Know Your History – 17th August – Ted Hughes born

know your history - writingOn this day… 17th August, 1930 – Ted Hughes born.

Edward James “Ted” Hughes, OM (17 August 1930 – 28 October 1998) was an English poet and children’s writer. Critics routinely rank him as one of the best poets of his generation. Hughes was British Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death. Hughes is famous for the modern fairytale “The Iron Man”.

About Writing

Well, as far as my writing is concerned, maybe the crucial thing was that I spent my first years in a valley in West Yorkshire in the north of England, which was really a long street of industrial towns—textile mills, textile factories. The little village where I was born had quite a few; the next town fifty. And so on. These towns were surrounded by a very wide landscape of high moorland, in contrast to that industry into which everybody disappeared everyday. They just vanished. If you weren’t at school you were alone in an empty wilderness.Ted Hughes - words are diamonds

The writing, the reading came up gradually behind that. From the age of about eight or nine I read just about every comic book available in England. At that time my parents owned a newsagent’s shop. I took the comics from the shop, read them, and put them back. That went on until I was twelve or thirteen. Then my mother brought in a sort of children’s encyclopaedia that included sections of folklore. Little folktales. I remember the shock of reading those stories. I could not believe that such wonderful things existed. The only stories we’d had as younger children were ones our mother had told us—that she made up, mostly. In those early days ours wasn’t a house full of books. My father knew quite long passages of “Hiawatha” that he used to recite, something he had from his school days. That had its effect. I remember I wrote a good deal of comic verse for classroom consumption in Hiawatha meter. But throughout your life you have certain literary shocks, and the folktales were my first. From then on I began to collect folklore, folk stories, and mythology. That became my craze.

  • This is an extract from an interview with Ted Hughes featured in the Paris Review.

Did You Know?..

Ted Hughes wife Sylvia Plath killed herself following Ted’s affair with another woman name Assia Wevill. Then six years later Assia Wevill killed herself and their four year old daughter.

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