Feb. 11, 2003, marked the 40th anniversary of an event that has become the center of often heated and poisonous debate: the suicide of poet Sylvia Plath. Plath's marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes had fallen apart in July 1962, after she discovered his affair with Assia Wevill, the wife of yet another poet. She left the couple's home in the countryside of Devon, England, to winter with her two young children in London. During the last months of her life she wrote dozens of poems with an uncharacteristic speed and fluency; they became the book that cemented her reputation as a major American poet, "Ariel."
Like many people, Kate Moses (a former editor at Salon) found Plath's tragic story fascinating. But what interested her most about the poet's final weeks was not whether Plath was a self-destructive, monomaniacal harpy (as Hughes partisans have insisted), the victim of a callous and manipulative Hughes (as some have claimed), or was, according to an increasingly prevalent theory, a casualty of neurochemical imbalance.
Laura Miller recently interviewed Moses to talk about her book and, specifically, about Ted Hughes and how motherhood changed Plath's work. Listen to an excerpt from the interview below.