Saturday, February 26, 2011

My books are now live on Google Books!

After a semi-lengthy ordeal, both "Roots of the Cypress Tree" and "A Candlelit World" are both live on Google Books. I have embedded the previews to be seen here, or else you can also click on the links below to check it out. This is so exciting for me!

Roots of the Cypress Tree
A Candlelit World

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thoughts on "Last Letter"

This blog is a long time coming, but didn't get the fire lit under my ass about it until now.

I have been fascinated with the story of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes for some time now. I initially fell in love with her writing because it was in a similar language to my own. Later on, I started checking out Ted's work and loved it too. There are those out there who choose sides regarding the circumstances of Sylvia's suicide...most are pro-Sylvia which is understandable and isn't helped much by Ted's unwillingness to speak about it until just before his death in 1998, when he published "Birthday Letters" and "Howls and Whispers," which gave readers their only chance to see things from his side...or so we thought. Last October, a new poem was discovered titled "Last Letter," which brings us the closest we'll probably ever get to figuring out what happened during Sylvia's last days. Needless to say, I was excited.

When I located the poem online, I pored over the words repeatedly. I can't recite it word for word, but kept reliving the images in my head almost as if they were my own memories or scenes from a movie. In a word...amazing.

Around the same time, while poking around I learned that Ted did not spend Sylvia's last weekend with Assia Wevill, as I had previously thought, but with Susan Alliston, also a poet. This led to a purchase that I enjoyed immensely.

Click here to buy "Susan Alliston - Poems and Journals 1960-1968" on Amazon.

Even with the poem and the inaccuracies which have been pointed out by several reviewers and insiders, there still begs the question...despite his philandering, was there a chance? Would Ted have eventually returned to Sylvia and reconciled their marriage? If you own a copy of "Letters of Ted Hughes," the first pages you would've read was Ted's letters following her death. His words give the distinct impression of a shattered man. Shattered and guilty. A part of him died with her, and he had to bury that away along with her body in order for him to live on with the aftermath of his mistakes. I'm sure that Sylvia's ghost haunted him for the rest of his life.

But maybe his actions didn't have anything to do with her committing suicide...her previous attempts combined with the fact that she never recovered from the loss of her father, signal a ticking time bomb. If it wasn't Ted, it probably would've been someone or something else. Or nothing at all. Who really can know what went on inside her mind. We can infer all we want from her poetry, but do we really know?

Maybe the discovery of "Last Letter" is one of the final steps to giving both Ted and Sylvia the ability to rest in peace after all these years. I have copied and pasted the poem below for you to read and make your own judgment. I welcome your opinion.

Last Letter
by Ted Hughes

What happened that night? Your final night.
Double, treble exposure
Over everything. Late afternoon, Friday,
My last sight of you alive.
Burning your letter to me, in the ashtray,
With that strange smile. Had I bungled your plan?
Had it surprised me sooner than you purposed?
Had I rushed it back to you too promptly?
One hour later—-you would have been gone
Where I could not have traced you.
I would have turned from your locked red door
That nobody would open
Still holding your letter,
A thunderbolt that could not earth itself.
That would have been electric shock treatment
For me.
Repeated over and over, all weekend,
As often as I read it, or thought of it.
That would have remade my brains, and my life.
The treatment that you planned needed some time.
I cannot imagine
How I would have got through that weekend.
I cannot imagine. Had you plotted it all?

Your note reached me too soon—-that same day,
Friday afternoon, posted in the morning.
The prevalent devils expedited it.
That was one more straw of ill-luck
Drawn against you by the Post-Office
And added to your load. I moved fast,
Through the snow-blue, February, London twilight.
Wept with relief when you opened the door.
A huddle of riddles in solution. Precocious tears
That failed to interpret to me, failed to divulge
Their real import. But what did you say
Over the smoking shards of that letter
So carefully annihilated, so calmly,
That let me release you, and leave you
To blow its ashes off your plan—-off the ashtray
Against which you would lean for me to read
The Doctor’s phone-number.
My escape
Had become such a hunted thing
Sleepless, hopeless, all its dreams exhausted,
Only wanting to be recaptured, only
Wanting to drop, out of its vacuum.
Two days of dangling nothing. Two days gratis.
Two days in no calendar, but stolen
From no world,
Beyond actuality, feeling, or name.

My love-life grabbed it. My numbed love-life
With its two mad needles,
Embroidering their rose, piercing and tugging
At their tapestry, their bloody tattoo
Somewhere behind my navel,
Treading that morass of emblazon,
Two mad needles, criss-crossing their stitches,
Selecting among my nerves
For their colours, refashioning me
Inside my own skin, each refashioning the other
With their self-caricatures,

Their obsessed in and out. Two women
Each with her needle.

That night
My dellarobbia Susan. I moved
With the circumspection
Of a flame in a fuse. My whole fury
Was an abandoned effort to blow up
The old globe where shadows bent over
My telltale track of ashes. I raced
From and from, face backwards, a film reversed,
Towards what? We went to Rugby St
Where you and I began.
Why did we go there? Of all places
Why did we go there? Perversity
In the artistry of our fate
Adjusted its refinements for you, for me
And for Susan. Solitaire
Played by the Minotaur of that maze
Even included Helen, in the ground-floor flat.
You had noted her—-a girl for a story.
You never met her. Few ever met her,
Except across the ears and raving mask
Of her Alsatian. You had not even glimpsed her.
You had only recoiled
When her demented animal crashed its weight
Against her door, as we slipped through the hallway;
And heard it choking on infinite German hatred.

That Sunday night she eased her door open
Its few permitted inches.
Susan greeted the black eyes, the unhappy
Overweight, lovely face, that peeped out
Across the little chain. The door closed.
We heard her consoling her jailor
Inside her cell, its kennel, where, days later,
She gassed her ferocious kupo, and herself.

Susan and I spent that night
In our wedding bed. I had not seen it
Since we lay there on our wedding day.
I did not take her back to my own bed.
It had occurred to me, your weekend over,
You might appear—-a surprise visitation.
Did you appear, to tap at my dark window?
So I stayed with Susan, hiding from you,
In our own wedding bed—-the same from which
Within three years she would be taken to die
In that same hospital where, within twelve hours,
I would find you dead.
Monday morning
I drove her to work, in the City,
Then parked my van North of Euston Road
And returned to where my telephone waited.

What happened that night, inside your hours,
Is as unknown as if it never happened.
What accumulation of your whole life,
Like effort unconscious, like birth
Pushing through the membrane of each slow second
Into the next, happened
Only as if it could not happen,
As if it was not happening. How often
Did the phone ring there in my empty room,
You hearing the ring in your receiver—-
At both ends the fading memory
Of a telephone ringing, in a brain
As if already dead. I count
How often you walked to the phone-booth
At the bottom of St George’s terrace.
You are there whenever I look, just turning
Out of Fitzroy Road, crossing over
Between the heaped up banks of dirty sugar.
In your long black coat,
With your plait coiled up at the back of your hair
You walk unable to move, or wake, and are
Already nobody walking
Walking by the railings under Primrose Hill
Towards the phone booth that can never be reached.
Before midnight. After midnight. Again.
Again. Again. And, near dawn, again.

At what position of the hands on my watch-face
Did your last attempt,
Already deeply past
My being able to hear it, shake the pillow
Of that empty bed? A last time
Lightly touch at my books, and my papers?
By the time I got there my phone was asleep.
The pillow innocent. My room slept,
Already filled with the snowlit morning light.
I lit my fire. I had got out my papers.
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.’

Sunday, February 20, 2011

aNewOrLeANspoet: Valentine's Day

One of my friends in the writing world (maybe you have heard of his books "Crumpled Paper Dolls" or "Exhuming Juliet") has created his own on the link below to read his first formal (and exciting) entry. He is a writer I admire very much, the personification of my generation's Poet, and I'm amazed everytime we correspond online as friends. I can't wait to meet him in person. My friends and readers, please check out Matthew Nolan's blog.

aNewOrLeANspoet: Valentine's Day