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Archive for Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hughes poem details Sylvia Plath’s suicide

October 7, 2010

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— A previously unseen poem by Ted Hughes that details the painful moments surrounding the suicide of his wife Sylvia Plath is being published by The New Statesman today, the magazine said.

Hughes, an English poet laureate, and Plath, his American wife, are considered among the 20th century’s greatest poets. Their doomed marriage inspired some of their best work and has been the focus of endless fascination.

The poem, called “Last Letter,” chronicles the three days leading up to Plath’s death in her London home on February 11, 1963, beginning: “What happened that night? Your final night.”

Its discovery has already created a minor sensation in Britain. The country’s Channel 4 News broadcast excerpts of the work Wednesday evening, read in a dry, quivering voice by actor Jonathan Pryce.

In the poem’s last stanzas, Hughes describes the cold winter’s morning when he found out what had happened.

“I lit my fire. I had got out my papers. And I’d started to write when the telephone jerked awake, in a jabbering alarm, remembering everything.

“It recovered in my hand, and a voice like a selected weapon or a measured injection coolly delivered its four words deep into my ear.

“Your wife is dead.”

Plath was little-known before her death but gained a cult following through the novel “The Bell Jar,” whose descriptions of a suicidal young woman foreshadowed her own death at age 30.

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