Ted Hughes letters to be published

Ted Hughes Hughes was Poet Laureate from 1984-1988

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The British Library is to publish letters between the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and critic Keith Sagar.

The collection, spanning four decades from 1969 to Hughes' death in 1998, provides fresh insight into Hughes' life and work.

Sagar, a respected academic who has written a number of books on Hughes, openly criticises his work in the letters, suggesting ways to improve it.

Other topics covered include religion, education and hunting.

Hughes' relationship with former wife and fellow-writer Sylvia Plath, who killed herself in 1963, is also discussed.

But the real interest lies in the open dialogue about the poet's work.

When Sagar advises him to make major changes to Cave Birds, Hughes replies: "I'd like to thank you for your remarks about Cave Birds, because they made me dig out those pieces I'd deleted.

"And so it comes about that I rediscover their rough virtues, so much better than what I tried to replace them with, as you so rightly complain."

But the pair disagree on other matters, notably Sagar's attempts to persuade Hughes to be less Procrustean when applying the 'tragic equation' to Shakespeare.

Helen Melody, the curator of modern literary manuscripts at the British Library, said: "We are very pleased about the publication of Hughes and Sagar's correspondence, which provides a real insight into Hughes' life and creative process.

"The British Library acquired the letters in 2001 and they now form part of the library's substantial Ted Hughes archive."

Poet and novelist John Moat added: "That Keith Sagar was engaged with Hughes in such a correspondence for nearly 30 years and in such detail, is a measure of Hughes' trust and of how constructive and fortifying he found their exchange."

Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar, is published on Thursday 3 May.

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