Edward James Hughes

Edward James Hughes


Edward James Hughes is one of the most outstanding living British poets. In 1984
he was awarded the title of the nation\'s Poet Laureate. He came into prominence
in the late fifties and early sixties, having earned a reputation of a prolific,
original and skilful poet, which he maintained to the present day. Ted Hughes
was born in 1930 in Yorkshire into a family of a carpenter. After graduating
from Grammar School he went up to Cambridge to study English, but later changed
to Archaeology and Anthropology. At Cambridge he met Sylvia Plath, whom he
married in 1956. His first collection of poems Hawk in the Rain was published in
1957. The same year he made his first records of reading of some Yeats\'s poems
and one of his own for BBC Third Programme. Shortly afterwards, the couple went
to live to America and stayed there until 1959. His next collection of poems
Lupercal (1960) was followed by two books for children Meet My Folks (1961) and
Earth Owl (1963). Selected Poems, with Thom Gunn (a poet whose work is
frequently associated with Hughes\'s as marking a new turn in English verse), was
published in 1962. Then Hughes stopped writing almost completely for nearly
three years following Sylvia Plath\'s death in 1963 (the couple had separated
earlier), but thereafter he published prolifically, often in collaboration with
photographers and illustrators. The volumes of poetry that succeeded Selected
Poems include Wodwo (1967), Crow (1970), Season Songs (1974), Gaudete (1977),
Cave Birds (1978), Remains of Elmet (1979) and Moortown (1979). At first the
recognition came from overseas, as his Hawk in the Rain (1957) was selected New
York\'s Poetry Book Society\'s Autumn Choice and later the poet was awarded
Nathaniel Hawthorn\'s Prize for Lupercal (1960). Soon he became well-known and
admired in Britain. On 19 December 1984 Ted Hughes became Poet Laureate, in
succession to the late John Betjeman. Hughes has written a great deal for the
theatre, both for adults and for children. He has also published many essays on
his favourite poets and edited selections from the work of Keith Douglas and
Emily Dickinson (1968). Since 1965 he has been a co-editor of the magazine
Modern Poetry in Translation in London. He is still an active critic and poet,
his new poems appearing almost weekly (9:17)

Judging from bibliography, Ted Hughes has received a lot of attention from
scholars and literary critics both in the USA and Britain. However, most of
these works are not available in Lithuania. Hence my overview of Hughes\'
criticism might not be full enough. The few things I have learned from reading
about Ted Hughes could be outlined as follows. Some critics describe Hughes as "
a nearly demonic poet, possessed with the life of nature", "a poet of violence"
(4:162), his poetry being "anti-human" in its nature (12:486). According to Pat
Rogers, his verse reflect the experience of human cruelty underlying the work of
contemporary East European poets such as Pilinszky and Popa, both admired by
Hughes. Hughes\' concern with religion gave inspiration to his construction of
anti-Christian myth, which was mainly based on the famous British writer and
critic Robert Ranke Graves\' book The White Goddess (1948) and partly on his own
studies of anthropology (12:486). Speaking of his early poems, the critics note
that at first they were mistakenly viewed as a development of tradition of
English animalistic poetry (6:414) started by Rudyard Kipling and D.H. Lawrence.
G. Bauzyte stresses that Hughes is not purely animalistic poet, since in his
animalistic verse he seeks parallels to human life (4:163). In I. Varnaite\'s
words, "nature is anthropomorphised in his poems" (5:61). Furthermore, G.
Bauzyte observes that Hughes\' poetics are reminiscent of the Parnassians and in
particular Leconte de Lisle\'s animalistic poems. She points out, however, that
the latter were more concerned with colour, exotic imagery and impression, while
Hughes work is marked by deeper semantic meaning. His poetical principals are
fully displayed in the poem Thrushes - "spontaneous, intuitive glorification of
life, akin to a bird\'s song or Mozart\'s music" (4:162). The four main sources of
Hughes\'s inspiration mentioned are Yorkshire landscape, where he grew up as a
son of a carpenter, totemism studied by the poet at Cambridge and theories of
Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer (4:161, 6:414). The main themes, as singled
out by I. Varnaite, are: nature, the world of animals, man, the relationships
between man and nature (5:61). Hughes often defies traditional poetical cannons,
imploring stunning contrasts and surreal imagery (4:162). He was also noted