Monitor: In memoriam
Tributes to the life and work of Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate
Saturday 31 October 1998
IN THE statement he released when he won the Forward Prize for poetry, he recalled how Birthday Letters began as a kind of private conversation with Plath, and this is the great strength of the work. He could not bring her to life again by speaking to her, but his poetry could, for the reader, make her seem to live again and this is the poet's greatest gift. The ability to make peace in such a way is not granted to many.
HUGHES WILL be mourned not only as a great writer, but also as a public figure. Far from seeming the anachronistic figure that, say, Kipling did when he died, or writing bad poems as Tennyson did, he leaves us with his best work hardly cold from the presses. He goes into the darkness, not a grand old man, but the fiery, truculent spirit of his youth.
TO A generation of women he was a mythological ogre. They have never been able to forget the awful suicide of his first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath. If ever the dead haunted the living, Sylvia's ghost hovered over the career of her husband. With his male chauvinism, his philandering, and the way he put the demands of his own writing first, he became the token villain, the representative of all men who tried to hold back the pre feminist generation of women.
LAUREATE TO Her Majesty
Poet to the nation
Ted Hughes was a quiet man
Who rarely caused sensation.
He wrote of fens, and hills
Of lowly beasts and soaring
Now he has found a better place
In which to pen his loving words.
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