Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes’s first collection of poems, The Hawk in the Rain, was published in 1957; his last, Birthday Letters, in 1998, the year he died. John Bayley, writing in the LRB, described his long poem Gaudete (1977) as ‘one of the most remarkable achievements of modern poetry’.


Weary of the cries God spoke to the Soul of Adam Saying: ‘Give me your body.’ And He Took Adam’s body and nailed it To a stake, saying: ‘This great beast Shall destroy your peace no more.’

Then God fortified with buttresses His house’s walls, and so devised a prison For the contorted body Of the beast. Outside, the Soul, in a shroud, Glorified the Majesty...

Poem: ‘On the Reservations’

Ted Hughes, 2 June 1988

for Jack Brown

I Sitting Bull On Christmas Morning

Who put this pit-head wheel, Smashed but carefully folded In some sooty fields, into his stocking? And this lifetime nightshift – a snarl Of sprung celluloid? Here’s his tin flattened, His helmet. And the actual sun closed Into what looks like a bible of coal That falls to bits as he lifts it. Very strange. Packed in mossy...

Poem: ‘Glimpse’

Ted Hughes, 4 February 1988

When I peered down Onto Greenland’s appalling features Sheeted with snow-glare Under a hole of blaze in the violet

(I had slid open the shutter Of the jet’s port-hole – I wanted to escape The film about a daughter’s rebellion)

I mourned a little For my father. I thought of the pierced seal Down there under the ice Far from its breathing hole

Straining as he finally...

The Tourist Guide, with his Group, in the ring of horizons, Looked down onto Hebden. ‘You will notice How the walls are black.’                             ‘Wash the black walls!’ Came the madman’s yell. Birdlike, wordless.


Poem: ‘Manchester Skytrain’

Ted Hughes, 6 March 1986

The nightmare is that last straight into the camera – Dice among dice, jounced in a jouncing cup. Never any nearer, bouncing in a huddle, on the spot. Struggling all together, glued in a clot.

The first dead cert I ever backed was Word From The Owner’s Mouth. Week before There was my jockey – ‘a day in the life of’ – Starred in Picture Post. Who? Somewhere


Half-Fox: Ted Hughes

Seamus Perry, 29 August 2013

Among the many delights to be found in Roger Lonsdale’s New Oxford Book of 18th-Century Verse is a squib by Thomas Holcroft, provoked by some disparaging remarks Voltaire made about...

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Between leaving school and going to Cambridge, Ted Hughes did his National Service in the RAF. Writing from RAF West Kirby, in the Wirral, to a friend, Edna Wholey, in 1949 –...

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‘I was there, I saw it’: Ted Hughes

Ian Sansom, 19 February 1998

Captain Hook, ‘cadaverous and blackavised’, ‘never more sinister than when he is most polite’, lives in fear of the crocodile who ate his arm and swallowed a clock....

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He knew not what to do – something, he felt, must be done – he rose, drew his writing-desk before him – sate down, took the pen – – found that he knew not what to...

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Godmother of the Salmon

John Bayley, 9 July 1992

The worst of being dubbed Laureate today would not be the task of composing poems for royal and public occasions, but trying to make them sound like oneself, or even more so. Auden had no...

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Protestant Guilt

Tom Paulin, 9 April 1992

There is a particular type of literary criticism – these days very rare – that aims to exist intensely as bravura performance, dramatic spectacle. It would be pointless to object that...

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What the doctor said

Edna Longley, 22 March 1990

Most books offered as poetry never leave the condition of prose – which is not to say they are good prose. But when a prose voice enters poetry, it can clear and freshen the air. Beside...

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The New Narrative

John Kerrigan, 16 February 1984

‘When We talk of narrative poetry today,’ James Fenton asks in the September issue of Poetry Review, ‘are we referring to the kind of story in which, you want to know what...

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Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

‘New’ poetry can mean two things. When Ezra Pound said ‘make it new’ he was willing the advent of Modernism, the birth of a consciousness transformed by the...

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Cambridge Theatre

Donald Davie, 19 August 1982

Sue Lenier’s poems occupy 70 closely printed pages, of which I have read – the things I do for LRB! – 50 or so. If ‘read’ is the word for what one does, or can do,...

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Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

The Arvon Foundation’s 1980 Anthology contains four splendid poems: Stephen Watts’s ‘Praise Poem for North Uist’, and Keith Bosley’s ‘Corolla’; Aidan...

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War and Pax

Claude Rawson, 2 July 1981

Christopher Logue’s War Music is not ‘a translation in the accepted sense’. It’s not clear why, having said this, he should invoke Johnson’s remark that a...

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Facts and Makings

John Bayley, 21 February 1980

Ted Hughes has always possessed in his poetry the gift that D.H. Lawrence had whenever he took up his pen: the gift of joining his ego to the visible world so that both not only energise each...

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