In Dialogue with the Living and the Dead: Ted Hughes's 'Birthday Letters'

William Christie

Abstract


This discussion of Ted Hughes's late and phenomenally popular collection of lyrics, 'Birthday Letters', addressed mostly to his dead wife, Sylvia Plath, looks at issues of genre and audience, and at the way we might accommodate the controversy surrounding their relationship. It reads the impulse to mythopoesis and the conflicting perspectives in the poems of Hughes with Plath and of Hughes with himself as both reflecting, and reflecting upon, the changeable nature of human emotion and the vulnerability of memory and understanding.

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