397 Plath, Hughes, and the “Other Woman” – Assia Wevill and Her Writings (with Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and Peter Steinberg)

In 1961, poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath rented their flat to a Canadian poet and his wife, the beautiful, accomplished, and slightly mysterious Assia Wevill. Soon afterward, Ted and Assia began having an affair. Within a year, Assia was pregnant with Ted’s child and Sylvia, after years of suffering from depression, had committed suicide. Six years later, Assia would do the same.

It’s a horribly tragic tale, like something out of Shakespeare, with genius and artistic ambition and love and sex and poetry entangled with themes of power dynamics, infidelity, and mental health problems. The poetic gifts of Ted and Sylvia – and the tragic ending of their marriage – has kept biographers and essay writers busy. But what about the third woman, Assia Wevill, a successful professional with ambition of her own? What did she write? How did she fit into this triangle? In this episode, Professor Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and Peter Steinberg, editors of The Collected Writings of Assia Wevill, join Jacke for a discussion of the “Other Woman” in the Plath-Hughes marriage.

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396 Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (with Heather Clark)

Ultimately, the marital relationship of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes was filled with pain and ended in tragedy. At the outset, however, things were very different. Within months of their first meeting at Cambridge, they had fallen in love, gotten married, and started having children – all while writing poetry and supporting one another’s art. What did they see in each other as people and as poets? How did they inspire and encourage one another? In this episode, Jacke talks to Plath’s biographer Heather Clark, author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath, about the creative partnership of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

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(A NOTE OF CORRECTION: At one point during this episode, the host mentions the years of Plath’s birth and death and gives her age as “sixty.” That should, of course, have been “thirty.” Please accept our apologies for his singular incompetence.)