Just watched the BBC2 programme, Ted Hughes: Stronger Than Death. Stunning. Frieda Hughes wonderfully engaging. Have always felt profoundly privileged to have been mentioned in one of his poems, written as Poet Laureate.
In The Letters of Ted Hughes (Faber & Faber, 2007) , edited by Christopher Reid, Hughes writes to Michael Hamburger on 12 September 1987 (page 538). He mentions reading my book, The Poisonned Womb (sic, his misspelling). “Read it,” he suggests, “& gain a head of perfectly white hair.”
Then an odd concatenation this week. Talking with Covestro CEO Patrick Thomas yesterday, we were exploring the carbon cycle, and he explained the last essay in Primo Levi’s book The Periodic Table. He noted that chapter 21 of the book was on Carbon, and ends with the carbon atom in question contained in the full stop at the end of some text.
And that reminded me of the trick Ted Hughes played in writing about The Poisoned Womb. In dropping a comma and full-stop at key points, he slyly referenced the sperm and the egg.
I wonder how many readers of The Times noticed that about the poem when the newspaper published it? (I think I only spotted it when I read the poem later in his 2003 Collected Poems.)
Not one of his finer pieces, but how extraordinary to be trapped like a fly in the amber of his otherwise genius.
(Both images courtesy of Wikipedia.)