when i'm not careful, ted hughes is my favorite poet. i haven't seen that much of his work - a few of the crow poems, famous bits like "pike" and "the thought-fox", a production of tales from ovid - but i found a copy of birthday letters at heathrow airport during a four-hour layover a few years ago, and it hooked me. for most people in the states, hughes is famous for 1) supposedly driving sylvia plath to suicide and 2) refusing to discuss their relationship. in a way, birthday letters is an extended striptease - hughes drops seemingly intimate details from his marriage and then sweeps them under tidy archetypes (one could argue that he's expanding on a joseph campbell-type contention that a primal cycle underpins most art and nearly all relationships). the problem - and herein is my fascination with hughes - is that his adaptations in the poems are largely unsuccessful. if birthday letters is supposed to seem like a failed attempt at healing through analogy, it's brilliant - the tragedy of his dramatic voice and its feeble universalizations is an awesome thing. if hughes didn't want to emphasize the conflicts in his imagery, if in fact he was simply inconsolable, then the poems are some of the most heartbreaking pieces i've ever read. i purchased the collection to be a rah-rah plath fan and hate her spouse, and i ended up sobbing into a big plate of breaded mushrooms in a nasty airport diner. it was a harrowing afternoon.

as i mentioned when a poodle chomped on my hand several months back, i'm in the business of learning that drama is serious stuff. you can't court it for fun - it will make you either ridiculous or miserable.

joe and i haven't had a particularly epic relationship. we started to fall in love in stratford, on the river avon, and we've had our share of bellicose episodes - nights in the rain, broken plates, reunions where it felt like an orchestra should be swelling behind us - but in truth we're a couple of fucked up post-children who know neither who we are nor what we want. i always told him that we'd conclude reasonably, that if we broke up i would be deeply and quietly sad. it's not true. i want fire in the sky, for everyone to walk on their hands to acknowledge that i'm upside down. what to do?, he said. i want an operatic demonstration that i'm a goddess for someone, but then that was always our biggest problem.

what will actually happen is that i'll burn some synthetic logs, have tea, and pet the cats. no earthquakes or sea serpents. i want to learn that this is how things happen, but it should be important that i love him this much.

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