Hughes' Birthday Letters is a poetry collection written about his own life. In its pages, he records the twists and turns of his various fortunes, especially his love life. All of the poems revolve around the concept of loss (death). He writes from a deep sense of profound loneliness after her absence from his life but also a religious commitment to his decision to leave.
From babies to funerals, life is found in these poems. Hughes writes about his own experiences in recent days. The general tone is one of condemnation and nostalgia. Looking back, he can see who made things go wrong and when as well as long to re-experience certain emotions and situations. He walked away from two kids and a wife in order to pursue a different, healthier lifestyle. But he confesses that he knows he harmed her unforgivably along the way.
Actual life events can be associated with specific poems. For example, "The Inscription" is about the time his ex came to visit his new apartment after he walked away from their family. This sort of raw honestly with readers is where Hughes' talent really lies. His words are unspeakably beautiful, but his unabashed openness about his experiences is what endears him to readers.