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.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Refugee crisis: Sweden the only European country with a majority favourable towards non-EU immigration
- 2 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 3 Malnourished two-year-old found being breastfed by dog in Chile
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 YouTube video shows woman verbally abusing takeaway staff 'because they used green peppers'
Anne Hathaway is already being stung by Hollywood ageism, aged 32
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series
The Lobster trailer: Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a lover or he'll be turned into an animal
Spanish town saved by botched restoration of century-old Christian 'Ecce Homo' fresco of Jesus
'Beasts of No Nation': Netflix releases trailer of first feature film, starring Idris Elba
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees