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Two contemporary poets and the Ted Hughes bestiary

Two contemporary poets and the Ted Hughes bestiary

Weston, Daniel (2018) Two contemporary poets and the Ted Hughes bestiary. The Ted Hughes Society Journal, 7 (1). pp. 89-101. ISSN 2051-7270

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Ted Hughes’s animal poetry seems, at first, to oscillate back and forward between two poles: creatures recorded in lyric, observational mode – The Hawk in the Rain, Remains of Elmet, Moortown Diary – and sometimes-mythical beasts carrying heavy metaphorical burden of spirit world and creation myth – Wodwo, Crow, Adam and the Sacred Nine. This article examines contemporary poets’ debt to both of these aspects; it finds that those who work with Hughes’s legacy often combine the two. Poems by Alice Oswald and John Burnside provide the sample material to test this case. Oswald has selected the poems for A Ted Hughes Bestiary (2014) and her introduction to that volume provides a document of her engagement with Hughes’s animals. Her poetry from this period bears the mark of his influence. John Burnside is, in many ways, the heir to Hughes’s depiction of animals and human animality across a long period. Both poets write half-observational, half-imaginative poems that, following Hughes, embody rather than only describe animals. From noticing a combinatory approach in the work of these two contemporary poets, the article then turns back to the Hughes oeuvre and argues that even the most subjective renderings of animals there have their basis in objective reference to experience. Thus, charting Hughes’s place in contemporary writing returns attention anew to his own poetry.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This Journal is copyright of the Ted Hughes Society but copyright of the articles is the property of their authors. This issue of the Ted Hughes Society Journal is open-access.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ted Hughes, Alice Oswald, John Burnside, poetry, animal, nature
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > Literature & Drama Research Group
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Last Modified: 21 Apr 2020 10:55

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