THE GOOD, THE GREAT & THE UGLY No. 99 Ted Hughes
Saturday 25 February 1995
Well, er, well, it's the first selection since 1981, and the first to include some of his verse for children.
Lots of funny poems, then?
Hardly. Hughes is no laughing matter, unless you count his efforts as Poet Laureate.
What's funny about them?
As parodied by Private Eye, they consist of hundreds of lines about mice getting their heads ripped off by owls with a couplet tacked on the end wishing some minor Royals or civic dignitaries all the best on their happy event.
And is that fair?
Not really. These poems rhyme, which is presumably some concession to Royal taste, and they display a judicious amount of sentiment, even whimsy. But they're still identifiably, and often bafflingly, Hughes.
So what is he, bafflingly, all about?
An England of dark myths and sudden animal violence - some critics call it the Hammer Horror school. He particularly warms to predators: the pike, the crow, the hawk. Fluffy kittens are notable by their absence.
Where did he acquire this view of nature?
As a child in Yorkshire he spent all his time catching and killing animals. "When my enthusiasm began to wane," he noted, "I began to write poems." After Cambridge, he worked in a zoo. And he's been a farmer.
Popular with farmers, I imagine?
Not always. One complained to the Daily Telegraph that farming wasn't really as gory as all that. "I do not understand the poet's preoccupation with blood and guts, wombs and placentas," he wrote.
But why is his stuff so bleak?
It always was: and then his life followed suit. His first wife, Sylvia Plath, killed herself, after he left her for Assia Wevill, the wife of a friend. Six years later, Wevill killed herself and their daughter, Shura.
But that was all a very long time ago, surely? He's remarried very happily since then, hasn't he?
True, but Plath has become a feminist icon, and Hughes has been the subject of morbid speculations and accusations ever since. Recently someone even proposed a film.
What was so terrible about that?
Plath would have been played by Molly Ringwald.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 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
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times