I found this article interesting. Frieda Hughes, who is the daughter of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, criticized the feminists who idolized her mother’s work but who condemned her father because of their belief that he was responsible for Plath’s suicide. Here’s a quick background for those who are not familiar. Plath and Hughes were young poets married to each other from 1956 to her death in 1963. Sylvia Plath had a history of mental illness and suicide attempts, and finally did kill herself. It is true Ted Hughes cheated on her and had a mistress, and five months before the suicide had separated from Plath. With that, here is Frieda Hughes’ claim as published in The Telegraph:
The feminists who exploited Sylvia Plath's death to accuse her husband Ted Hughes of mistreating her committed an "abuse" and a "horrible form of theft", the couple's daughter has said.
Frieda Hughes, the oldest of Plath and Hughes' two children, said she had been "appalled" by the appropriation of her family's tragedy to suit a cause.
Appearing in her first ever television interview, she said she deplored the judgment of "outsiders" who mistakenly believed they had an insight into her family's life.
What I didn’t realize was that the mistress Hughes took up with, also eventually committed suicide. From the article:
Her father, the former poet laureate Hughes, went on to a relationship with his mistress Assia Wevill, who killed herself and their child in the same way six years later.
The incidents, which left Hughes unable to write his Crow collection, was taken up by furious feminists, who idolised Plath and accused the poet of mistreating both women.
Crow, mentioned above, is perhaps Hughes’ most famous collection of his poems. I am not knowledgeable enough oh the Plath/Hughes history to know how substantive the feminists’ charge are, but given Plath’s mental illness history I can’t see how Hughes is more than just a bad husband. And Frieda Hughes is right, who can really know a relationship from the outside. She is quoted:
Speaking in the documentary, to be broadcast on BBC Two, she said the links made between the two tragedies were a form of "abuse" in themselves.
"I was appalled that something that happened in 1963 could be carried forward," she told programme-makers.
"What an easy way out for somebody to think, yes, we’re right, we have got the real story, we know what really happened, and we are going to punish this complete stranger for something we weren’t around to witness, we know nothing about, but we’re the ones with the answer.
"For outsiders - because that’s what they are, outsiders - to make judgements that affect somebody in their life, for all of their life, is a sort of horrible form of theft.
"It’s an abuse."
The charges against Ted Hughes—he was even accused of outright murdering Plath—colored his entire career. Plath unfortunately died young, so she never did reach her potential. Hughes, who was already a more mature poet than Plath, on the other hand, developed into one of the leading British poets of his generation, even titled as the Poet Laureate of Britain, the feminists did all they could to destroy his career.
Since I’m on the subject of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, let me give an example of their poetry. First from Plath. I’ve always thought highly of this poem, though I can’t completing comprehend it all.
Pure? What does it mean?
The tongues of hell
Are dull, dull as the triple
Tongues of dull, fat Cerebus
Who wheezes at the gate. Incapable
Of licking clean
The aguey tendon, the sin, the sin.
The tinder cries.
The indelible smell
Of a snuffed candle!
Love, love, the low smokes roll
From me like Isadora's scarves, I'm in a fright
One scarf will catch and anchor in the wheel.
Such yellow sullen smokes
Make their own element. They will not rise,
But trundle round the globe
Choking the aged and the meek,
Hothouse baby in its crib,
The ghastly orchid
Hanging its hanging garden in the air,
Radiation turned it white
And killed it in an hour.
Greasing the bodies of adulterers
Like Hiroshima ash and eating in.
The sin. The sin.
Darling, all night
I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.
The sheets grow heavy as a lecher's kiss.
Three days. Three nights.
Lemon water, chicken
Water, water make me retch.
I am too pure for you or anyone.
Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern --
My head a moon
Of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin
Infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive.
Does not my heat astound you. And my light.
Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.
I think I am going up,
I think I may rise --
The beads of hot metal fly, and I, love, I
Am a pure acetylene
Attended by roses,
By kisses, by cherubim,
By whatever these pink things mean.
Not you, nor him.
Not him, nor him
(My selves dissolving, old whore petticoats) --
I’m not going to do a close analysis, but don’t get too hung up on understanding every line. Bear in mind it’s a confessional poem, and unless you’re a Plath scholar (and I’m not) you probably won’t get the immediate situation. Plus there are some obscure details which obfuscates the meaning. For instance that “Isadora’s scarves” in line 12 refers to the dancer Isadora Duncan and her accidental strangling death with one of her scarves. The poem goes from a sexual desire she considers sinful to being redeemed by it, from hell to paradise, from adulteress to virgin. I’m not sure, but it could be the poem moves from the sexual sin to a blessed motherhood.
Ted Hughes is quite a different poet. Here’s one from his Crow collection.
"Well," said Crow, "What first?"
God, exhausted with Creation, snored.
"Which way?" said Crow, "Which way first?"
God's shoulder was the mountain on which Crow sat.
God lay, agape, a great carcass.
Crow tore off a mouthful and swallowed.
"Will this cipher divulge itself to digestion
Under hearing beyond understanding?"
(That was the first jest.)
Yet, it's true, he suddenly felt much stronger.
Crow, the hierophant, humped, impenetrable.