• In the Times of London, John Carey reviews The Letters of Ted Hughes, edited by Christopher Reid, and makes me want to read it rather desperately. (Via Paper Cuts.)
Earlier this month The Telegraph ran a three-part serial of excerpts from the letters: Part 1; Part 2; and Part 3. Not surprisingly, the extracts focus on Hughes’ letters to and about Sylvia Plath, a relationship that, for me, has long been picked clean — I believe Gwyneth declaiming Shakespeare by candlelight marked the official end — but it may be worth the occasional bite of carrion for lines like: “Sometimes I think Cambridge wonderful, at others a ditch full of clear cold water where all the frogs have died” (from a letter to his sister Olywn); and, from a letter to Plath, “Who does Salinger copy? or Eudora Welty? All the good ones have invented their own manner in their own private rooms. … Just write it off, in your own way, and make it stand up off the page and jump about the room.”
• The New York Times archives on Hughes are a trove, containing the first chapter of his Ovid translation as well as W.S. Merwin’s review, in 1957, of Hughes’s first book of poems. The review begins:
Ted Hughes is a young English poet; “The Hawk in the Rain” is his first book. Its publication gives reviewers an opportunity to do what they are always saying they want to do: acclaim an exciting new writer. There is no need, either to shelter in the flubbed and wary remark that the poems are promising. They are that, of course; they are unmistakably a young man’s poems, which accounts for some of their defects as well as some of their strength and brilliance. And Mr. Hughes has the kind of talent that makes you wonder more than commonly where he will go from here, not because you can’t guess but because you venture to hope.