>TED HUGHES–SYLVIA PLATH HUSBAND–


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Ted Hughes (1930-1998) – byname of Edward J. Hughes




English poet, dramatist, critic, and short story writer, married to the American poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963. Hughes stated that poems, like animals, are each one ‘an assembly of living parts, moved by a single spirit.’ In his early works Hughes questioned man’s function in the universal scheme. Seriously interested in shamanism, hermeticism, astrology, and the Ouija board, Hughes examined in several of his later animal poems the themes of survival and the mystery and destructiveness of the cosmos.
SNOWDROP 
Now is the globe shrunk tight 
Round the mouse’s dulled wintering heart 
Weasel and crow, as if moulded in brass, 
Move through an outer darkness 
Not in their right minds, 
With the other deaths. She, too, pursues her ends, 
Brutal as the stars of this month, 
Her pale head heavy as metal.

Edward J. Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, but raised in Mexborough, a coal-mining town in South Yorkshire. The harsh landscape of the northern England moors had a strong influence in Hughes’s poetry. His parents were warm-hearted people – his mother was famous for her jams and gooseberry pies; his father was a carpenter, who later turned news agent. He had participated during World War I in the battle of Gallipoli, and was one of the 17 who survived from his regiment.
After studies at the Mexborough Grammar School, Hughes served two years in the Royal Air Force. From grammar school he won a scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied first English and then switched to archaeology and anthropology. Hughes specialized in mythological systems, which provided much material for his poetry. He graduated in 1954 and moved to London, where he worked as a zoo attendant, gardener, and script reader for J. Arthur Rank.
In Cambridge Hughes founded with his friends a literary magazine St Botolph’s Review. At a student party he first saw an unknown poet, Sylvia Plath. Their meeting anticipated their tumultuous relationship – she bit him on the cheek, so hard that it bled. They married within a few months. In 1957 they moved to the US where Hughes taught English and creative writing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Hughes hated Massachusetts and wanted to return to England.
Hughes’s first volume of verse, THE HAWK IN THE RAIN (1957), which included some of his best poems, such as ‘The Thought-Fox’ and the title poems, ‘The Hawk in the Rain’. “I imagine this midnight moment’s forest: / Something else is alive / Beside the clock’s loneliness / And this blank page where my fingers move.” (from ‘The Thought-Fox’) It was followed by PIKE (1959) and LUPERCAL (1960), which won a Somerset Maugham Award (1960) and the 1961 Hawthornden Prize. Hughes’s collection SELECTED POEMS (1962), with Thom Gunn, is considered a new turn in English verse.
During this period Hughes also supported Plath through her depressions and encouraged her when publishers rejected her work. Hughes and Plath returned to England in 1959 and in 1961 they moved to Devon. Plath suspected him of infidelity, first falsely but then correctly when Hughes met Assia Wevill, a German-born, cosmopolitan woman who had been married three times. At that time she was married to the Canadian poet David Wevill. After Sylvia Plath’s suicide in London in 1963, Hughes stopped writing poetry for nearly three years while editing and publishing Plath’s poems. He also helped her collection of poems, Ariel, to gain public recognition. According to Elaine Feinstein, whose well-balanced biography on the author appeared in 2001, Hughes never recovered from his wife’s death. Hughes divided his time between London and Court Green, his Devon house. Plath’s death made Hughes a pariah among some members of the literary community, and especially feminist critics cited Plath’s poems, where Hughes was represented as a “brute”. Hughes’s name was chipped off her tombstone in Yorkshire and his poetry readings were disrupted by shouts of “murder”. The writer Germaine Greer later admitted, ”Ted Hughes existed to be punished…”
The memory of Plath started to haunt Wevill, who feared that Hughes would leave her. The tragedy continued when Assia Wevill killed herself and Shura, their daughter, in 1969. She gave Shura sleeping pills and turned on the gas oven, lying down with her on a mattress. Two decades later, in CAPRICCION (1990) Hughes wrote: “After forty I’ll end it,” you said / laughing / (You were serious) as you folded / your future / Into your empty clothes. Which / Oxfam took.”
After Plath’s death, Hughes had several affairs and he took up various causes, among them the preservation of salmon in British rivers. He became interested in Yehuda Amichai‘s work and made his poetry known for English readers. In 1969 Hughes’s adaptation of Seneca’s Oedipus was produced at the National Theatre. Hughes originally wrote THE IRON MAN (1968) for his children after Plath’s death. The widely translated book is about a huge Iron Man whose origin is unknown. He steals all tractors, threshers and digging machines from local farmers – he has an insatiable appetite for metals. The farmers try to capture the strange, rusty being. However, the Iron Man escapes from a trap. A young boy befriends with him and leads him to a scrapyard, where the Iron Man has all kinds of metal scrap, from old cars and stoves to bicycles, to eat. A giant Space-Bat-Dragon-Angel appears from the space – its head is the size of Italy and it threatens to eat the villages and cities of the world. The Iron Man defeats the creature. The bat starts its journey back to Orion, its home star, singing a song which brings peace on earth. The book inspired the animated movie Iron Giant (1999) and had a sequel, THE IRON WOMAN (1993). Hughes’s first collection of poetry for children was MEET MY FOLKS! (1961). HOW THE WHALE BECAME (1963) was a collection of creation stories. Both How the Whale Became and The Iron Man were dedicated to his children. WHAT IS TRUTH? A FARMYARD FABLE FOR THE YOUNG (1984) won the Guardian Children’s Book Prize and the Signal Poetry Prize.
Hughes edited a number of collections of verse and prose and was a founding editor of Modern Poetry in Translation magazine. In 1970 Hughes was one of the founders of the Arvon Foundation. When he was 40, Hughes produced perhaps his most famous work, CROW (1970), a series of story-poems. The protagonist – “Crow” – is an embodiment of vitality that challenges the supremacy of “Death”. At the end of the poem, a man and a woman are ready to whisper “Your will is our peace” in mistaken allegiance to the serpent; Crow kills and eats it. In 1971 Hughes travelled to Iran where he wrote the verse drama ORGHAST for the director Peter Brook. In 1977 he was awarded an OBE and in 1984 he was appointed poet

Laureate at the age of 54. 
For they will have their rights. 
Their jurors are to be assembled 
From the little crumbs of soot. Their brief 
Goes straight up to heaven and nothing more is heard of it. 

(from ‘Her Husband’)

In POETRY IN THE MAKING (1970) Hughes stated that there is no ideal form of poetry or writing. His poetry ranged from free verse to highly structured forms and rhyme schemes. He gradually abandoned traditional forms and stated that the “very sound of metre calls up the ghosts of the past and it is difficult to sing one’s own tune against the choir.” Although he wrote for young adults a wide variety of finely illustrated poems, plays and prose, he did not soften his themes of life and death with sentimentality. Hughes often embodied the primal forces of nature as mythical animals, such as the pike (“With a sag belly and the grin it was born with. / And indeed they spare nobody.”), the hawk, and “Crow”. The element of death is a part of the cycles of nature as in ‘There Came a Day’ but not without a sudden humor.

There came a day that caught the summer 
Wrung its neck 
Plucked it 
And ate it.

Hughes’s study of Sylvia Plath’s life, BIRTHDAY LETTERS, appeared in 1998 and became an immediate bestseller. He received all the major literary awards in Europe, but not the Nobel Prize. He also received the Order of Merit. Hughes died of cancer on October 28, 1998

For further reading: Eight Contemporary Poets by C. Bedient (1974); The Art of Ted Hughes by K. Sagar (1978); Ted Hughes: The Unaccommodated Universe by E. Faas (1980); Ted Hughes: A Critical Study by T. Gifford and N. Roberts (1981); Sylvia Plath: Journals 1950-62, foreword by Ted Hughes (1982); The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm (1994); Ted Highes: The Life of a Poet by Elaine Feinstein (2001) – Note: Andrew Motion followed Ted Hughes as Britain’s poet laureate. – Suom.Hughesin runoja on julkaistu antologiassa Maailman runosydän, toim. Hannu Tarmio ja Janne Tarmio (1998)

SELECTED WORKS:

  • THE HAWK IN THE RAIN, 1957
  • PIKE, 1959
  • THE HOUSE OF ARIES, 1960
  • LUPERCAL, 1960
  • MEET MY FOLKS! 1961 (rev. 1987)
  • THE CALM, 1961
  • A HOUSEFUL OF WOMEN, 1961
  • THE WOUND, 1962
  • ed.: NEW POEMS 1962 (with Patricia Beer and Vernon Scannell)
  • SELECTED POEMS, 1962
  • HOW THE WHALE BECAME, 1963
  • THE EARTH OWL AND OTHER MOON PEOPLE, 1963
  • DIFFICULTIES OF BRIDEGROOM, 1963
  • EPITHALAMIUM, 1963
  • ed.: HERE TODAY, 1963
  • ed.: FIVE AMERICAN POETS, 1963 (with Thom Gunn)
  • DOGS, 1964
  • ed.: SELECTED POEMS by Keith Douglas, 1964
  • NESSIE THE MANNERLESS MONSTER, 1964
  • THE COMING OF THE KINGS, 1964 (pub. 1970)
  • BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, 1965
  • THE TIGER’S BONES, 1965 (pub. 1970)
  • THE HOUSE OF DONKEYS, 1965
  • ed.: SYLVIA PLATH’S ARIEL, 1965 (with O. Hughes)
  • THE BURNING OF THE BROTHEL, 1966
  • THE PRICE OF A BRIDE, 1966 (pub. 1968
  • ANIMAL POEMS, 1967
  • GRAVESTONES, 1967
  • RECKLINGS, 1967
  • WODWO, 1967
  • SCAPEGOATS AND RABIES, 1967
  • THE IRON MAN, 1968
  • ed.: A CHOISE OF EMILY DICKINSON’S VERSE, 1968
  • ORGHAST, 1968
  • THE DEMON OF ADACHIGARA, 1968 (pub. 1969)
  • translation: Yehuda Amichai’s Selected Poems, 1968 (with A. Gutman)
  • SENECA’S OEDIPUS, 1968
  • THE IRON MAN, 1968 – film The Iron Giant (1999), dir. by Brad Bird, starring Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald, Harry Connick Jr., Cloris Leachman, Vin Diesel – also the basis for Pete Townshend’s 1989 concept album The Iron Man (1989)
  • SEA, THE FOOL, THE DEVIL AND THE CATS, 1968 (pub. 1970)
  • I SAID GOODBYE TO EARTH, 1969
  • FIVE AUTUMN SONGS FOR CHILDREN VOICES, 1969
  • POETRY IN THE MAKING, 1970
  • THE COMING OF THE KINGS, 1970
  • THE CROW, 1970
  • AMULET, 1970
  • A CROW HYMN, 1970
  • A FEW CROWS, 1970
  • FIGHTING FOR JERUSALEM, 1970
  • FOUR CROW POEMS, 1970
  • THE MARTYRDOM OF BISHOP FARRAR, 1970
  • ed.: A CHOISE OF SHAKESPEARE’S VERSE, 1971
  • CROW WAKES, 1971
  • EAT CROW, 1971
  • SHAKESPEARE’S POEM, 1971
  • POEMS, 1971 (with R. Fainlight, A.Sillitoe)
  • ORGHAST, 1971
  • AUTUMN SONG, 1971
  • ORPHEUS, 1971 (pub. 1973)
  • IN THE LITTLE GIRL’S ANGEL GAZE, 1972
  • SELECTED POEMS 1957-1967, 1972
  • PROMETHEUS ON HIS CRAG, 1973
  • THE STORY OF VASCO, 1974
  • contributor: CRICKET’S CHOICE, 1974
  • CAVE BIRDS, 1975 (rev. 1978)
  • THE INTERROGATOR, 1975
  • THE NEW WORLD, 1975
  • ECLIPSE, 1976
  • EARTH MOON, 1976
  • MOON-WHALES AND OTHER POEMS, 1976 (rev. Moon-Whales, 1988)
  • SEASON SONG, 1976
  • ed. and trans. with János Csokits: SELECTED POEMS by János Pilinszky, 1976
  • GAUDETTE, 1977
  • CHIASMADON, 1977
  • trans. ANOTHER REPUBLIC, 1977 (d. by Charles Simic and Mark Strand)
  • ed. and trans. with Yehuda Amichai: AMEN by Yehuda Amichai, 1977
  • ed. and introduction: JOHNNY PANIC AND THE BIBLE OF DREAMS, AND OTHER PROSE WRITINGS by Sylvia Plath, 1977
  • MOON BELLS, 1978
  • CAVE BIRDS, 1978
  • ORTS, 1978
  • MOORTOWN ELEGIES, 1978
  • A SOLSTICE, 1978
  • MOON-BELLS AND OTHER POEMS, 1978
  • ALL AROUND THE YEAR, 1979
  • MOORTOWN, 1979
  • HENRY WILLIAMSON, 1979
  • THE THRESHOLD, 1979
  • ADAM AND THE SACRED NINE, 1979
  • BROADSIDES 1979-83; FOUR TALES TOLD BY AN IDIOT, 1979
  • IN THE BLACK CHAPEL, 1979
  • REMAINS OF ELMET, 1979 (rev. 1994)
  • trans. with Yehuda Aamichai: TIME by Yehuda Amichai, 1979
  • THE PIG ORGAN, 1980
  • ed.: NEW POETRY 6, 1980
  • UNDER THE NORTH STAR, 1981
  • A PRIMER OF BIRDS, 1981
  • SKY-FURNACE, 1981
  • ed.: THE COLLECTED POEMS OF SYLVIA PLATH, 1981
  • ed.: ANTHOLOGY: ARVON FOUNDATION POETRY COMPETITION, 1982 (with S. Heaney)
  • ed.: THE RATTLEBAG, 1982 (with S. Heaney)
  • SELECTED POEMS 1957-1981, 1982 (rev. New Selected Poems 1957, 1994, 1995)
  • RIVER, 1983
  • WHAT IS TRUTH? A FARMYARD FABLE FOR THE YOUNG, 1984
  • RIVER, 1984
  • ed.: THE JOURNALS OF SYLVIA PLATH, 1985 (with F. McCullough)
  • ed.: SYLVIA PLATH’S SELECTED POEMS, 1985
  • FLOWERS AND INSECTS, 1986
  • FFANGS THE VAMPIRE BAT AND THE KISS OF TRUTH, 1986
  • T.S. ELIOT: A TRIBUTE, 1987
  • CAT AND THE CUCKOO, 1988
  • TALES OF THE EARLY WORLD, 1988
  • WOLFWATCHING, 1989
  • translation: János Pilinszky’s The Desert of Love, 1989 (with J. Csokits)
  • CAPPRICCIO, 1990
  • RAIN CHARM FOR THE DUCHY AND OTHER LAUREATE POEMS, 1992
  • SHAKESPEARE AND THE GODDESS OF COMPLETE BEING, 1992
  • ed.: A DANCER TO GODS: TRIBUTES TO T.S. ELIOT, 1992
  • THE IRON WOMAN, 1993 – Rautanainen (suom. Kristiina Drews)
  • WINTER POLLEN: OCCASIONAL PROSE, 1994
  • NEW SELECTED POEMS, 1995
  • DIFFICULTIES OF A BRIDEGROOM, 1995
  • ed.: A CHOICE OF COLERIDGE’S VERSE, 1996
  • trans.: Ovid: Tales from Ovid, 1997 – (Whitbread Award 1998)
  • BIRTHDAY LETTERS, 1998
  • trans.: Euripides’ Alcestis, 2000
  • LETTERS OF TED HUGHES, 2007 (ed. by Christopher Reid)

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