Born Edward J. Hughes near Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire on August 16, 1930, Ted Hughes is perhaps most widely known for having married the tragic and iconic poet Sylvia Plath. However, Hughes is an important poet in his own right. His dynamic realism and almost childlike honesty reveres innocence, individual expression and above all else, nature.
His childhood years in Yorkshire were certainly an important influence on his literary sensibility. He studied English literature and ancient civilizations at Cambridge University, and in 1956 married the up-and-coming American poet Sylvia Plath. They began their marriage as a team of striving young writers, and enthusiastically supported each other’s growing careers. Hughes first book of poetry, ‘The Hawk and the Rain’, was published in 1956.
The next several years were colored with remorse. The marriage to Plath grew increasingly difficult and surreal as Hughes came to learn the depths of his charismatic wife’s mental illness and self-hatred. She finally killed herself, after previous attempts, in 1963. Ted Hughes stopped writing poetry for three years after this.
Later publications include ‘The Iron Man’, ‘Remains of Elmet’, ‘River’ and ‘The Crow’, all of them treating themes of nature.
Hughes was named Britian’s Poet Laureate in 1984, which actually probably didn’t help his image as a patriarchal stiff among the growing legions of Sylvia Plath fans. He had kept silent about his legacy as the ill-fated Sylvia Plath’s husband for decades, and had often been unfairly blamed for her downfall (the truth is that she had deep emotional problems that were beyond the grasp of her husband, who was a nature poet and not a psychologist). Ted Hughes finally told his side of the story in 1998 in ‘The Birthday Letters’. This would turn out to be his last book.