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Ted Hughes (Ted Edward James Hughes) Biography

(1930– ), (Ted Edward James Hughes), The Hawk in the Rain, Lupercal, Wodwo, Crow, Gaudete

British poet, born in Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, an area drawn upon in much of his poetry; he was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge. In 1956 he married Sylvia Plath, with whom he spent two years in the USA. He returned to Britain in 1959 and eventually settled in Devon, where he has latterly divided his time between writing and farming. The hyperbolic vigour and innate accomplishment evident in The Hawk in the Rain (1957), his first collection of verse, rapidly established him as one of the most interesting younger poets of the late 1950s; its treatments of animal subjects were particularly striking, vividly affirming the natural forces of vitality with which modern civilization has diminished contact. The book was seen by numerous critics as embodying an alternative to what they perceived as the arid intellectualism of the Movement; Charles Tomlinson remarked that ‘Hughes has … a sense of nature, a sense of that other England which the London-bound writer has forgotten about’. His second volume, Lupercal (1960), displayed increased technical control and imaginative power. The insistence on the inseparability of beauty and brutality in the collection challenged pastoral idealizations of nature and anticipated the more extreme vision of Wodwo (1967). The apocalyptic metaphysics adumbrated in that collection link it with the parables of survival and destruction in Crow (1970), which forms the summation of the violence apparent in much of Hughes's preceding writing. A more socially realistic milieu forms the setting for the long prose poem Gaudete (1977); its bizarre narrative centres on events in a rural parish where supernatural agents bring about a revival of ancient fertility rites. Remains of Elmet (1979, with F. Godwin) contributes to the tradition of topographical poetry in its comprehensive poetic and photographic evocation of the human and natural characters of his native region of the Pennines; the perceptions of decay, transience, and stoical endurance in his previous poetry of the area strongly inform the collection. Local elements are also central to the long title sequence of Moortown (1979; revised edition 1989), which draws with great immediacy on his experiences as a farmer. Wolfwatching (1989) retrieves the imaginative energies and thematic range of earlier volumes, extending the overall scope of his work through the emotional directness and clear social orientation of several notable poems. Other collections by Hughes include Season Songs (1976), The River (1983, with P. Keen), and Rain-Charm for the Duchy (1992). New Selected Poems: 1957–1994 appeared in 1995. Hughes's critical prose and essays have been collected in several volumes, including Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (1992), A Dancer to God: Tribute to T. S. Eliot (1992), and Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose (1994; ed. William Scammell). He has also written many books of verse and prose for children and juveniles and worked prolifically as a dramatist; among his plays are a version of Seneca's Oedipus (1968) and Orghast (1971). He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Honest Ulsterman to Douglas Hyde Biography