Ted Hughes
By: David Smay | Categories: HiLo Heroes

hughes

The very public tragedies in the life of TED HUGHES (1930-98) sometimes overshadow his work. He’s been blamed him for the murder/suicide of his second wife and daughter, and most famously for the suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath. Plath’s devotees, in particular, seem to read the poets’ imagery (the predators in Hughes’ work) and literary personae (Plath’s fierce, defiant victims) as nonfiction. Out of all this black loss Hughes wrote Crow (1970), a scabrous, bleak, hilarious, harrowing masterpiece — the darkest corner in English literature since Shakespeare committed Macbeth. In Crow Hughes significantly moves away from the hawks and wolves of his earlier work to explore a mythological trickster figure. Crow strips the world down, plucks out the carrion eye, and mocks the false, feeble truths that we muster against death; it is also, for all its wide, mythic imagery, an heroic self-portrait of an utterly shattered man. In Britain, Hughes is best remembered as the poet laureate from 1984 until his death, and for his 1968 children’s novel, The Iron Man, and the enormously popular poetry anthology, The Rattle Bag, which he compiled with his great friend Seamus Heaney. But it is the unflinching vision of Crow that will endure.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | Alexander Theroux | Mae West |

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).

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David Smay is the co-editor of two books about pop music, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, and Lost in the Grooves. He's also the author of Swordfishtrombones, the 33 1/3 series entry on Tom Waits. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.