Good Reading : February 2015
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING FEBRUARY 2015 22 POETRY A Ted Hughes Bestiary There’s something so alive and vital about animal poems. Good ones are imbued with the essence of their subjects, and Ted Hughes wrote some of the best. British poet Alice Oswald has whistled up 100 of Hughes’s animal-themed pieces and assembled them bleating, crowing and snarling together in this beautifully presented book. Arranged chronologically, the collection offers a broad range of poems from across the former Poet Laureate’s distinguished career. There is British farm poetry here that muses on pigs, sheep, hens and wily rats, but there is also a great deal of the thrillingly exotic. Elephants, sharks, hawks and even a few mythical creatures stand shoulder to shoulder with their domestic cousins. A Ted Hughes poem is marked by the poet’s uncanny ability to express with apparent ease, concision and artistry what many others might never be able to say. In ‘The Howling of Wolves’, the mournful cry of these wild animals is perfectly illustrated with a simple question: ‘What are they dragging up and out on their long leashes of sound / That dissolve in the mid-air silence?’ The unforgiving nature of the bird in ‘Hawk Roosting’ is also summed up rivetingly in a single statement. ‘I kill where I please because it is all mine.’ There’s welcome humour to be found here, too. A joy is the piece simply titled ‘The Hare’: ‘He’s scatty, he’s all over the road, / He can’t keep his steer ing, in his ramshackle go-cart.’ Alice Oswald has done a commendable job of compiling A Ted Hughes Bestiary. This beautiful volume deserves a place on any poetry lover’s shelf. ★★★★★ Faber $24.99 Reviewed by Benjamin Dodds Ted Hughes Extract from ‘The Hare’ by Ted Hughes The Hare That Elf Riding his awkward pair of haunchy legs That weird long-eared Elf Wobbling down the highway Don’t overtake him, don’t try to drive past him, He’s scatty, he’s all over the road, He can’t keep his steering, in his ramshackle go-cart, His big loose wheels, buckled and rusty, Nearly wobbling off And all the screws in his head wobbling and loose And his eyes wobbling ... In 2008, The Times newspaper placed poet Ted Hughes fourth on the list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. Born in the northern English town of Mytholmroyd, Ted Hughes loved hunting and fishing from an early age. While working at a zoo as a young man he had plenty of time to observe animals up close. Animals featured in many of his poems, but by the mid 1960s he found that he was being regularly described as a poet of the wild, who wrote only about animals. The combination of the beauty of animals and their violence fascinated him. He was the British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998. vital about animal poems. Good fourth on the list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. Born in the Poems of Ted Hughes, selected by Alice Oswald.
December January 2015