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.



et cetera
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