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Ted Hughes

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Ted Hughes was an English poet and a prolific writer of children’s books. He was born on 17th August 1930 in Mytholmrod, West Riding of Yorkshire and grew up in Mexborough. He attended the Mexborough Grammar School and penned his first poem when he was fifteen years of age. He pursued formal education in English language after winning a scholarship, from the Cambridge University in 1948. However he transferred his major to anthropology and archaeology due to the ‘terrible, suffocating, maternal octopus’ of literary academia. Hughes was very keen about reading Shakespeare, Yeat’s poems and folklore. His first published work was a poem that appeared in 1954.

After his graduation from university, Hughes worked many jobs from a gardener to watchman, zoo attendant and a school teacher. When the literary magazine ‘St Botolph’s Review’ was launched, Hughes was one of the co-producers having contributed four poems to the edition. It was in the launch party of the magazine that Hughes met the American poet Sylvia Plath, whom he married four months later. Using the pen names Daniel Hearing and Peter Crew he published many poems and his first book of poems was published in 1957 by the name of ‘Hawk in the Rain’. The book received instant acclamation winning the ‘Harper publication’ contest and the ‘Somerset Maugham Award’.

In 1958 Hughes and Plath moved to America where Plath took up a teaching post at Smith College and Hughes started teaching at the University of Massachusetts. After some time they moved back to England where Hughes pursued his writing career with a renewed vigor; producing several articles and essays. His poems were published in many magazines including ‘Recklings’ in 1966 and ‘Wodwo’ in 1967. Though Hughes was gaining success as a poet he was mainly acknowledged for writing poems on animals; an entitlement he wanted to change. So he started writing on diverse topics that ranged from Shamanism to alchemy and Buddhism.

In 1962 an affair started between Hughes and Assia Wevill that ultimately led to his separation with Plath. Plath committed suicide in February 1963 leaving behind a devastated Hughes. 1966 saw the downfall of Hughes popularity as he came under the severe attack of Plath’s friends and feminists who blamed him for driving Plath to depression and suicide. After this incident, Hughes wrote only two poems namely ‘The Howling of Wolves’ and ‘Songs of a Rat’ after which he went into retirement for the next three years. His poem ‘The Life and Songs of the Crow’ published in 1966 became known as one of his best works.

An unfortunate incident occurred again in 1969 just as Hughes reputation was beginning to restore. Assia Wevill took her own life along with her 4 years old daughter in March 1969. The reason for deaths was linked directly to Hughes and he was blamed for having been abusive to both the women leading them to suicide. His ‘Crow’ sequence was left incomplete till his work ‘Cave Birds’ was published in 1975. Some of his best works includes poems such as ‘Gaudete’ (1977), ‘Moortowm’ (1979), ‘River’ (1983) and ‘Birthday Letter’ (1998). His children’s books include ‘Meet my Folks’ (1961), ‘The Iron Man’ (1968), ‘Season Songs’ (1976), ‘The Cat and the Cuckoo’ (1987) and ‘The Mermaid’s Purse’ (1993).

In 1970 Ted Hugh married Carol Orchard and their marriage remained intact till his death in 1998.

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