Ted Hughes. Andrew Motion


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Ted Hughes Andrew Motion by N.A.Puzanova

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Ted Hughes: Shock-maker who shook English verse Ted Hughes over the past 40 years has changed the landscape of his country’s verse. His poetry always provoked shocks in his readers. His poems revealed the violence of the natural world. No one expected him to publish anything while still alive about his relationship with Sylvia Plath-let alone a work of such anguish, frankness and heart-breaking tenderness.

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The raw emotional openness to many seemed radically at odds with the public image of Hughes as the tight-lipped Yorkshireman. There is no doubt that Birthday Letters has caused many people to reassess Hughes’s work, and it now seems fitting and touching that his most affecting collection should be the last book to be published in his lifetime.

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Hughes arrived dramatically on the literary scene with the publication of the Hawk in the Rain, 1957. English verse was then dominated with ironic middlebrow detachment as exemplifies by figures like Philip Larkin and Kingsley Amis. Hughes's poetry , full of heat of animal life, couldn’t have been more different.

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His “unfashionable” influences were announced from the start: the vigorous rhythms of Hopkins, the individualism of D.H. Lawrence. Hughes’s poetry has changed the landscape of English verse. In 1962, Hughes was one of the poets chosen by Al.Alvarez for the ground-breaking anthology, the New Poetry. Hughes’s use of his local vernacular has helped to democratize poetry in England. Perhaps the most significant development in post-war poetry is the way in which a range of regional voices has begun to be heard

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It is Hughes’s focus on the natural world for which he is most famous, and there's is no doubt that he will be remembered by the bulk of his readers for his animal poems. Again, this aspect of his work has marked a significant shift in contemporary poetry, away for the metropolitan ironies and anxieties that had been so dominant since the birth of modernism-embodied by the influential AH Auden, Stephen Spender and the decaying city of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land.

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In Hughes social trauma manifests itself in the rank individualism of his celebrated animals: The Jaguar ignoring its cage, the Hawk Roosting, who declares, “Nothing has changed since I began”. Human beings appear to be living out some meaningless cosmic joke, devoid of choice. They are responsible for the “turmoil of history”.

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His most important critical work includes Shakespeare and the Complete Goddess of being- where he explores along with some other themes Englishness. His last works, his superb translation Tales from Ovid and Birthday letters show Hughes at the height of his astonishing poetic powers. BL is considered to be a work of greatness.

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Andrew Motion The appointment of Andrew Motion as Poet Laureate, after months of waiting since Ted Hughes's death in October, 1998 has generated predictable and un-literary excitement. Motion was described as relatively obscure. No one reads Andrew, one fellow poet was reports as saying.

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Part of this hostility has nothing to do with the poetry itself, but with Motion’s “establishment credentials”. Educated at Radley public school and oxford, he has been an editor of Poetry Review magazine and during the late 80s, poetry editor at publishers Chatto and Windus. Latterly he has held a position with the Arts Council. He had been a lecturer at the University of hull when his first volume, The Pleasure Steamer, was published .

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His main work was that of a biographer, most famously of Philip Larkin. Motion’s earliest work was narrative- driven-one collection was called secret Narratives-and seemed to be assimilation into poetry the novelistic concept of the “unreliable narrator”. The stories are elliptical, hinting at something darker beneath. But it was in his prose poem Staking that Motion unveiled his main motivation the crucial event underlying nearly all his work.

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He recounted his child hood memories of his mother, right up to the moment she suffered a riding accident. She fractured her skull and suffered damage to the brain. It took her three years to come out of the ensuing come and to gradually relearn her speech: it took her 10 years in all to die, without having left the hospital.

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This account is terrible . Its earlier anecdotes about his being bullied at prep school are told with out self-pity, but are chocking enough. The riding accident occurs again and again in his work. The sense of loss haunts all of his poems. Even in the narrative pieces loss is the key note.

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And it is interesting that Motion applied his attention so skillfully to biographies – of Edward Thomas, another poet one associated with premature loss: of Keats, taken young as he drowned in his own blood, of an course, of Larkin, the poet of low expectation and morbid stoicism.

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In Love in a Life (1991), Motion writes about vulnerability and wounding in adult life. Why do I feel that I‘ve died and am lingering here to haunt you? He says at one point, and over and over the idea recurs: ”I am your home, if you ever arrive; I am dead; I am also alive” these are premature elegies, some written almost with the guilt of the survivor. The long poem, A Blow to The Head, takes as its point de depart an unprovoked attack on his wife in a Paris train, and considers other head wounds and their consequences

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Before the awful yet inevitable elision of wife and mother I fit myself Along her spine/ but dare not touch/ her breaking skull/ and find my mother/ return to me /as if she was climbing /out a a well/ ginger with bruises/, hair shaved off,/ her spongy crown/ is ripe with blood.

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And that image of drowning is also elided, elsewhere in the volume, with recurrent images of the friend who drowned in the disaster. It is perhaps small wonder that Motion is so alert to the ever-present possibility of accident, violence, death, but it would be unfair to suppose that these subjects were treated hysterically. On the contrary, the icy control, in diction and form, with which he forma these anecdotes and apprehension, is effective.

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