Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"in bed, he smells like a butcher."

The Red Cross, originally uploaded by magic fly paula.

Would make a great book title, wouldn't it? Just reading it, I can
feel the plot unfolding in my head--and I've already developed a strong antipathy to the man who comes to bed smelling of blood.

But in reality, this isn't a book title. It's a quote from Assia Weevil, describing her famous lover, Ted Hughes. Whether the butcher in question is one of poetry's most despicable cads or just the victim of his own lust for despairing women, I don't know.

What I do know is that we would never have heard of Assia Weevil if she hadn't been the "other woman" in the love triangle that unhinged Sylvia Plath and led to her tragic suicide.

As both a wife and an admirer of Plath's fiercely beautiful poems and the eager-for-life voice that permeates her diaries, I'm disinclined to have much sympathy for Assia. The bizarre murder-suicide she committed a few years later, involving her own four year old daughter only increases that disinclination.

Now a full scale biography probes the life of the woman whose only claim to fame was her fatal connection to Plath and Hughes. This morning's Guardian rehashed some of it's salient points. (Hughes moved his new lover into his dead wife's bed two days after her death.)

A Lover of Unreason: The Biography of Assia Weevil by Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negav, it is called if anyone is interested. It remains a story so packed with melodrama and stunning ironies that if it were a novel, it would be rejected as unbelievable.

No wonder so many of us, fans of one or both of the poets, have developed such strong emotions about it. For years, Plath fans, outraged by Hughes' destruction of the diaries which detailed his betrayal, have raged against him. But Hughes, too, has had his supporters--including his and Plath's daughter, Frieda. It wasn't his fault Sylvia was crazy, the argument seems to go.

The only thing that remains certain to those of us outside the story is what we lost: the poems and novels that might have been written by a brilliant, impassioned thirty-two year old woman who had just begun to tap into her full power.

For those, I still grieve.


Sky said...

a fan of plath, i especially enjoy reading biography so i will probably order this. will let you know if i do and what i think of it. thanks for the heads up.

floots said...

i'm with you
don't think i'll be seeking out the book
love thought of what one might do with that quote
but then
even though it has become a cliche
i still love that description of someone "smiling like a butcher's dog"


Patry Francis said...

sky: Oh, I can't wait to hear what you think!

floots: That must be a British cliche (or maybe I'm just out of the loop) because I've never heard it--and I love it.

Anonymous said...

I must admit to not knowing of these individuals. It does appear that their earthly lives where tortuous.

Patry Francis said...

coll: Tortuous, even by poets' standards.

rdl said...

What a great post!!!

Ivy said...

It's all so torrid and scandalous! :-) I guess I'm part of 'the peanut-crunching crowd'...

Patry Francis said...

r: So would you read the book?

Ivy: Peanut crunching is such a satisfying activity, isn't it?

Bernita said...

Yes, indeed!
It's a killer line!

Patry Francis said...

Thanks, Bernita--and welcome!

Becca said...

a very interesting post ...

Patry Francis said...

Thanks for visiting, Bella. It's a fascinating, albeit tragic story.

LJ said...

I have a friend who recently has taken to writing one sentence poems, claiming that, out of a whole short piece, maybe only that one sentence is really outstanding.
This is a great one sentence poem.

Patry Francis said...

lj: If that were a one sentence poem, it would certainly leave me pondering.

Anonymous said...

I have just spent a snowy St. Patrick's Dayin the Pocono Mountains reading the entire book "Lover of Unreason". My final analysis is that Assia was in love with Sylvia - not Ted Hughes.

Jim Newcombe said...

"Hughes, too, has had his supporters"? Hughes is gar more a considerable poet than Plath ever was or would have been. She's obviously heavily influenced by him, for a start. Her verse was melodramatic, hysterical, self-obsessed.
Assia was far more beatiful, judging by the pictures. I haven't read this book, but am more curious about her than about Plath.

Jim Newcombe

Peter Bakowski said...

Dear Patry,
I'm an Australian poet who has written a Plath-Hughes-Wevill poem after reading at least six bigraphies concerning the above three. The poem I've posted on my blog
The poem will be in my forthcoming volume of poetry entitled BENEATH OUR ARMOUR.
Every good wish,