Ted Hughes's poem "Last Letter", newly discovered in the British Library, is a shattering piece of work. Not because it's the first piece of writing in which he addressed the circumstances of Sylvia Plath's suicide. Not because it tracks through the last three days of her unhappy life on earth. Not even because it's a great poem, although it has moments of Parnassian brilliance. What makes it an emotionally draining experience is the tension it embodies, between what the angry, distraught, bewildered husband Ted Hughes wants to say about his wife's final hours, and what the cool, judicious, focused poet Ted Hughes will allow himself to say about them for posterity. Wordsworth said poetry was "emotion recollected in tranquillity". I don't believe I've ever read a poem in which emotion was so obviously recollected in anguish and turmoil, barely contained by the formal requirements of line, sense and rhythm.
The late poet laureate Ted Hughes would have been 80 this month, and to mark the occasion, The Independent is giving you the chance to listen to and download an exclusive new drama by Made in Manchester/Dark Smile.
Former Poet Laureate is to be commemorated alongside Chaucer and Shakespeare
For an indication of the health of British poetry, says Lemn Sissay, look no further than the strength of the entries to young people's competitions. "They're the momentum in a movement," he says – the force against a "competitive note" that has entered the contemporary poetry scene. The 42-year-old performance poet has just completed a week teaching the 15 winners of last year's Foyle Young Poets Award, which drew a record 14,000 entries from all over the world – and, by his reckoning, the future of the art form is very bright indeed.
Mirren's purple patch comes to an end
The <i>IoS's</i> literary editor, Katy Guest, considers how Carol Ann Duffy will handle the 'poisoned chalice' of being the new Poet Laureate
The son of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath moved to Alaska to pursue his passion for the oceans. But he could not escape the depression that made him take his life at the age of 47
Adrian Mourby lets himself into the house where Yorkshire's most celebrated poet was born, now a holiday cottage-cum-writer's retreat – and hopes for inspiration.