Monday, March 23, 2009

Profile of a Poet

This week's poet is among the most famous if not disturbed of the female literary canon. Sylvia Plath's raw verse was inspired by the tragic loss of her father at a young age, the tumultous relationship she had with her unfaithful husband and British laureate, Ted Hughes, and her lifelong battle with depression.

Her battle with depression actually inspired her most famous piece of prose, The Bell Jar, which garnered her more notoriety than much of her poetry. Needless to say, she tried to end her life at her own hand multiple times, and was finally successful in her thirties when she stuck her head in the couples' kitchen oven while her children slept in their cribs.

She stuffed their doors so they would be safe from any lingering gas and left bowls of cereal in their cribs in case they awoke before she was found.

I have a hard time getting past that when I read her.

Anyway, the horrible legacy continued with Ted Hughes' mistress, who also killed herself and their daughter six years later by gas.

Even more, another chapter in this horrific family history came out today in regard to Plath's son, Nicholas (one of the babies in the cribs).

LONDON (AFP) – The son of tragedy-scarred poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath has killed himself 46 years after his mother gassed herself, The Times reported on Monday.
Nicholas Hughes hanged himself in his home in the US state of Alaska last week after battling depression, his sister told the newspaper, 40 years to the day after Hughes' next lover also killed herself.

Hughes was a professor of fisheries and ocean sciences at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, although he had recently left the post shortly before he died to set up a pottery at home.

"It is with profound sorrow that I must announce the death of my brother, Nicholas Hughes, who died by his own hand on Monday 16th March 2009 at his home in Alaska," Frieda Hughes said in a statement published by The Times.
"He had been battling depression for some time."

Nicholas Hughes was unmarried, and had no children.
Plath killed herself by breathing in fumes from a kitchen oven in February 1963, preventing the fumes from seeping into her children's room by sealing the kitchen door with towels.
Ted Hughes, who died in 1998, suffered another loss six years later when his mistress Assia Wevill gassed herself and their daughter on March 23, 1969, in an apparent copycat suicide.
Critics have long accused the English poet of driving Plath -- whom he met when she was on a Fulbright Scholarship from the United States -- to her death because of his relationships with other women.

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