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This review is taken from PN Review 151, Volume 29 Number 5, May - June 2003.


Like much of Daniel Weissbort's work, Letters to Ted demonstrates his extraordinary generosity. Weissbort, as this new collection reminds us, is an engaging poet, yet his work as an editor, publisher, critic and translator has continually testified a humble readiness to yield the limelight to other writers in order that their work may find sympathetic new readers. These seventy poems, addressed to his friend Ted Hughes (a fellow St Botolph's Review poet, with whom, Weissbort subsequently edited and translated numerous anthologies of modern European poetry), continue this by offering a compassionate and intelligent study of Hughes's life and legacy.

Letters to Ted frequently suggests how the older poet's death from cancer (from which Weissbort has also suffered) reinforced the author's own sense of mortality: `So I am tidying up behind me, but it's questionable whether or not I shall continue [...] Perhaps I'll just peter out, / having completed the last chores' (`Mnemonics'). However, this awareness of `a time limit on such ruminations' (`Band Stand: Karlovy Vary') finds Weissbort less concerned with `tidying up' his own legacy than with creating a memorial to Hughes which, in addition to being a poignant (though consistently controlled) elegy for a friend, is also an informed consideration of how the dramatic events of Hughes's life shaped not just his writing but, more interestingly to Weissbort, his silence: a word that recurs provocatively throughout the book. Befitting the integrity with which both translated other poets' work, Weissbort rarely seeks to add to ...

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