Cultural Comment: Monitor: The range of tributes to the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes - as seen by the newspapers

Sunday 23 October 2011 07:36

NOT ONLY did this imposing, craggily handsome Yorkshireman look the part - more so than any Laureate since Tennyson - but he used the post to continue on a more public stage his campaign for the imagination and against what he saw as our despiritualised and disembodied civilisation. Hughes's concern with the environment puts him in the mainstream of much modern thought. His belief that the women's movement reflected the unleashing of primeval forces was a little more eccentric, though. But raising one's eyebrows at the wider reaches of his thought seems as irrelevant as noting his archaic and ardent royalism. These things were as necessary to his imagination as the spirit-world was to Yeats, and his best work rises free of them.


THERE'S ALWAYS a problem being a poet in unpoetic times, but Ted had a very deep rooted sense of where his poetry came from - and it was quite unlike a lot of other contemporary poetry which seems to be about incidents and personal relationships - and that's why he will have this survival value.

-Malcolm Bradbury, Guardian

LAUREATE POEMS were never his forte, but it was a chore which he dutifully carried out. He much preferred to send private poems, not for publication, to the Queen Mother, with whom he often stayed in Scotland and shared a passion for fishing, and also to other members of the Royal family. This reticence was typical of Hughes, always preferring to perform in a private and modest manner. "The whisper is louder than the shout", he would tell friends when asked if he would like to comment on his work. He preferred to let it stand on its own.


YESTERDAY THE Queen paid her tribute to his genius. Buckingham Palace said she was "very saddened" and in touch with his family. She was grateful for the opportunity to recognise his achievements before he died through the Order of Merit - an exceptional distinction limited to 24 living recipients. Tony Blair described him as a "towering figure" in 20th century literature.


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, in 1963, a tragedy made more painful by the clinical way in which she planned her death.

She left bread and milk in the cots of her two sleeping babies in case they awoke, then went downstairs and gassed himself... If ever the dead haunted the living, Sylvia's ghost hovered over the career of her husband. With his brooding 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.

-Daily Mail

POET TED is dead.


TED HUGHES was throughout his adult life a private man, firm, shy, quietly - and occasionally boisterously - humorous in company, amiable but withdrawn. He was physically impressive, tall, broad-shouldered, with a massive head, nose and chin and with a deep voice that never lost its deliberate West Riding vowels. He was a most distinctive reader of his own poems, when he could be persuaded to read them: gently, modestly introducing them, he might then plunge into the horrors of the Crow poems, on occasion causing some in the audience to faint.

-Daily Telegraph

BRITAIN'S TOP poet for fourteen years.

-Daily Star

Lightning and stone and

wild winds

And rough earth things and

elemental spells

Were his elements. He had more

Than a touch of Prospero as a


He was the rough Merlin of our age.

-Ben Okri, Guardian

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