Poetry and painting have always gone hand in hand for Frieda Hughes who will read from her collection of poems and paintings, Alternative Values for this year’s Festival of Chichester Poetry & Jazz Café (Edes House, Thursday, June 29, 7.30pm).
“I was always painting and writing poetry as a kid” – though perhaps unsurprisingly it was a while before she admitted to the poetry.
With poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath as her parents, few people can claim more remarkable parentage than Frieda.
“But I don’t think about my parentage when I have got my head stuck in a book or a poem… unless the poem happens to be about them.”
And when it is about them, well, sadly, it has drawn some fairly ghastly negative comments.
“Somebody once wrote a hatchet job, saying how dare Frieda Hughes use her poems to ride on their coattails, but then you think about all the things that have been written about them and the untrue biographies, you think that of all the people to write about Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, maybe the one person entitled to write about Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath is the daughter of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, especially as I am not writing about them as an academic; I am writing about them as mummy and daddy.
“And I am immensely proud of them both. My father once said to me ‘People will always compare you to us. It’s the lazy way to do a review. But I can tell you that you are not like either of us.’
“I did hide my poetry away for a while, but then the irritation and aggravation of not doing it began to outweigh the aggravation I might get if I did. Suppressing the desire to write poetry or the fact that I was writing poetry exceeded the fear of it being known that I did. And I am just grateful that I have been able to keep going with both (the poetry and the painting).”
The two come together in Alternative Values: “It’s a book of poems and paintings that I have been longing to put together for a while. It came out two years ago.
“When I write poetry, I want the reader to have the emotions. When I write poetry, I don’t want to say ‘I am feeling terrible! I want to pull my hair out!’ I just want to say ‘This is what happened’, and then it is for the reader to say ‘I am feeling terrible! I want to pull my hair out!’ if they want to! People have accused me of being brutal with my poetry. I am not fluffy!
“I write the poetry and I just want to share the observation, but then I paint my emotions. What I paint in my abstract art is my internal landscape. It is like walking around my head and my heart. What I feel I will put into the painting, and the colours will reflect those feelings. The poetry is the observations. I have my visual shout in the artwork. And this is what happens in the book Alternative Values.”
Completing the evening at Edes House will be the Jamie Leeming Trio with Emily Dankworth. The promise is a delightful mix of words and music with complimentary home-made cake in a grade I listed setting of Edes. Tickets £15 includes cake.
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