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Edward James “Ted” Hughes, OM (17 August 1930 – 28 October 1998) was an English poet and children’s writer. Critics routinely rank him as one of the best poets of his generation. Hughes was British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death.

Hughes was married to American poet Sylvia Plath, from 1956 until her suicide in 1963 at the age of 30. His part in the relationship became controversial to some feminists and (particularly) American admirers of Plath. His last poetic work, Birthday Letters (1998), explored their complex relationship. These poems make reference to Plath’s suicide, but none of them addresses directly the circumstances of her death. A poem discovered in October 2010, Last letter, describes what happened during the three days leading up to Plath’s suicide.

“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.’

 

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ImageNot easy to state the change you made.
If I’m alive now, then I was dead,
Though, like a stone, unbothered by it,
Staying put according to habit.
You didn’t just tow me an inch, no-
Nor leave me to set my small bald eye
Skyward again, without hope, of course,
Of apprehending blueness, or stars.

That wasn’t it. I slept, say: a snake
Masked among black rocks as a black rock
In the white hiatus of winter-
Like my neighbors, taking no pleasure
In the million perfectly-chisled
Cheeks alighting each moment to melt
My cheeks of basalt. They turned to tears,
Angels weeping over dull natures,
But didn’t convince me. Those tears froze.
Each dead head had a visor of ice.

And I slept on like a bent finger.
The first thing I was was sheer air
And the locked drops rising in dew
Limpid as spirits. Many stones lay
Dense and expressionless round about.
I didn’t know what to make of it.
I shone, mice-scaled, and unfolded
To pour myself out like a fluid
Among bird feet and the stems of plants.
I wasn’t fooled. I knew you at once. 

Tree and stone glittered, without shadows.
My finger-length grew lucent as glass.
I started to bud like a March twig:
An arm and a leg, and arm, a leg.
From stone to cloud, so I ascended.
Now I resemble a sort of god
Floating through the air in my soul-shift
Pure as a pane of ice. It’s a gift.

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Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, ‘The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

– Pablo Neruda

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Early-January of 1964, at which point his third studio album was soon-to-be released, 22-year-old Bob Dylan wrote the following letter to Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen — both founding editors of Broadside, a highly influential underground magazine of the period — and spoke of, amongst other things, his recent rise to fame, the money and guilt that came with it, and his love for Suze Rotolo. The letter was published in the magazine’s next issue.

Below is an image of its first page, followed by a full transcript; the original signed letter can be seen its entirety, here.

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Transcript
A LETTER FROM BOB DYLAN

for sis and gordon an all broads of good sizes 

let me begin by not beginnin 
let me start not by startin but by continuin 
it sometimes gets so hard for me — 
I am now famous 
I am now famous by the rules of public famiousity 
it snuck up on me 
an pulverized me… 
I never knew what was happenin 
it is hard for me t walk down the same streets 
I did before the same way because now 
I truly don’t know 
who is waitin for my autograph… 
I don’t know if I like givin my autograph 
oh yes sometimes I do… 
but other times the back of my mind tells me 
it is not honest… for I am just fulfillin 
a myth t somebody who’d actually treasure my 
handwritin more’n his own handwritin… 
this gets very complicated for me 
an proves t me that I am livin in a contradiction… 
t quote mr froyd 
I get quite paranoyd 
an I know this isn’t right 
it is not a useful healthy attitude for one t have 
but I truly believe that everybody has their fears 
everybody yes everybody… 
I do not think it good anymore t overlook them 
I think they ought t be admitted… 
an I think that all fellings should be admitted… 
people ask why do I write the way I do 
how foolish 
how monsterish 
a question like that hits me… 
it makes me think that I’m doin nothin 
it makes me think that I’m not being heard 
yes above all the mumble jumble an rave praises 
an all the records I’ve sold… thru all the packed 
houses I play… thru all the communication systems 
an rants an bellows an yellin an clappin comes 
a statement like “why do you do what you do” 
what is this? 
some kind of constipated idiot world? 
some kind of horseshoe game we’re all playin 
responding only when a ringer clangs 
no no no 
not my world 
everybody plays in my world 
ain’t nobody first second third or fourth 
everybody shoots at the same time 
an ringers don’t count 
an everybody wins 
an nobody loses 
cause everybody lives an breathes 
an takes up space 
an cant be overlooked 
an I am a people too 
I cannot pretend I’m not 
an I feel guilty 
god how can I help not feel guilty 
I walk down on the bowery and give money away 
an still I feel guilty for I know I do not 
have enuff money t give away… 
an people say “think a yourself, dylan, you’re 
gonna need it someday” and I say yeah yeah 
an I think maybe about it for a split second 
but then the floods of vomit guilt swoop my 
drunken head an I spread forth more gut torn 
bloody money from the depths of my forsaken 
pockets… an I whisper “ah it’s so useless” 
man so many people need so many things 
an what am I anyway? some kind a messiah walkin 
around…? 
hell no I’m not 
an I ask why dont other people with things give 
some of it away 
an I know the answer without lookin 
security security security… 
everybody wants security 
they want t be secure 
they want t be protected 
an I say protected? 
protected aginst what? 
protected against starvin I guess 
an power too 
an protected against the forces that they know will 
get them if they lose their money. 
an why does it have t be like that? 
man why are these walls built? 
who is this god that is so feared? 
certainly not in my life this isnt 
yes I have my fears but mine are the fears of 
the mind. the fears of the head 
a lonely person with money is still a lonely person 
I have never had much money before 
an so it is easy for me I guess t spend it 
an overlook it 
but I’m sure that many other people could overlook 
some of theirs too 
I’m not speakin now of the century ridin millionares 
but rather of “get theirs and get out” people 
I dont understand them 
I dont understand them at all 
there’s many things I admit I dont understand 
I dont understand the blacklist 
I dont understand how people aginst it go along
with it 
I’m talkin about the full thing 
not just a few of us refusin t be on the show 
I’m talkin about the poeple that stand up 
against it violently an then in some way have something t do with it… 
not just the singers mind you 
but the managers an agents an buyers an sellers… 
they are the dishonest ones 
for they are never seen 
they play both sides against each other 
an expect t be repected by everybody 

the heroes of this battle are not me an Joan 
an the Kingston Trio nor Peter Paul an Mary 
for none of us need t go on that show 
none of us really need that kind of dumbness 
but there’s some that could use it 
for they could use the money 
I mean people like Tom Paxton, Barbara Dane, 
an Johnny Herald… they are the heroes if 
such a word has t be used here 
they are the ones that lose materialistically 
ah yes but in their own minds they dont 
an that is much more important 
it means much more 
we need more kind a people like that 
poeple that cant go against their conscience 
no matter what they might gain 
an I’ve come to think that that might be the most 
important thing in the whole wide world… 
not going against your conscience 
nor your own natural senses 
for I think that that is all the truth there 
is… an no more 
thru all the gossip, lies, religions, cults 
myths, gods, history books, social books, 
all books, politics, decrees, rules, laws, 
boundarie lines, bibles, legends, an bathroom 
writings, there is no guidance at all except 
from ones own natural senses 
from being born 
an it can only be exchanged 
it cant be preached 
nor sold 
nor even understood… 

my mind sometimes runs like a roll of toilet paper 
an I hate like hell t see it unravel an unwind 
at my empty walls 
I’m movin out a here soon 
yes the landlord has beaten me it hurts t tell you. 
this place I am typin in is so filthy 
my clothes cover the floor an once in a while 
I pick up somethin an use it for a blanket… 
the damn heat goes off at ten 
an dont come on til ten… 
that’s mornin wise 
gushes of warm smelly heat always wake me up 
when I sleep here 
the plaster falls constantly 
an the floor is tiltin an rottin 
but somehow there is a beauty to it 
columbia records gave me a record player 
of the goodness of some keeps on amazin me 
an sometimes I play it. 
gettin back t the landlord tho 
he is really too much 
he owns I guess three buildings 
I pay him way too high 
an I’m gettin screwed an I know it 
an he knows it 
but I just dont have the time t go down t the 
rent control board. I been told they’d get after 
him but I’m so lazy. when sue was here he was 
gonna jack up the price cause he said I never told 
him I had a wife. you really got t see this place 
t believe it. I ought a’ve jacked him up a long 
time ago an used him for heat. last year he put 
in a new window (there was a god damn hole in the 
other one) man it was like I asked ‘m for his blood relation 
or something. (which he’d probably give away) 
anyway the record player’s on now 
an I’m listenin t Pete sing Guantanamera for 
the billionth time. I dont have many folk music 
records (I dont have many records really) but 
I do have that one of Pete’s. 
god it’s like I go in a trance 
he is so human I could cry 
he tells me so much 
he makes me feel so good 
it’s as tho of all the things that’re sold t make 
one feel better, aint none of it worth while. 
all the cars, an clothes, an trinkets an foods, 
an jewels an diamonds an lollypops an gifts of 
glad tidings, just dont do nothin for the soul. 
I believe I’d rather listen t Pete sing Guantanamera than t 
own everything there is t own… 
(that’s my own private selfishness shinin thru there) 
yes for me he is truly a saint 
an I love him 
perhaps more than I could show 
(as always is the case ha) 

I think of love in weird terms. 
sometimes I even feel guilty about it 
because I know I love sue 
but I should love everybody like I love sue 
an in all honesty I dont 
I just love her that way 
an I say what way? 
an a voice says “that way” 
an I get quite up tite 
an I know I have a long way t go 
when the day comes when I can love everything 
that breathes the way I love sue then 
I will truly be a Jesus Christ ha ha 
(but I dont wanna be a Jesus Christ ha ha) 
an so I am again contradictin myself 
away away be gone all you demons 
an just let me be me 
human me 
ruthless me 
wild me 
gentle me 
all kinds of me 

saw the last issue of broadside 
an especially flipped out over 
“talkin Merry Christmas” 
I have never met Paul Wolfe but I’d like to 
he has an uncanny sense of touch 
as for Phil, I just cant keep up with him 
an he’s gettin better an better an better 
(spoke with someone who was with him in Hazzard 
named Hamish Sinclair.. an englishman 
of high virtues an common tongue) 
I want t get over an see Phil’s baby 
I’m told the girl came out yellin about 
the bomb. good girl 

my novel is going noplace 
absolutely noplace 
like it dont even tell a story 
it’s about a million scenes long 
an takes place on a billion scraps 
of paper… certainly I cant make nothin out of 
it. 
(oh I forgot. 
hallelullah t you for puttin Brecht in your 
same last issue. he should be as widely known as 
Woody an should be as widely read as Mickey Spalline 
an as widely listened to as Eisenhower.) 

anyway I’m writin a play out of this here so called 
novel (navel would be better I guess) 
an I’m up to my belly button in it. 
quite involved yes 
I’ve discovered what the power of playwriting means 
as opposed t song writing means 
altho both are equal, I’m wrapped in playwriting 
for the minute, my songs tell only about me an how 
I feel but in the play all the characters tell how 
they feel. I realize that his might be more confusin 
for some but in the total reality of things it might 
be much better for some too. I think at best you could 
say that the characters will tell in an hour 
what would take me, alone, two weeks t sing about 

I shall get up t see you one of these days 
just cause I haven’t in a while please dont think 
I’m not with you. I am with you more’n ever. 
yours perhaps is the only paper that I am on the 
side of every single song you print 
an I am with with with you 

my nite is closin again now 
an I shall drift off in dreams 
an climb velvet carpets up t the stars 
with newsweek magazines burnin an disappointin 
people smoulderin and disgustin tongues blazin 
an jealous mongrel dogs walkin on hot coals 
before my smilin unharmful eyes 
(oh such nitemares) 

an I shall wake in the mornin an try t start 
lovin again 

I got a letter from Pete an he closed by sayin 
“take it easy but take it” I thought about that 
for an hour or more when I reached my conclusion 
of what it really meant I either cried or laughed 
(I cant remember which) I will repeat the same an 
add “give it easy but give it” an I’ll think about 
that for an hour an at the end either cry or laugh 
(I’ll write you another letter an tell you which
one it is) 

all right then 
faretheewell 
shaloom an vamoose 
I’m off agian 
off t the hazzards an lost angels an minneapoilcemen 
an boss towns an burnin hams an everything else 
combined an combustioned for me… 
tryin t remain sane at all times 

love t agnes 
she is one of the true talents of the universe 
I’ve always thought that an would like t see her 
again some time 

love t everybody in your house 

see yuh 

softly an sleepy 
but ready an waitin 

Bob Dylan

 
 

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