When Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters was published in 1998, it was greeted with astonishment and acclaim, and immediately landed on the bestseller list. Few suspected that Ted Hughes had been at work for a quarter of a century on a cycle of poems addressed almost entirely to his first wife, the American poet Sylvia Plath.
In Ariel’s Gift, Erica Wagner explores the powerful and destructive relationship between these two poets through their lives and their writings. She provides a commentary to the poems in Birthday Letters, pointing the reader toward the events that shaped them, and, crucially, showing how they draw upon Sylvia Plath’s own work.
This is a comprehensive guide and literary companion to the poems that constitute one of the most powerful volumes published in the 20th century, and a tribute to the poetic genius of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.