Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Writing Between Them: Turning the Table examines early draft manuscripts and published poems by Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in order to uncover the compositional approaches that they held in common. Both poets not only honed the minutiae of individual poems but also reworked the shape of overall sequences in order to cultivate unique theories of an ars poetica. The book incorporates drafts of their work from Indiana University’s Lilly Library, Emory University’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Library, Smith College’s Mortimer Rare Book Room, and the British Library. After assessing the writing and revision strategies that the poets’ early drafts reveal, the book investigates the material that they borrowed from one another and then reimagined through two major sequences: Plath’s Ariel and Hughes’s Crow. The book enhances its analysis of the poets’ shared techniques by discussing several pairs of poems from Ariel and Hughes’s Birthday Letters that respond to one another. Its final chapter also includes an evaluation of some of Hughes’s unpublished journal entries and unpublished letters that comment on his last collection’s public reception. In the conclusion, the author chronicles Hughes’s and Plath’s own remarks on their writing process as further evidence of their ars poetica.
Jennifer Ryan-Bryant is professor of English at SUNY—Buffalo State.
Table of Contents
Introduction— The Materials of Poetics
Chapter One— Revision and Transformation in Hughes’s Early Work
Chapter Two— Figures and Flowers: Plath’s Approaches to Draft and Revision
Chapter Three— Silent Partners: Ariel and Crow
Chapter Four— “This is the last”: Words Between Them
Conclusion— Writing Across Two Lifetimes
About the Author
Ryan-Bryant, author of Post-Jazz Poetics: A Social History, focuses on ways Plath and Hughes influenced each other’s ars poetica, arguing that both writers wrestled with the role of poetry and approaches to craft as visible in their compositional techniques and through recurring themes in their writing. Ryan-Bryant nods to biographical and social contexts while foregrounding archival research and textual analysis. The introduction provides an extensive, instructive literature review of Plath and Hughes studies, effectively showing how this book provides a nuanced perspective regarding the interplay and affinities between the two writers…. The book is clear, thoughtful, and fresh, recognizing the conversations between the two poets as a way of hearing each poet more clearly.Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Significantly contributing to the literary-critical and archival-based scholarship in both Plath studies and Hughes studies, Jennifer Ryan-Bryant’s Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and the Writing Between Them: Turning the Table focuses our attention in compelling fashion on Hughes’s and Plath’s poetry and attendant poetics, histories, and contexts, while offering new readings of poems spanning the poets’ careers in the process. This book will be of great interest to readers and scholars who want to know more about how various poetry collections by Plath and Hughes came into being and how we can conceptualize Plath’s and Hughes’s ars poeticas within the contexts of their own and each other’s bodies of work.
In Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Writing Between Them: Turning the Table, Jennifer Ryan-Bryant presents us with nuanced readings of the work of these two poets. She deftly examines the collaboration between Hughes and Plath, illuminating the ways in which these two writers influenced one another personally and professionally. Ryan-Bryant’s work significantly contributes to the breath of scholarship about these two literary geniuses.
Peter K Steinberg's Plath blog on Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Writing Between Them: Turning the Table