Feb. 3: The only daughter of the poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes has written a poem to complain about a big-budget BBC feature film about their tragic marriage.
Frieda Hughes, who has already refused to allow any of her mother’s work to be used in the film, wrote the 48-line poem to protest at the intrusion into her family’s life.
Entitled My Mother, it accuses the filmmakers of cashing in on family grief and of turning her mother’s suicide into popular entertainment.
When the film becomes a video, Frieda Hughes says in the poem, viewers will be able to freeze the moment before her mother put her head in the gas oven to commit suicide while they go to make themselves a cup of tea.
The £7 million film, Sylvia and Ted, which stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Plath, Paltrow’s mother Blythe Danner as Plath’s mother, and Daniel Craig as Ted Hughes, finished shooting a fortnight ago. It is expected to be released at the end of this year or early next year.
After controversy over the film Hilary and Jackie five years ago, about the love life of the late cellist Jacqueline du Pre, which revealed that she had seduced her sister’s husband, the new film will generate debate about the responsibilities of the entertainment industry to the feelings of relatives of screen subjects.
Hughes, 42, an artist, illustrator and poet, has rarely commented on her parents’ lives and she refused to co-operate with the BBC and its co-producers, the Film Council, and two Hollywood film companies, on Sylvia and Ted.
She claimed that she has been repeatedly pestered to lend her name to it.
“My feelings were not taken into consideration,” she said. “I wrote this poem because nobody seemed to take me seriously.”
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.
She writes of the filmmakers:
Now they want to make a film
For anyone lacking the ability
To imagine the body, head in oven
In another verse in the poem, to be published in the magazine Tatler, she writes angrily:
I should give them my mother’s words
To fill the mouth of their monster
Their Sylvia Suicide Doll.