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Wodwo

Wodwo, Crow

hughes ‘the poems treatments

a collection of poems and prose by Ted Hughes, published in 1967. Parts I and III of the book contain a substantial body of previously uncollected poems, while Part II is made up of five short stories and a play; Hughes's prefatory note informs the reader that ‘the verse and the prose are intended to be read together, as parts of a single work’. Much of the writing in the volume has in common an exploratory impulse, which is perhaps clearest in the cumulative questings after identity in the title poem: ‘What am I?…what shall I be called am I the first…’ The story ‘Snow’, which recalls Beckett's work in its bleak reductiveness, and the play ‘The Wound’ present similarly unsettling examinations of our existential assumptions. In attempting to achieve his fundamental definitions of the terms of existence Hughes brings great imaginative pressure to bear on his materials in Wodwo and employs predominantly experimental forms; the comparatively conventional stanzas of his two earlier collections are discarded in favour of compellingly rhythmical free verse. The metaphorical import in Hughes's previous treatments of animals is superseded by the mythical dimensions apparent in such poems as ‘The Bear’, ‘Song of a Rat’, and ‘The Howling of Wolves’; the harsh metaphysics expounded in Crow (1970) are firmly anticipated in numerous poems, notably ‘Logos’, ‘Reveille’, and ‘Theology’, while the incantational lyricism of ‘Skylarks’ and ‘Gnat-Psalm’ constitutes an element of transcendent affirmation. Wodwo also includes some of Hughes's most concentrated treatments of landscape and has an unusual breadth of social, personal, and historical reference; it is in many ways his most varied and powerful collection.

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