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Britain's Poet Laureate, the author of many volumes of verse, translation and criticism, here stuns the literary world by writing at long last about his marriage to poet and feminist martyr Sylvia Plath. Thirty-five years after her suicide at age 30, Hughes, the burly bard who usually grunts about cruel nature, instead adopts a more prosey voice for these 88 poems, all but a few spoken directly to the dead mother of his two children. Hughes's typically harsh, compounded adjectives give way to his narrative instincts-this is his version of events now legendary, from their first meeting at a poetry gathering through their courtship, wedding, and honeymoon. From the start, Hughes suggests, he was ""the male lead"" in her ""drama,"" an intense Freudian struggle with her dead father, who inspired Plath's masterwork, the ""Ariel"" poems. Readers drawn for its pure salacious value-and who isn't?--will find no great revelations, but Hughes isn't exactly soft either; he mocks Plath's ""delirium of suspicions,"" her fame hunger, and her naive, ""American"" way of seeing things. ""The Minotaur"" neatly sums up Hughes's argument, while most of the remaining poems have little value beyond their place in this psycho-saga. But as long as Ariel is read-which will be a long time-this less passionate, less edgy volume will stand by its side.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1998
Page count: 198pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"