New terrain is marked in Frieda Hughes's brilliant new collection, Waxworks. In it, Hughes has conceived and created a kind of poetic wax museum. She peoples it with figures from myth and legend, the Bible and world history, the famous and the infamous.
Diverse personalities, such as Rasputin and Cinderella, Medea and Lazarus, Houdini and Lady Macbeth, have been reborn of their old selves in Waxworks. Hughes imbues them with new life in contemporary terms; they experience the universal truths of love and pain and vanity that affect us all. As this volume proves, Hughes never flinches from difficult subjects and experiences.
Like Wooroloo, Frieda Hughes's debut collection, the poems of Waxworks will haunt a reader's imagination.
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Frieda Hughes, daughter of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, is a poet, writer and painter. She has published five poetry collections and seven children's books and was The Times poetry columnist. She regularly exhibits her paintings in London and at her private gallery in Wales.From Publishers Weekly:
From Australia and London (where Hughes lives) to the New Yorker (where some of her debut appeared), Hughes' 1999 first collection Wooroloo rode a wave of international publicity, much of it generated by the poet's famous parents, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. That book itself read like many another first book: rough, full of experiments, and in debt to the poet's literary models (her parents, in this case, among them). Hughes's second collection presents a more accomplished writer with a project of her own: each of its 51 poems presents a mythological, biblical or historical character (Medusa, Thor, Houdini, Vlad the Impaler) whose life the poet sums up. Reviewers will seize on "Pandora," whose story ("a dead mother/ She never met," "a father too, dead now, whose flesh/ Is ashes") seems to mirror the poet's own. Pandora's poem, however, ends by unlocking "hope," and Hughes' book-length series accordingly finds hope and promise (along with violence and bleak irony) far away from direct autobiography. The murderous barber Sweeney Todd displays "All the lies lined up as little pies/ And somewhere, a fingernail"; Faust "begged God/ For an answer to everything, but God/ Had his ears full from his houseful of souls." Some stories have grisly morals, while others simply explore a strange, cruel, mythological world. Her slashing, harsh prosodies and shocking similes, harnessed to these brief, famous stories, can become remarkably effective, very much in the manner of Anne Sexton's Transformations, to which the book as a whole owes much.
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