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Ted Hughes 1930-1998

Biography

Immediate and visceral, Ted Hughes' poetry attempts to make sense of a human world forged by primitive and animal forces. A charismatic presence, Hughes was also famed for the mesmerising force of his reading voice.

Hughes was born in 1930 into a working class family in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire. He studied English at Cambridge, but transferred to Anthropology, where he immersed himself in the study of myth and pre-history. And it was at Cambridge that Hughes met the American poet Sylvia Plath. In 1956, after a four-month romance, they married. The darkness of Hughes' poetry was matched by the drama of his personal life - the strained marriage to Plath, ended in her suicide in 1963, followed by the death of his lover Assia Wevill, who killed herself and her daughter in 1969. His Tales From Ovid reworked the Metamorphoses, to show what happens when mortal passions are lifted to a mythic plane. In many ways, this is the same theme explored in his final volume, Birthday Letters, the book of poems about Plath that brought Hughes to a wider audience.

Hughes also made a huge impact on the teaching of poetry with his anthology The Rattle Bag (co-edited with Seamus Heaney) and was Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998. Hughes spent much of his life in Devon, and is remembered with a memorial stone in a favourite spot in Dartmoor.

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BBC Arts: Poetry Out Loud

Ted Hughes reads A March Calf (RealPlayer).

BBC Bradford & West Yorkshire

Ted Hughes and the Calder Valley

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