1. Rákóczi, The Painted Caravan, pp.33-4.

2. Kukil, K (ed.), The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 29 March 1958. p.355.

3. Thalidomide was prescribed as a sedative and, especially, for morning-sickness in pregnancy. From 1958 to1961 when the drug was withdrawn, about 2,000 children with terrible birth–defects caused by Thalidomide were born in the UK. Many died within a few months but some are still living.

4. Anansi the trickster spider man of Plath’s poem ‘Spider’ comes to mind. Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems, Faber, 1981, p.48-9. So, too, does Arachne, the mortal who, in Greek mythology, was turned into a spider by the Goddess Athena.

5. Blackberries, in any case, are generally spoiled, grey and maggoty by the end September.

6. Plath,A. (ed.) Sylvia Plath: Letters Home, 4. Sept. 1961 and 12 October 1962. pp. 428 and 466.

7. Reid, C. (ed.), Letters of Ted Hughes, Faber, 2007. Hughes to Sagar, 23 May 1981. pp.444-5.

8. Rákóczi, The Painted Caravan, p.35.

9. Plath spoke of the speaker as “an executive, a sort of exacting super-salesman” who wants to be sure that “the applicant for this marvellous product really needs it and will treat it right”. Notes: 1962, Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems, p.293.

10. Rákóczi, The Painted Caravan, p.38.

11. Plath spoke of the woman as “the Pheonix, the libertarian spirit, what you will”, but also as “just a good plain, very resourceful woman”. Notes: 1962, Sylvia Plath: Collected Poems, p.294.

12. In Alchemy, the chemical process of changing lead into gold (the ‘Great Work’) is also a metaphor for the transmutation of the base matter of a human nature into pure spiritual gold. The phoenix is a symbol of the ‘rubedo’, the fiery reddening which signals the completion of that process. Ted Hughes’s careful use of alchemy as a framework for Cave Birds: An Alchemical Cave Drama (Faber, 1978) is examined in detail in my book: Ted Hughes: The Poetic Quest.

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