Ted Hughes – “Crow’s Song about God”

5 thoughts on “Ted Hughes – “Crow’s Song about God””

  1. I can never enjoy Ted Hughes’ poetry, because the personal baggage about him and his public figure is so very great. It may cut both ways: it may simply be that I find so extremely unsympathetic that this stops me from seeing how excellent a poet it is; or it may be that his public figure makes a lot of other people value his mediocre poetry a lot more than they should, as it provides false echoes that make his words resonate beyond their worth. I’m honestly not sure which one it is.

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  2. In general I don’t understand this position when it comes to artists. So many of them are flawed & terrible, & so many of us respond to different versions of awfulness, that there’d be few people left to read or watch or listen to if we couldn’t get their personal lives out of our heads. The best discussion of this for me is still a Stephen Fry documentary about his love of Wagner, despite all the reasons he should hate him. As I’ve read Hughes’s poetry I’ve spent a lot of time listening to podcasts & reading interviews with his recent biographer, & others who love him despite his flaws, & I’m willing to bet the real Hughes is somewhere between those who’ll forgive him nothing, & those who’ll forgive him anything.

    For his work, I certainly find whole deserts of unreadable stuff in his 1200pp collected; but I don’t know anyone in the 20th C who wrote in English as well as he did about war/suffering, or the natural world. But that’s just me.

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  3. Your stance is generally the correct one, but I feel Ted Hughes is a bit of an exception here. His “Crow” book, from which I understand you took this poem, was written in between Plath’s suicide and the next one, that of Asia Weevill (who also killed his daughter with her). Of course, it’s hard not to read anything related to such circumstances in such a work. It’s not always that easy to separate work from the author: very easy to ignore who built a hammer when you’re using it, or even to feel no compulsion to investigate the biography of a sculptor whose statues you find appealing; but poets are on the other extreme, of maximum closeness with the work, which very often requires that the work is read within the context of the life and circumstances (Auden’s September 1, with its reference to “the end of a low, dishonest decade,” would be an obvious example here: try reading that without a basic knowledge of the era he refers to). Hughes himself persistently mixed up his life with his work: he wasn’t what you would call an escapist writer. He opened himself up to this line of attack. Which, of course, doesn’t mean he was a bad poet and indeed may end up making him even a better poet than he would have been otherwise.

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  4. No I totally agree. I didn’t mean to suggest we ignore the biography, but just to come to terms with it. I love reading biographies. The version of Crow in his Collected, which brings so many Crow poems that weren’t together in his lifetime, is almost too much, it feels like an impossible work in progress being done by someone who’s barely holding it together. It is pretty impossible to read so many tortured & torturing & desperate & violent poems without reference to Plath & Weevil & the daughter.

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  5. “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim” Oscar Wilde.
    I like that quote because it puts it up to us to see what it is we ourselves make of the poem/painting/play. I think it gets harder and harder to do that these because we are listening to opinion and judgement from dawn to dusk but maybe art is the one place we can try to have fresh eyes and separate the artist from the art. I love your posts. Thank you.

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