Birthday Letters came out in 1998, and peculiarly for a book of poetry, became a bestseller. Ted Hughes left his wife, Sylvia Plath, and their two children, after 7 years of marriage. She killed herself months after. A legacy for a mother: it strikes me as a pitiful trade, like thorns for blood, fish bones for bile. But what her children lost, many women years and years afterward gained. I remember dusting off The Bell Jar in the Ateneo library and skipping class to read it in the aisle. I could not bear to read it on the same table as the others cramming for accounting finals.
“I look up–as if to meet your voice / With all its urgent future / that has burst in on me. Then look back / At the book of the printed words. / You are ten years dead. It is only a story. / Your story. My story.”
Poetry transcends biography. The tightrope that Ted Hughes walks is not kind, or forgiving. That he clawed such beauty from under the ground – I must not read too much of it on a Tuesday morning, when the world is urgent unto the most trifling details, when I cannot afford to lose sight of the daily words for the words that might live beyond the day.