About Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes was one of the biggest figures in British poetry from the 1960s until his death in 1998. His poems have a dark energy and the rhythms and sounds of Old English, often to do with the natural world, with animals and the landscape and with myths and legends. Hughes’s imagination was a rich, driving force for his work, allowing him to tap into the power of dreams and of magic, as well as using his brilliant skill at observing creatures to help catch their movements and nature on the page.

The poem ‘The Thought Fox’ is both about the animal and the power of creativity, the fox becomes a symbol for the writing of the poem, too, the way it appears like a gift and “enters the dark hole of the head” – listen to how the poem ends at the point where, really, it begins for us – “the page is printed.” ‘Pike’ is another poem about a creature and another where the creature is both described brilliantly as itself but also becomes something else too, a symbol and a memory and so much more.

Ted’s readings draw out the texture of his words, his rich Yorkshire accent helping to make consonants clang and clash as if they’ve been chipped out of rock, and also helping to pick out the half rhymes he often used to add music to his work.

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Ted often used half-rhyme in his poems and sometimes full end rhyme to add to their music. There is a lot of assonance and alliteration in his work, with words which often sound hard and flinty. He also wrote a lot of free verse.

Ted was born in Yorkshire in the shadow of the enormous Scout Rock, a six hundred feet-high cliff which helped to fire his imagination as a boy and would prove to be a figure in his writing throughout his life. Always a keen fisher and hunter, Ted was always drawn to the natural world.

After university Ted had lots of jobs including gardening and even working at London Zoo, but after his first book came out his reputation as a poet quickly grew. By the 1980s Ted had become one of the leading writers of his generation and became Britain’s Poet Laureate.

Ted wrote poems and other books for children as well as adults, including The Iron Man, a classic still widely read today.

Ted Hughes recordings come from the archives of the BBC. The Poetry Archive is very grateful to the BBC for its support in enabling us to feature this important material on the site.

Featured in the Archive

Selected Bibliography

Ted Hughes (Faber 80th Anniversary Edition), Faber & Faber, 2009

The School Bag (editor with Seamus Heaney), Faber & Faber, 2005

The Rattle Bag (editor with Seamus Heaney) , Faber & Faber, 2005

Collected Poems for Children, Faber & Faber, 2005

Collected Poems of Ted Hughes, Faber & Faber, 2003

New Selected Poems, Faber & Faber, 2001

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