First poems published by Plath's daughter

THE DAUGHTER of poet laureate Ted Hughes and the tortured, controversial genius Sylvia Plath, is to follow in her parents' footsteps by publishing her first volume of poems.

There is no doubt that Frieda Hughes has a hard act to follow. Her father is recognised as the outstanding talent of his generation, while the upbringing and motives of her mother, who took her own life in the early Sixties, have been picked over by dozens of biographers and critics.

But such a weighty literary pedigree has not silenced Ms Hughes, whose poems appear in a Faber anthology published tomorrow. She has refused to adopt a pseudonym and firmly resists comparisons: while she is intensely proud of her parents, she says, her own work will speak for itself.

Now in her late thirties, and recently returned from 10 years in Western Australia, Ms Hughes will bring out her own first collection with Bloodaxe early next year, dedicated 'For Daddy with love'. She has already written six books for children and is an acclaimed painter, with work currently on display at the Royal Commonwealth Society in London.

It has taken rather longer to summon the courage to submit her poems for publication, but they have already been accepted by the New Yorker and Paris Review. Ironically - considering the intense literary rivalry between her parents - she claims her two-year marriage to Hungarian painter Laszlo Lukacs has engendered a new confidence.

"I have been painting and writing since I was three." she says. "It is all I have ever wanted to do. My father encouraged me, but it was really up to me what I did. If I needed help he would be my most accurate and sensible critic. But it had to get to the point where I felt that I could no longer not show anybody.

"I am more comfortable with myself, and part of that had to be meeting Laszlo. I had to feel that he was confident and complete in his own right; I couldn't have married anybody who wasn't a superb artist."

The couple now work side by side in their London studio, where she produces vivid, brilliant and disturbing canvases covered in Van Gogh-like swirls depicting bush fires and Australian landscapes; his work is more Cubist in style.

By contrast, her parents' relationship was famously stormy. Plath recorded that when she first met Ted Hughes at a Cambridge party, she bit him on the cheek and drew blood. Hughes himself has refused to give interviews about the relationship, although his recently published Birthday Letters cast new light on its dynamics.

Ms Hughes, who looks strikingly similar to her mother, published her first children's book, Getting Rid of Edna, at the age of 26. She said: "I had only ever thought of writing fiction and poetry, but when I took my paintings to my first publisher, thinking they might give me a book jacket, she asked if I had ever thought of illustrating a book." Her stories were so good that she was commissioned to write more.

Only recently did she begin sending her poems to four critics - including her father and a friend, journalist Libby Purves - for feedback. "They were brutally honest and when it was good, they said so. When you are sitting there in your vacuum, writing away, you don't know what reaction it's going to have. It was important to have the right audience."

One poem, "Readers", published by Bloodaxe and read on Radio 4 just after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, deals with the industry of "ghouls" who have made a living out of dissecting Plath's every move.

"That was one of the first poems she showed me and it knocked me back on my heels," says Ms Purves. "It had such a strong streak of Sylvia Plath in it and yet I knew she hadn't read her mother's poems for most of her youth.

"I do associate her work very much with William Blake; I think she has that quality like nobody else has, and she is going to be one of the notable figures of our age."

Of her father's comments, Ms Hughes says: "He has been wonderful; he's terribly reticent, I would say. He would tell me when something was weak or something was strong, but he would not tell me what I should do. That would make it his, and that would be awful."

Lee Brackstone, who edited the Faber collection, says: "Her poems are packed with startling, very vivid and sometimes violent imagery. She's an incredibly intelligent poet; I think her poetry has been informed by both her father and mother, but she's very original, strange, and quite unsettling."

While it is tempting to liken her work to Plath's - she employs hyphenated words in a similar fashion, and, like her mother, writes of traumatic father-daughter relationships - she is clearly not afflicted by the mental anguish suffered by Plath. "I make an effort not to try and compare myself with my mother," she says. "I can't stop people making comparisons; the only thing I can do is stay true to myself.

"I am very, very proud of both my parents, I have to say that. It gives an awful lot to live up to. It could make me dumb, and it certainly has made me very cautious about what I do where my writing is concerned ... But I am a different person."

She adds: "I would like to get to 90 and know that I have been myself all along ... In life, you are given certain opportunities and handicaps and it's up to you how you use or abuse them. I hope that I have treated my heritage with some dignity."

t "First Pressings" is published by Faber at pounds 4.99. "Wooroloo" is published by HarperFlamingo in the US, and Bloodaxe in the UK, in February.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss