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‘I was there, I saw it’

Ian Sansom: Ted Hughes

19 February 1998
Birthday Letters 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 198 pp., £14.99, January 1998, 0 571 19472 9
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... 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. ‘That crocodile,’ Hook announces in Act II of Peter Pan, ‘would have had me before now, but … before he can reach me I hear the tick and bolt.’ ‘Some day,’ retorts the bespectacled boatswain Smee, ‘the clock will run down, and then he’ll ...
23 June 1994
Richard Hughes 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Deutsch, 491 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 233 98843 2
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... of Empire, between 1900 and 1950, a mere fifty years of elusive but positive literary ‘Englishness’. Four possible candidates, varying in attainments, would be T.E. Lawrence, Robert Graves, Peter Fleming (perhaps both Flemings) and Richard Hughes. It makes no difference that Lawrence was half-Irish, the Flemings mostly Scottish, and Hughes partly Welsh. The presidential or father figure of ...

Transfigurations

Roger Garfitt

20 March 1980
The Weddings at Nether Powers 
by Peter​ Redgrove.
Routledge, 166 pp., £2.95, July 1979, 0 7100 0255 6
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... fascination with death, was that of the relentless mutability of matter – Alexander the Great could be turned in his clay to the bung in a wine barrel. It is a trope that recurs repeatedly in Peter Redgrove’s recent work, You take turns to be food, Before you can grind wheat you have to be wheat, Before you can eat bread you are a nice new crust Eaten by Mary, who chooses a crust-you here, A ...
22 December 1983
The Battle for Bermondsey 
by Peter​ Tatchell.
Heretic Books, 170 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 946097 11 9
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... On the front cover of The Battle for Bermondsey there is a photograph of Peter Tatchell as, I imagine, he would like to be seen: a steady innocent gaze, a determined tilt to the chin, a youthful crusading air. He looks fragile but brave. In the background, slightly out of focus ...
9 April 1992
Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 517 pp., £18.99, March 1992, 0 571 16604 0
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... mere words, waste-paper, and have none of the glow, the creative enthusiasm, the vehemence, and natural spirit with which he wrote them.’ Though it lacks Hazlitt’s momentum and flexibility, Ted Hughes’s prose has a similarly vehement enthusiasm, a pulsing directness that makes him testify to ‘the simple immediacy and as it were natural inevitability’ with which his idea of Shakespeare’s ...
22 March 1990
A New Path to the Waterfall 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins Harvill, 158 pp., £11, September 1989, 0 00 271043 9
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Wolfwatching 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, September 1989, 0 571 14167 6
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Poems 1954-1987 
by Peter​ Redgrove.
Penguin, 228 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 14 058641 5
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The First Earthquake 
by Peter​ Redgrove.
Secker, 76 pp., £7.50, August 1989, 0 436 41006 0
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Mount Eagle 
by John Montague.
Bloodaxe, 75 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 1 85224 090 3
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The Wreck of the Archangel 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 116 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 7195 4750 4
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The Perfect Man 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Abacus, 96 pp., £3.99, November 1989, 0 349 10122 1
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... that old port. Even the woman’s lips against the receiver, even that. The curl of her lip. Few contemporary poems attain the ideal completeness symbolised in ‘The Painter and the Fish’. Ted Hughes, well capable of it, has long rejected certain formal and social co-ordinates which his poetry now sorely misses.† Perhaps difficulties begin at the point where archetypes cannot do the whole work ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie

1 July 1982
Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... old and lost in memory you might, seized by a sentimental fit, take down this book and blow the dust off it recalling: ‘Bosley was quite keen on me.’ What on earth were they looking for – Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney and Charles Causley – that they should have rated Bosley’s heart-warming dexterity (feelingful as well as formal) below, for instance, 18 solid unpunctuated pages ...

Half-Fox

Seamus Perry: Ted Hughes

29 August 2013
Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes​ and Keith Sagar 
edited by Keith Sagar.
British Library, 340 pp., £25, May 2013, 978 0 7123 5862 0
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Ted and I: A Brother’s Memoir 
by Gerald Hughes.
Robson, 240 pp., £16.99, October 2012, 978 1 84954 389 7
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... to Pater, Yeats and Lawrence, Graves, elements of Eliot and Woolf, and down to Leavis, Dylan Thomas and then, coming towards the nearer end of the line, the dark, odd and uncouth figure of Ted Hughes. In the superb doorstop of his Collected Poems, Hughes comes across as a more diverse poet than I remembered, and in many ways a more sympathetic and engaging presence. But it’s true that a good ...

The New Narrative

John Kerrigan

16 February 1984
The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse 
edited by Iona Opie and Peter​ Opie.
Oxford, 407 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 19 214131 7
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Time’s Oriel 
by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Hutchinson, 61 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 09 153291 4
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On Gender and Writing 
edited by Michelene Wandor.
Pandora, 166 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 86358 021 1
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Stone, Paper, Knife 
by Marge Piercy.
Pandora, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 9780863580222
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The Achievement of Ted Hughes 
edited by Keith Sagar.
Manchester, 377 pp., £27.50, March 1983, 0 7190 0939 1
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Ted Hughes​ and Paul Muldoon 
Faber, £6.95, June 1983, 0 571 13090 9Show More
River 
by Ted Hughes and Peter​ Keen.
Faber, 128 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 571 13088 7
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Quoof 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £4, September 1983, 0 571 13117 4
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... involution, young poets are in some danger of neglecting an essential resource of the Story. Certainly, to read a collection like The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse, newly-edited by Iona and Peter Opie, is to be reminded of the powerful appeal that’s made in poetry by ‘the kind of story in which, you want to know what happens next’. The Opies’ choice is often cautious and occasionally ...

In the Tart Shop

Murray Sayle: How Sydney got its Opera House

5 October 2000
The Masterpiece: Jørn Utzon, a Secret Life 
by Philip Drew.
Hardie Grant, 574 pp., AUS $39.95, October 1999, 1 86498 047 8
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Jørn Utzon: The Sydney Opera House 
by Françoise Fromonot, translated by Christopher Thompson.
Electa/Gingko, 236 pp., £37.45, January 1998, 3 927258 72 5
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... in the Opera House once it had served his electoral purpose and scarcely mentioned it before he retired in 1975 and died, a multi-millionaire, in 1981. Not so his minister for public works, Davis Hughes, a former schoolteacher from rural Orange who is the villain of Drew’s story and, like Utzon, is still with us. Drew charges, with convincing documentation, that Hughes intended even before the ...
22 November 1979
Saturday Night Reader 
edited by Emma Tennant.
W.H. Allen, 246 pp., £5.95
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... short-sighted’) whom young literary journalists feel obliged to interview. Well, of course, now I see it, and now that I’m in the joke very funny it is too. But it increases my doubts about Peter Wollen’s piece on Tina Modotti and Frida Kahlo, which is part of, which in fact comprises, that section of the anthology labelled ‘Women, Mexico, Revolution, Art’. Frida and Tina are, allegedly ...

Fan-de-Siècle

Brigid Brophy

6 October 1983
Murasaki Shikibu: Her Diary and Poetic Memoirs, A Translation and Study 
by Richard Bowring.
Princeton, 290 pp., £21.70, August 1982, 0 691 06507 1
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Evelina 
by Fanny Burney.
Oxford, 421 pp., £2.50, April 1982, 0 19 281596 2
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The Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney 
edited by Peter Hughes and Warren Derry.
Oxford, 624 pp., £37.50, September 1980, 0 19 812507 0
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Colette 
by Joanna Richardson.
Methuen, 276 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 413 48780 6
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Letters from Colette 
translated by Robert Phelps.
Virago, 214 pp., £7.95, March 1982, 0 86068 252 8
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... A small ad in Private Eye seeks a companion ‘sexy, feminine and discrete’. Siamese twins, I suppose, need not bother to apply. It is harder to divine why this translation of Murasaki’s Diary renders one passage by the words: ‘This is not to say that her women are always so genteel; if they forget themselves they can come out with the most indiscrete verses.’ Perhaps, in becoming conversant ...

War and Pax

Claude Rawson

2 July 1981
War Music. An Account of Books 16 to 19 of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ 
by Christopher Logue.
Cape, 83 pp., £3.95, May 1981, 0 224 01534 6
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Ode to the Dodo. Poems from 1953 to 1978 
by Christopher Logue.
Cape, 176 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 224 01892 2
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Under the North Star 
by Ted Hughes and Leonard Baskin.
Faber, 47 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 9780571117215
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Ted HughesThe Unaccommodated Universe 
by Ekbert Faas.
Black Swallow Press, 229 pp., June 1983, 0 87685 459 5
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Myth in the Poetry of Ted Hughes 
by Stuart Hirschberg.
Wolfhound, 239 pp., £8.50, April 1981, 0 905473 50 7
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Ted HughesA Critical Study 
by Terry Gifford and Neil Roberts.
Faber, 288 pp., £9.50, April 1981, 0 571 11701 5
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... and which one might have thought especially appropriate to Logue’s poem. The schoolboy dimension of ‘pax’ is somehow unassimilated, crackling angrily in a void of its own making. Like Ted Hughes, another poet much possessed by ‘violence’, Logue also writes children’s books, though neither poet seems often to enter that uncompromising world where children’s cruelty is for real. Both ...
6 July 1989
Who Framed Colin Wallace? 
by Paul Foot.
Macmillan, 306 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 333 47008 7
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... 1974 and to depose the likes of Heath and Whitelaw from the Tory leadership. Anyone – including Ian Paisley – who helped maintain the minority Labour government in power was fair game. Thanks to Peter Wright’s revelations we are more or less familiar with what went on in this period, though it is important to say that Wallace was the first to make public admission of these campaigns, well before ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Two weeks in Australia

6 October 1983
... Names like Patrick White and A.D. Hope were greeted with candid derision, and nobody had heard of Clive James.* When, at one of the actual Festival’s talk-ins, I said that it was odd to find Peter Porter missing from various standard anthologies of Australian verse, I was given the clear impression that P.P. had simply got what he deserved. Among poets there was much talk of an ‘Australian ...

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