Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nicholas Hughes

When the news of his death appeared in my news feeds, I was saddened to hear of it. I felt that his sister certainly didn't need any more death in her life. I also realized that it was the first time I knew anything of the man who so neatly absented himself from the poetical spotlight of his family.

But, his death wouldn't be news unless the obituaries turned to recounting the death of his mother, his father's mistress, and his father. Judith Flanders says it better than I ever could:
Yet the "curse" idea is repellent. Repellent to those afflicted with depression; repellent to those whose friends or family have been so burdened; even repellent to lovers of poetry. Sylvia Plath killed herself after many years of psychological instability - she had attempted suicide in her teens, had undergone ECT. Her marriage had broken down, she was living with two small children through one of the coldest winters for decades. Like all too many others, before and after, in a desperate moment, she killed herself, having first carefully set out bread and milk for her two toddlers in their cots. That she had just written some of the great poems of the twentieth century is neither here nor there. She was a great poet, and a depressed person. She was not a great poet because she was depressed; she was not depressed because she was a great poet.
He was a professor who, according to the University of Alaska website, was well loved and dedicated. Let's remember that instead.

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