“Gripping and at times ineffably sad, this book would be poetic even without the poetry. It will be the standard biography of Hughes for a long time to come” -Sunday Times
“Captures the great poet in all his wild complexity. Powerful and clarifying, richly layered and compelling” -Melvyn Bragg, Observer
Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. He is one of Britain s most important poets, a poet of claws and cages: Jaguar, Hawk and Crow. Event and animal are turned to myth in his work. Yet he is also a poet of deep tenderness, of restorative memory steeped in the English literary tradition. A poet of motion and force, of rivers, light and redemption, of beasts in brooding landscapes.
Ted Hughes left behind him a more complete archive of notes and journals than any other major poet, including thousands of pages of drafts, unpublished poems and memorandum books that make up an almost complete record of Hughes s inner life, preserved by him for posterity.
Renowned scholar Sir Jonathan Bate has spent five years in his archives, unearthing a wealth of new material. Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, his book offers for the first time the full story of Ted Hughes’s life as it was lived, remembered and reshaped in his art. It is a book that honours, though not uncritically, Ted Hughes s poetry and the art of life-writing, approached by his biographer with an honesty answerable to Hughes s own.
Jonathan Bate believes that the slow, meditative reading of poetry – absorbing ourselves in the images of a poem, slowing to its beat, allowing our minds to rest in the pause of a line-ending – can bring us tranquility as we find echoes of our own experiences on the page. Experiences of beautiful places, strong feelings and moments that lift the human spirit.
In The Shepherd’s Hut, Bate introduces us to the diet of swans, the quest for inner peace in ancient Chinese poetry, the English seaside and the summer Mediterranean, a rose garden and a snow-covered moor. He reminds us what it is like to fall in love and to say goodbye.
These are poems of memory and of mourning; quick-fire thoughts and longer meditations inspired by the great poets of the past.