At First Sight

February 26: On this day in 1956 Sylvia Plath described in her journal her first meeting with Ted Hughes. The morning of writing was "gray, most sober, with cold white puritanical eyes"; the evening before had started at a bar where "I drank steadily the goblets" and endured "some ugly gat-toothed squat grinning guy named Meeson trying to be devastatingly clever." At the party — "and oh, it was very bohemian, with boys in turtleneck sweaters and girls being blue-eye-lidded or elegant in black" — there was more of the same, but "the jazz was beginning to get under my skin, and I started dancing with Luke and knew I was very bad, having crossed the river and banged into the trees....":

Then the worst thing happened, that big, dark, hunky boy, the only one there huge enough for me, who had been hunching around over women, and whose name I had asked the minute I had come into the room, but no one told me, came over and was looking hard in my eyes and it was Ted Hughes…. And then it came to the fact that I was all there, wasn't I, and I stamped and screamed yes … and I was stamping and he was stamping on the floor, and then he kissed me bang smash on the mouth and ripped my hair band off, my lovely red hairband scarf which had weathered the sun and much love, and whose like I shall never again find, and my favorite silver earrings: hah, I shall keep, he barked. And when he kissed my neck I bit him long and hard on the cheek, and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face.

These lines from Hughes’s "18 Rugby Street" recall a moment from several months after that first meeting:

We walked across south London to Fetter Lane

And your hotel.

Opposite the entrance

On a bombsite becoming a building site

We clutched each other giddily

For safety and went in a barrel together

Over some Niagara. Falling

In the roar of soul your scar told me -

Like its secret name, or its password -

How you had tried to kill yourself. And I heard

Without ceasing for a moment to kiss you

As if a sober star had whispered it

Above the revolving, rumbling city: stay clear.

 


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.