top of page

'You find a way'

Stephen Hornsby-Smith

'You find a way' was Ted Hughes' response when subjected to personal conflict and the fear of being unable to write poetry that eventually destroyed his poet wife Sylvia Plath. Was he a misunderstood villain or hero? Was he cruel or surviving a mutually destructive pursuit of Art? This ambivalence surround all Artists and for me explain my ambivalence towards Art, which I allude on my second video.

Here's the Background to Ted Hughes statement.

There's no doubt that Art meant a great many things to these two temperamentally different poets. Whilst his advice to his Sylvia Plath(SP) was taciturn, brutal, remorseless and unforgiving, he might have been unable to comprehend the profundity of SP's carnage when most victimized by her sensibilities, or could no longer protect and sympathize with SP because he was exhausted rather than pitiless, emotionally spent of psychological energy to insulate her from the ravages of her troubled persona. Yet whilst he became a household name as Poet Laureatte she wrote the more moving and intelligent poetry that eventually led to her suicide. Tragically their daughter would follow her mother's path in later years. He survived them both(?) but lived with the agony of personal if not professional failure. Hero or villain? Art is compulsive or self-destructive? How can we protect vulnerable people who have devoted themselves to asking questions of all of life around us that we, the general public avoid? So I've quoted Ted Hughes to explore this ambivalence that I feel towards Art, its purpose, and the way it is maligned or ignored by an unforgiving public audience.


The poet Ted Hughes told his wife to bludgeon- on and continue to write even when she was desperately sad, and needed consolation rather than lack of sympathy. Sometimes the Artist can only survive with the set of cards that he /she has been handed and the best they can do is to not relate insight to Art, but just ignore it the best way they can. If you're unlucky you have to document life through Art, if you're tragically unlucky you implode and self-destruct and can not endure the combination of heightened sensibilities with a profound intelligence.

I've also made this reference to highlight the jackals of society that treat Art like it's a piece of meat to be butchered by their ignorance and bullishness, believing that they are right to steamroller over Art because they can. There are too many brutal hackdogs in Art, and I've met a few of them.

However, the most important reason for the reference to Ted Hughes is that one can survive and manage the self-doubts and the self-destructive characteristics that are associated with Artists. It is not an inevitability that Art is by definition self-harm. I believe that one has to understand Agony not be subjected to it as a consequence of being an Artist. Look towards the light is not just a religious message that applies here but a recognition that one can transcend all pain by celebrating life, even if it requires struggle. I believe that God works through people who might not believe in him, and that is testament to the spiritual altruism that offers us sanctuary, God or godless. He understands, he offers us relief, he offers life. How I can communicate this is any ones guess? But in ambivalence I have found peace.

bottom of page