British Library £15.95
Audiobook of the week: The Spoken Word: Poems and Short Stories by Ted Hughes
Sunday 04 January 2009
Towards the end of this collection, Ted Hughes reads passages from an occasional diary which he kept while farming in Devon. He'd intended to mould his experiences into poems, but saw that their raw immediacy had its own value. So there he is, out on a winter's night with an overgrown, asphyxiated lamb resolutely refusing to be born. No detail is spared: you listen with breathless, fascinated revulsion, and with a new respect for the exhausting travails of the shepherd – and indeed of the sheep.
This power of his wrestling words is given a mighty new dimension by the poet's own, spoken voice. When young, his intonation has something of an early Queen's Speech, the vowels slightly clipped, the tone almost respectful. But stay on to the end, and be overawed by the vigour and strength of his language, by his mighty, questioning, sinewy genius.
As he says himself, not all the entries are disastrous. In the poems, as in the diary, there are ecstatic, magnificent moments: a little girl gasping at the full moon; dawn high on the Yorkshire hills; a happy new-born calf batting its long, glamorous lashes.
There are stories here, too, and conversations in which Hughes discusses the Laureateship, and his appreciation of royalty. Kings, he says, are essential, invented out of the dreams of ordinary people. You may not agree but you cannot listen without developing a new respect for Hughes himself, the king of Laureates.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Last Tango in Halifax, BBC1, review: Cosy familiarity and real surprises are perfectly in step
Game of Thrones named most-pirated TV show of 2014
Exodus: Gods and Kings banned in the UAE over 'religious mistakes'
Marilyn Manson breaks silence on Lana Del Rey rape clip: 'I wouldn't make a video of that nature'
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Douglas Carswell tells Ukip to stop blaming foreigners as youth poll shows Nigel Farage is even less popular than Nick Clegg