Poet Feature: Ted Hughes
Wednesday, April 19th, 2017
To celebrate National Poetry Month this year, we're featuring a wide variety of poets and their work. Next up is Ted Hughes!
Born in 1930 in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, Hughes served in England's Royal Air Force before attending Cambridge. His studies there were grounded in archeology and anthropology, but he showed an especially keen interest in myth and legend as well, an interest that would have a profound impact on his writing in the years to come.
At 26, he met American writer Sylvia Plath, and the two were married that same year. She encouraged Hughes to submit a manuscript he'd written to The Poetry Center's book contest, where it was selected as the winner by renowned writers Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, and Stephen Spender. This unexpected start immediately catapulted Hughes onto an international stage, to which, it seemed, his unconventional poetry was eminently suited. Hughes conceived of poetry on a mythic scale, drawing on his background studying classic myths and legends. Nature, to Hughes, was filled with symbolism and a sense of the profound. He wrote to capture, as writer Thomas Nye put it, "the aliveness of animals in their natural state: their wildness, their quiddity, the fox-ness of the fox and the crow-ness of the crow.”
The latter part of Hughes' career has been somewhat marred by the suicide of his wife, Sylvia Plath, and his decision, as executor of her estate, to destroy some of her papers and deny publishers the printing rights to some of her poetry. He even refused to discuss his marriage until, in 1998, his collection The Birthday Letters was published, painting an intimate portrait of his late wife.
Hughes himself died of cancer in 1998. He has been memorialized in the famed Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.