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The Alvarez GenerationThom Gunn, Geoffrey Hill, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Peter Porter$
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William Wootten

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381632

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381632.001.0001

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Birthday Letters

Birthday Letters

Chapter:
(p.189) Chapter Fourteen Birthday Letters
Source:
The Alvarez Generation
Author(s):

William Wootten

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781381632.003.0014

This chapter analyzes Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters. Birthday Letters put a poet, now of the 1990s, in correspondence with his younger self and the younger Plath. The poems comment on, allude to, contradict, or compete with those of Plath. There is a certain amount of putting facts right, a settling of scores that relates to the two poets' marriage and to the intrusion of others' biographical speculation about that marriage. Most of the verse in Birthday Letters is technically free, but, like so much mainstream contemporary poetry, it likes to keep the pentameter in sight, and much of it functions at a very low pressure. Indeed, the majority of the book's poems can be read more or less like prose. If the trouble with poetry of the 1960s and 1970s is too much striving for intensity of effect, the problem here is too little. Furthermore, most of the poems' artifice, their particularly poetic features, can, with the exception of some heavy-handed symbolism, be more or less ignored.

Keywords:   Ted Hughes, poets, modern poetry, poems, Birthday Letters, Sylvia Plath

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