Last Letter by Ted Hughes: “Your wife is dead”

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.

This previously unpublished poem on his wife, Sylvia Plath’s death, will be published for the first time in the New Statesman tomorrow. It was excluded from Birthday Letters, his final poetry collection before his death in 1999, but it is a poignant and fitting way to cap it off.

Of the poem, Poet Laureate Carole Anne Duffy told Channel 4 News:

It feels a bit like looking into the sun as it’s dying, it’s a poem of deep complicated feelings and in some ways it’s the heart of Birthday Letters. I think its absence from that original collection makes the collection more powerful. It stands, for me, as a poem on its own…

…It seems to me to be the darkest poem that he wrote about the death of Sylvia Plath. There is a kind of deafening agony, blinding agony to this new poem. It seems to touch a deeper, darker place than any poem he’s ever written.

A beautiful start to National Poetry Day 2010.


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