and he stopped writing altogether for several years after Plath's suicide in 1963. Hughes's poetry is highly marked by harsh and savage language and depictions, emphasizing the animal quality of life. He soon developed a creature called Crow who appeared in several volumes of poetry including A Crow Hymn and Crow Wakes. A creature of mythic proportions, Crow symbolizes the victim, the outcast, and a witness to life and destruction. Hughes's other works also created controversy because of their style, manner, and matter, but he has won numerous honors, including the Somerset Maugham Award in 1960, and the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1974. His greatest honor came in 1984, when he was named Poet Laureate of England. Ted Hughes died in 1998.
Published February 1, 1998 by Farrar Straus Giroux. 197 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Romance, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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Even tender recollections, such as Plath reciting Chaucer to a field of cows, are tinged with foreboding or, elsewhere, with the intensity of their writing lives: ""The poems, like smoking entrails,/ Came soft into your hands."" Throughout, Hughes's muscular, controlled free verse, familiar from...

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London Review of Books

Indeed, by far the most disturbing poem in a book full of disturbing poems is ‘Suttee’, Hughes’s record of Plath’s terrible rebirth as a poet, in which he rewrites Southwell’s Christmas Day poem ‘The Burning Babe’, substituting Plath for the fiery Christ Child, a ‘Babe of dark flames and screams’...

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Curious Book Fans

Birthday Letters is a collection of poetry by Ted Hughes that, with two exceptions, is addressed to his late wife Sylvia Plath who committed suicide in 1963.

Sep 09 2010 | Read Full Review of Birthday Letters

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