Recently I came across Ted Hughes' Last letter, an unpublished poem discovered 12 years after Hughes' death in 1998. The poem was too personal to be published as it deals with the controversial suicide of Sylvia Plath, Hughes' first wife. The poem itself is indeed very unsettling and exposes to a great extent the link between creativity and self-destruction, a subject of interest to me. Tragedies, as in this case, always attract my attention as I have the tendency to look at the underside of life. Reading more about Sylvia Plath, a highly admired poet in her own right, has triggered many thoughts in my mind about finding poetic inspiration through depression, unwisdom and being a victim. Admittedly, I'm not able to translate all these thoughts into words because of their complexity and the lack of my creativity.
Young poets often shop around for a style and often align themselves to an already established school of writing at an early stage of their literary life. Ted Hughes' early poetry was influenced by Eliot and Yeats and so was Plath's. As they prove their ability of forging timeless verses and their poetic personality starts to form, poets then begin the journey of looking for their own voice. This journey is often shaped by two contradicting themes: dwelling in the past and rebelling against it. Amid the psychological havoc of finding the real self, self-destruction seems to be the way of escaping present. The first victim of this process are happy memories. The reader of Path's poem, Daddy, would form an exactly opposite picture of Plath's father whom she always admired and loved the most. Perhaps it was her anger of his early departure that left her with permanent psychological scars rather than of him.
Plath's suicide remains a mystery in terms of what motivated her to take her life and the circumstances of the then failing mariage with Ted Hughes who had been accused of being abusive towards her mainly by feminists and many of Plath's admirers. Perhaps Hughes' unfaithfulness had fuelled some of Plath's anger and intensified her insecurities but she was also the victim of her ambition to find her own poetic voice and real self.
There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you
They are dancing and stamping on you
They always knew it was you
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.
Sylvia Plath, 1962