Posts Tagged ‘crow

29
Aug
15

Quick Notes on Ted Hughes

These are mostly notes and observations I am writing for myself as I prepare for the Contemporary Poetry section of my comps. I will try to do this with each poet I read. Maybe the notes will be useful to others, too. Again, they are notes and observations. They are not thesis-driven arguments.

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Ted HughesTed Hughes (1930-1998) was an English poet, but he surrounded himself with the American Confessional poets of Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Anne Sexton, and Sylvia Plath (who was his wife). Despite engaging with the Confessional poets, he was not a Confessional poet, though he did try to find outlets to explore who he was.

One of the first things I notice and latch onto as I read through Ted Hughes Selected Poems 1957-1994 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002) is the use of the “I,” or the lack of it. Hughes is an observer of the world he is situated in. He is both empathetic and sympathetic to it, as he is trying to understand his surroundings. In his early poetry, there is a certain amount of joy and awe, but later the joy will disappear, at least for a short while. Early on, Hughes uses the “I” sparingly, and when he does, it is usually not a stand-in for himself, but, instead, he inhabits another form. For instance, in “The Man Seeking Experience Enquires His Way of a Drop of Water” (from his first collection of poems The Hawk in the Rain (1957)), he allegorically uses a drop of rain as a stand-in for himself, so that with the last line “Blundered the world-shouldering monstrous ‘I’,” that is the rain drop giving the “plain lesson how / Experience has worn or made you anew,” and it speaks for itself, and allegorically for Hughes. The rain drop is announcing its existence, much like I think Hughes is trying to do throughout his poems, but he can’t quite plant himself into the poems.

In his observations, he creates a mythic world, or at least creates a world with a frame in which he can center himself to focus on what’s around him. He is trying to find the “Blood [that] is the belly of logic” (“An Otter,” Lupercal, 38). As said above, the “I” Hughes uses is not him, but the embodiment the “I” uses generates more sympathy for what he is looking at or experiencing. “Wodwo,” in Wodwo  (1967), is good example of what I mean.

     Wodwo

     What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
     Following a faint stain on the air to the river’s edge
     I enter water. What am I to split
     The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
     Of the river above me upside down very clear
     What am I doing here in mid-air? Why do I find
     this frog so interesting as I inspect its most secret
     interior and make it my own? Do these weeds
     know me and name me to each other have they
     seen me before do I fit in their world? I seem
     separate from the ground and not rooted but dropped
     out of nothing casually I’ve no threads
     fastening me to anything I can go anywhere
     I seem to have been given the freedom
     of this place what am I then? And picking
     bits of bark off this rotten stump gives me
     no pleasure and it’s no use so why do I do it
     me and doing that have coincided very queerly
     But what shall I be called am I the first
     have I an owner what shape am I what
     shape am I am I huge if I go
     to the end on this way past these trees and past these trees
     till I get tired that’s touching one wall of me
     for the moment if I sit still how everything
     stops to watch me I suppose I am the exact centre
     but there’s all this what is it roots
     roots roots roots and here’s the water
     again very queer but I’ll go on looking

A “wodow” is a wild-man, a half-man and half-animal spirit type entity, like a faun or satyr. This poem is an ars poetica, of sorts, as Hughes is exploring the use of “I” and trying to represent himself and/or locate himself in the world and in his poetry. On an ars poetica level, “What am I to split” indicates the split between Hughes and the subject he is writing about. Hughes wants, seemingly, to write about himself but he has to dislocate from himself and embody another, much like the lines, “Why do I find / this frog so interesting as I inspect its most secret / interior and make it my own?” That seems to be at the heart of most of Hughes poetry until about 1989 in Moortown Diary.

In his next collection Crow (1970), Hughes embodies a crow, and in this collection there is a sudden shift in tone. The tone of the poems, the accumulation of images in the poems is very Merwinesque. Despite the tone changing, Hughes is still trying to center himself in the world, but his observations are mediated throw a crow, who is seemingly godlike and/or omnipotent, which adds to the mythmaking feel. The mythmaking is so Merwinesque, I often feel like I am reading Merwin and not Hughes, and many of the long poems, especially “The Contender,” sound and move just like Merwin’s “The Last One.”

Hughes continues his observations and world creating with a sort of celebratory tone and feel until Moortown Diary (1989) and Earth-Numb (1979). In Moortown Diary, a harshness develops, as Hughes observes the less beautiful and exposes an unsympathetic nature. In Earth-Numb he experiences the harshness of life and towns and cities. In these collections, it is as if “Pain was pulled down over his eyes like a fool’s hat. / [. . .] He could not understand what had happened. / Or what he had become” (“The Beacon: A God,” Earth-Numb, 208-9). These poems are hung with pain.

By 1986, in Flowers and Insects, he continues with his empathetic observations, but they are less cynical and more prosy. Another turn in his poetry occurs in Wolfwatching (1989), which is unlike any of his other poems, as he explores the suffering of war, especially though his father and his Uncle Walt.

In the end, I don’t know how to generalize Hughes or what poets to group him with, but he is an impersonal poet trying to become personal. I would gather to say he was influenced by the New Critics because of this impersonality, but he’s not allusive or stylistically/technically as tight as one might expect from a New Critic poet, though early on he makes good use of anapests, which almost give his poem a sense of play or fun. Early on at times, too, he feels like D. H. Lawrence in his observations and sympathies, and I think of Lawrence’s poem “Snake,” in particular. Also, early on his poems can be surreal or dreamlike.

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30
Apr
12

Abraxas Press

ABRAXAS Crow smallWe at Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose just began a subscription swap with ABRAXAS. For whatever reason the swap didn’t happen at an earlier time because of miscommunications and whatever. And, oh, I wish those miscommunications had never happened because ABRAXAS is devoted to poetry and in a beautiful way.

When I received my package, it blossomed open with these 2″ high x 1.75″ wide poetry books. Some had paper covers, some matte, and some gloss. Inside each was a poem from poets such as Ted Jonas, D. R. Wacker, Julia de Burgos, d. a. levy, Ingrid Swanberg, Jack Spicer, and Vladimir Mayakofsky. The micro books were released by poems-for-all.com, which I first assumed was an imprint of ABRAXAS Press. Poems-for-all has this to say about their tiny, portable poems:

They’re scattered around town – on buses, trains, cabs, in restrooms, bars, left along with the tip; stuffed into a stranger’s back pocket. Whatever. Wherever. Small poems in small booklets half the size of a business card to be taken by the handful and scattered like seeds by those who want to see poetry grow in a barren cultural landscape.

There are 1071 of these little poems floating around the world giving people surprises and tiny bursts of joy. I wonder what the print run for each micro book was, especially when you consider that they must have been put together with a monk’s like meditative attention to detail.

Also included are some well-made, numbered, limited edition broadsides from Costmary Press. Is this another imprint? Anyway, the broadsides vary in size and in paper stock, but they are all consistently well made and, if I’m not mistaken, they are the result of letterpress printing, which means love, care, dedication, and quality.

Then there is the grass/grasshopper green eight-page pamphlet anthology titled Suzuki Grass. When you look at the color of the cover and text pages, you just know there’s going to be this Zen quality about the poems. The saddle stitched pamphlet is about 8.25″ high x 4.25″ wide.  This was released from Black Rabbit Press. Is this another imprint? I’m starting to doubt these are all imprints, but there must be a connection other than the love and beautiful presentation of poetry.

And they also included a few back copies of ABRAXAS.

ABRAXAS Crow

ABRAXAS publishes contemporary poetry, with a special emphasis on the lyric mode. We also publish poetry in translation, as well as essays, criticism and reviews of small press poetry books.

Abraxas was the name applied by ancient gnostic sects to the Supreme Being, who was, collectively, all the spirits of the earth. The magical “abracadabra” was derived from ABRAXAS.

How about that?! A journal with emphasis on the lyric mode in a narrative-driven-poetry America. Ah, it’s love. Based on my previous experiences with this journal and just thumbing through the back copies, ABRAXAS has an eclectic taste and likes the poetry that explores language. All this poetry is contained in 6.25″ wide x 9.25″ high journal. Some covers are gloss and some are matte-like. I kinda like the matte more, but the gloss brings out the color cover images better. One issue even has standard paper for the poems and some gloss paper for the color photographs. Now, there’s an editor (Ingrid Swanberg) who understands the printing world. Oh, and on top of it all, issues are only $4. I have no idea how they can charge so little. I want to know who there printer is. (Ha, they probably print it onsite.) And subscriptions are only $16. It’s a deal. You can order here: http://www.abraxaspressinc.com/Order.html. I suggest you do. They are luscious.

To learn more about them, visit their About Us page.//




The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

Poems for an Empty Church

Poems for an Empty Church

The Oldest Stone in the World

The Oldest Stone in the Wolrd

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Henri, Sophie, & The Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound: Poems Blasted from the Vortex

Pre-Dew Poems

Pre-Dew Poems

Negative Time

Negative Time

After Malagueña

After Malagueña

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