Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath’s husband, rarely wrote about her suicide. But thirty-five years after she died and only months before his own death, Hughes published a poetry collection entitled Birthday Letters, which consisted of eighty-eight poems describing their relationship and his response to her death.
There had been much controversy surrounding their relationship, as some critics argued Hughes was a controlling man who destroyed several of Plath’s works in the years after her death. Some even went so far as to claim that he had committed numerous infidelities with other women during his marriage to Plath. But for all the arguments and criticism, Ted Hughes’s only recently-published poem, Last Letter, serves as a reminder to all that the two did love each other.
Although not published in Birthday Letters, the poem describes the exact moment in which Hughes learned of his wife’s death. Depicted in chilling yet simple lines, Last Letters is the story of a man lost, a husband yearning for his dead wife. A man whose heart had been ripped from his chest.
Late afternoon Friday
my last sight of you alive
burning your letter to me
in the ashtray
with that strange smile…
And I had started to write when the telephone
Jerked awake, in a jabbering alarm,
Remembering everything. It recovered in my hand.
Then a voice like a selected weapon
Or a measured injection,
Coolly delivered its four words
Deep into my ear: Your wife is dead.
Check out her blog. She is an amazing poet: