Ted Hughes

From Academic Kids

Edward James Hughes, referred to normally as Ted Hughes (August 17, 1930October 28, 1998) was an English poet and children's writer. He is considered by some to be one of the best poets of his generation. Hughes was Poet Laureate in England from 1984 until his death. He was also famously married from 1956–63 to the American poet Sylvia Plath and was believed by many feminists of helping to cause Plath's suicide (and also his lover Assia Wevill's suicide). He explored his complex relationship with Plath in his last book of poems, Birthday Letters (1998).


Hughes' Early Life

Hughes was born on August 17, 1930 in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire and raised among the farms in the area. According to Hughes, "My first six years shaped everything." [1] (http://www.zeta.org.au/~annskea/timeline.htm). When Hughes was seven his family moved to Mexborough, Yorkshire, where they ran a newspaper and tobacco shop.

Hughes' Personal Life

Hughes studied English, anthropology and archaeology at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he met fellow poet Sylvia Plath. They married on June 16, 1956 and separated in the autumn of 1962. Hughes' role in Plath's suicide in 1963 has long been a subject of much speculation by feminist critics. As Plath's widower, Hughes became the executor of Plath’s personal and literary estates. He oversaw the publication of her manuscripts, including Ariel (1966). He also destroyed the final volume of Plath’s journal, detailing their last three years together.

6 years after Plath's death, on March 25, 1969, Assia Wevill (Hughes's lover) killed herself and their daughter, Alexandra Tatiana Eloise Wevill, nicknamed Shura, who had been born on March 3, 1965,

In August 1970, Hughes married Carol Orchard, a nurse. They remained together until his death on October 28 1998. Hughes died after an 18-month-long battle with liver cancer.

Hughes' Writings

Hughes's earlier poetic work is rooted in nature and, in particular, the innocent savagery of animals (Tennyson's phrase "nature, red in tooth and claw" could have been written for Hughes). His later work is deeply reliant upon myth and the bardic tradition.

Hughes's first collection, Hawk in the Rain (1957) attracted considerable critical acclaim. In 1959 he won the Galbraith prize which brought $5000. His most significant work is perhaps Crow (1970). See Crow (poetry).

Tales from Ovid (1997) contains a selection of free verse translations from Ovid's Metamorphoses. In Birthday Letters, Hughes broke his silence on Plath, detailing aspects of their life together and his own behaviour at the time. The cover artwork was by their daughter Frieda.

In addition to poetry, Hughes wrote classical opera librettos and children's books. One of these, The Iron Man, became the basis of Pete Townshend's rock opera of the same name, and the animated film The Iron Giant.

Hughes was appointed as Poet Laureate (the British Queen's official poet) in 1984 following the death of John Betjeman (although it was later hinted that Hughes was second choice for the appointment after Philip Larkin, the preferred nominee, declined, feeling his poetic gifts spent). Hughes served in this position until his death in 1998.

His definitive 1333-page Collected Poems (Faber & Faber) appeared in 2003.



Anthologies edited by Hughes


Books for Children

External links

Preceded by:
John Betjeman
British Poet Laureate
Succeeded by:
Andrew Motion

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