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Date-based Archive:  February 2003

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* 17 February 2003 *

Interview
posted by Emily at 9:38 PM

Great interview with Kate Moses, author of Wintering, today at Salon.

I'll tell you, living with Sylvia Plath in my head for three years felt, on one hand, like this incredible gift because of her brilliance and me being able to continually wallow in her work. Trying to imagine myself into her imagination was fantastic and yet it was also like having a stone on your head. Her incredible hypersensitivity to the workings of her mind and her awareness of the world around her was a gift, but it was also an unimaginable burden.

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* 13 February 2003 *

Kate Moses' new site
posted by Emily at 8:21 PM

As some of you may already know, a new novel about Sylvia Plath's final days, Wintering, was just released. The author, Kate Moses, has an amazing site built around the book with tons of Plath goodies! Her site includes an excerpt, the research process, an online gallery of places from Plath's life, reviews, an official discussion forum for the book, and much more. Visit Kate Moses.com.

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* 3 February 2003 *

Plath's daughter hits at BBC drama
posted by Emily at 8:41 PM

Apparently, Frieda Hughes is none too pleased with the upcoming film "Ted and Sylvia". An article in last Sunday's London Times discusses her attitude toward the production and the poem she wrote attacking the filmmakers. Click below to read it.

"Plath's daughter hits at BBC drama" by John Elliott and Richard Brooks

The only daughter of the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes has turned to poetry to mount a scathing attack on the BBC for an "insensitive" drama about her parents' lives.

Frieda Hughes's poem, called My Mother, accuses the BBC of voyeuristically raking over the death of her mother in the film, Ted and Sylvia, which stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Plath.

Hughes, 42, said she had been repeatedly pestered by BBC executives to help in the making of the film, despite telling them she wished to have no part in it.

"I wrote a letter to them saying `No, I don't want to collaborate', and they kept coming back," she said.

"My feelings were not taken into consideration. I wrote this poem because nobody seemed to take me seriously.

"Why would I want to be involved in moments of my childhood which I never want to return to? I want nothing to do with the film. I will never, never in a million years, go to see it."

As literary executor of her mother's estate Hughes has banned the BBC from using any of Plath's poetry in the film. Her own poem expresses her frustration with people who appear to be obsessed with her mother's suicide. She writes of the film makers: "Now they want to make a film / For anyone lacking the ability / To imagine the body, head in oven, / Orphaning children".

The verse that follows runs:

The peanut eaters, entertained At my mother's death, will go home,
Each carrying their memory of her, Lifeless a souvenir.

Maybe they'll buy the video.

In another verse, Hughes predicts with horror that ghoulish viewers will watch the film over and over again to see Paltrow, as her mother, die.

She is no less upset that other people watching the film may take an offhand attitude towards her mother's suicide. She describes how she expects them to pause the video and put the kettle on "While my mother holds her breath on screen / To finish dying after tea".

"My buried mother / Is up-dug for repeat performances," run two lines.

In one metaphor that echoes the rawness of her mother's poetry, she writes that the film makers need Plath's poetry to stitch together their film, which she sees as a grisly doll made from the body parts of her mother. ". . . they think / I should give them my mother's words / To fill the mouth of their monster, / Their Sylvia Suicide Doll", she writes.

BBC executives insisted the film paints a balanced and sensitive picture of the ill-starred relationship between Hughes and Plath and does not focus too closely on Plath's suicide.

David Thompson, head of BBC Films, said: "We are naturally very concerned about the family's feelings, but believe we have approached the film in a responsible and unsensational way. We are making a balanced film which will reflect both stories and celebrate the extraordinary genius they shared."

Hughes who, after her father's death, collected his Whitbread prize for Birthday Letters, was two years old when her mother killed herself in 1963. Plath placed plates of bread and milk outside the room where her children were sleeping, before she put her head in the gas oven and turned it on.

At the time of her death Hughes had left Plath for another woman, Assia Wevill, who also killed herself, along with their child. Extreme feminists demonised Hughes, scratching his name from his wife's headstone in the village of Heptonstall, West Yorkshire.

My Mother 48 lines long will be published in full in the new issue of Tatler. Geordie Greig, the society magazine's editor, who was a friend of Hughes before his death from cancer in 1998, said the poem was aimed at the makers of Ted and Sylvia.

"In a very powerful voice she summarises the pain of a child who is never allowed to get over the agony of losing a mother," said Greig. "The film company has been pursuing Frieda to give her seal of approval. This poem is a very strong and specific message to leave her alone, to let her mother rest in peace."

The poet Al Alvarez, who was a friend of Plath and Ted Hughes, said Hughes's poem had strong echoes of the work of her mother.

"It's pretty good," he said after it was read to him. "There's a lot of quotes and echoes in there from her mother's poems, such as Lady Lazarus, and anyone who knows the poems would see that." Alvarez said he was looking forward to the film, which he expected to be well-made, but fully understood Hughes's objections to it.

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