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You are in: Devon > Arts and Culture > Arts Features > A celebration of friendship

Leonard Baskin and Ted Hughes

A friendship forged by artist and poet.

A celebration of friendship

Never before heard tapes featuring the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes have been released for the first time.

As a way of remembering one of the country's greatest poets Ted Hughes, enthusiasts can hear him chatting to his close friend, artist Leonard Baskin - who also illustrated many of the poet's work.

A special recording is being aired for the first time by Exeter University, where there is already a collection of Ted Hughes' manuscripts.

The pair forged a partnership when they lived nearly 30 miles apart in Devon.

American Leonard Baskin spent nine years in Lurley, near Tiverton, while Ted spent nearly four decades at his market-town home of North Tawton.

Ted Hughes text

Handwritten draft of The Knight by Ted Hughes.

It was a collaboration which saw many of Ted's poems illustrated by Leonard, while some of the artist's drawings were used as the basis for Ted's poetry.

In one recording Ted talks about the title Cave Birds which began casually when Leonard handed over drawings of fantasised birdlike figures.

"By the end of summer I said, well I've sort of done our book, and Leonard said, 'what book?' and I said well you remember those doodles you did. And he said 'I don't remember any doodles'.

"Anyway I gave them to him and he'd obviously completely forgotten about them. He said 'doodles? Great Drawings!'"

Hughes adds: "He got so excited he produced another 10...and I somehow had to fit in a whole new chapter."

The release of Baskin's pictures by Ted Hughes' widow Carol and the audio publication is a timely reminder of the 10th anniversary of the poet's death.

On October 28 1998, Ted Hughes died of cancer at the age of 68. Leonard Baskin died at the age of 77 on 3 June 2000.

The conversations were captured on tape in 1983 by another mutual companion, film-maker Noel Chanan.

The three became friends when Chanan was photographing Baskin at his Devon home, Lurley Manor, where Hughes was a frequent visitor.

Leonard Baskin's crow drawing

The Error, (Crow) woodcut, by Leonard Baskin.

A documentary film-maker at heart Chanan said that he hit on the idea of making a film about the friendship of these two unique artists, but wasn't able to raise the cash.

The archive audio sounds extremely relaxed and is a rare opportunity to glimpse two creative personalities and hear their teasing sense of humour.

Speaking about their work together Carol Hughes said: "It seems appropriate that our own collection of Baskin's proofs and drawings should join the holding of Cave Birds, which forms the principle Hughes collection at Exeter University."

The recordings of Ted Hughes and Leonard Baskin in conversation have been set to a series of images and can be heard and seen on 6 November 2008.

Afterwards there will be a discussion with a panel including the artists' widows, Lisa Unger Baskin and Carol Hughes, as well as the film-maker Noel Chanan and poet Alice Oswald.

A sneak preview of some of what the two talk about can be found using the audio links at the top of this page.

Photo credits:

* The poet Ted Hughes and the artist Leonard Baskin ( Estate of Leonard Baskin, used with permission).

* Handwritten draft of 'The Knight' by Ted Hughes, from the Cave Birds sequence of manuscripts held in Special Collections, University of Exeter ( Estate of Ted Hughes, used with permission).

* The Error, (Crow), woodcut, by Leonard Baskin from Capriccio, poems by Ted Hughes and engravings by Leonard Baskin, published by The Gehenna Press, 1990. ( Estate of Leonard Baskin, used with permission).

last updated: 27/10/2008 at 16:47
created: 27/10/2008

You are in: Devon > Arts and Culture > Arts Features > A celebration of friendship

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