Sued51's Blog

{May 2, 2014}   Ted and Sylvia

Birthday Letters

Birthday Letters

I know, I know…National Poetry Month is over so I’m late. But fellow blogger, Janna Hill published a great post on Wednesday about Ted Hughes and Sylvia Path to end the month, and it got me inspired (as great posts do!).

Ted Hughes published a book of poems about Plath called, “Birthday Letters.”  It is a “must read” for Plath fans. Although I had picked it up and read it here and there after I bought it, I finally sat down and read it cover to cover last year.  The post by Janna brought it back out of my bookcase; I wanted to share a couple of things.

One of my favorite poems in the book is called “Fingers.”


Who will remember your fingers?

Their winged life? They flew

With the light in your look.

At the piano, stomping out hits from the forties,

They performed an incidental clowning

Routine of their own, deadpan puppets.

You were only concerned to get them to the keys.

But as you talked, as your eyes signalled

The strobes of your elation,

They flared, flicked balletic aerobatics.

I thought of birds in some tropical sexual

Play of display, leaping and somersaulting,

Doing strange things in the air, and dropping to the dust.

Those dancers of your excess!

With such deft, practical touches —  so accurate.

Thinking your own thoughts caressed like lightning

The lipstick into your mouth corners.

Trim conductors of your expertise,

Cavorting at your typewriter,

Possessed by infant spirit, puckish,

Who, whatever they did, danced or mimed it

In a weightless largesse of espressivo.

I remember your fingers. And your daughter’s

Fingers remember your fingers

In everything they do.

Her fingers obey and honour your fingers,

The Lares and Penates of our house.

The book jacket said that all but two of the poems were about Sylvia. I was curious as to whether she DID play the piano and I found this blog. Apparently “stomping out hits from the forties” is quite accurate.

I loved the book, because I love the poetry of both Plath and Hughes. And I admit to the fascination with the “tragic” story. Given that, I try not to make judgments on their personal life. But reading the book DID give me an emotional reaction that came out as my own poem.

Ted and Sylvia

Words precisely chosen,

A perfect construction —

or deconstruction you could say —

I see her clearly,

her eyes flashing fire,

colliding colors,

a star burning to a boil,

destined to explode,

one can’t look away

only watch in wonder

without interference.

I can’t blame you for that.

You show the flip-side too:

Fragility and fear,

her surety and psychic sense

that her skin could not contain this fury,

this inferno.

But I see love too:

the pushing, the pulling,

the genius, the frailties

two magnetic poles.

I admit,

I feel some jealousy.

I strive in vain,

but alive and alone.

Wishing for that talent, 

to be loved like this:

my vices overwhelmed,

minimized, dwarfed into dust.

But then again,

Life is the bottom line,

breathing still

the ultimate period

to a life’s sentence.



soonie2 says:

While I love the Hughes poem, I’m really blown away by yours!


sued51 says:

What a great compliment, Soonie…thank you! 🙂


I’m honored for the mention Sue, thank you. I am growing a bit more fascinated by Hughes and enjoyed “Fingers’ but I agree with Soonie here. When I read your ‘Ted and Sylvia’ I was like WTF (pardon my french)!! I was blown away. Just wow!


sued51 says:

Thank you, Janna! The compliment and support are much appreciated!


It’s never too late to post for national poetry month, xo LMA


sued51 says:

Poetry should have a year long holiday, LMA!


Jo Bryant says:

Okay so you are going to get another WTF here girl. Your poem is insane it is sooooooo good. Job or no job…don’t you dare stop writing.


sued51 says:

Thanks, Jo. 😀

You ladies have really made my day!!


bluebee says:

Your fine poem displays a deep understanding of the grey areas of love and passion, and the attraction of it all.


sued51 says:

Then it works! Thank you, BB! 🙂


jakesprinter says:

Great writing once again Sued 🙂


sued51 says:

Thank you, Jake. 🙂


Being inspired by another writer/poet, and then responding with a fabulous poem, is a feat, and one you accomplished. Both of these poems kinda make me stop writing my own (sophomoric ) ones! Nice to meet you here on your blog – thanks for visiting me at mine.


sued51 says:

Thank you for your comment and visit. I love your title and the little story you wrote about how it came about.
Glad I found you…I liked your comment on LMA’s post on the Smith Commencement…I totally agreed with you.


[…] and Jane Kenyon Collected Poems., because I am fascinated by poet/poet relationships (e.g. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath). For those who don’t know, She was the wife of Donald Hall and she died tragically at the […]


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