Authors: Ted Hughes

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet

Author Works


The Hawk in the Rain, 1957

Lupercal, 1960

Wodwo, 1967

Crow, 1970, revised 1972

Selected Poems, 1957-1967, 1972

Cave Birds, 1975 (revised as Cave Birds: An Alchemical Cave Drama, 1978)

Gaudete, 1977

Remains of Elmet, 1979

Moortown, 1979

Selected Poems 1957-1981, 1982

River, 1983

Flowers and Insects: Some Birds and a Pair of Spiders, 1986

The Cat and the Cuckoo, 1987

Wolfwatching, 1989

Rain-Charm for the Duchy, and Other Laureate Poems, 1992

Three Books, 1993 (includes Remains of Elmet, Cave Birds, and River)

Elmet, 1994

Collected Animal Poems, 1995

New Selected Poems, 1957-1994, 1995

Birthday Letters, 1998

Short Fiction:

The Threshold, 1979

Difficulties of a Bridegroom, 1995


The Calm, pr. 1961

Epithalamium, pr. 1963

Seneca’s Oedipus, pr. 1968

Orghast, pr. 1971

Eat Crow, pb. 1971

The Story of Vasco, pr. 1974 (music by Gordon Crosse; adaptation of a play by Georges Schehadé)

Radio Plays:

The House of Aries, 1960

A Houseful of Women, 1961

The Wound, 1962

Difficulties of a Bridegroom, 1963

Dogs, 1964

The House of Donkeys, 1965

The Head of Gold, 1967


Poetry Is, 1970

Shakespeare’s Poem, 1971

Henry Williamson: A Tribute, 1979

Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, 1992, revised 1993

Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose, 1994 (W. Scammel, editor)

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Meet My Folks!, 1961

The Earth-Owl and Other Moon-People, 1963

How the Whale Became, 1963 (stories)

Nessie the Mannerless Monster, 1964 (also known as Nessie the Monster, 1974)

Poetry in the Making: An Anthology of Poems and Programmes from “Listening and Writing,” 1967 (revised as Poetry Is, 1970)

The Iron Giant: A Story in Five Nights, 1968 (pb. in England as The Iron Man, 1968)

Five Autumn Songs for Children’s Voices, 1969

The Coming of the King and Other Plays, 1970 (augmented as The Tiger’s Bones and Other Plays for Children, 1974)

Orpheus, 1971 (play)

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, 1974 (revised as Season Songs, 1975)

Earth-Moon, 1976

Moon-Whales and Other Moon Poems, 1976

Moon-Bells and Other Poems, 1978

The Pig Organ: Or, Pork with Perfect Pitch, 1980 (play; music by Richard Blackford)

Under the North Star, 1981

What Is the Truth? A Farmyard Fable for the Young, 1984

Ffangs the Vampire Bat and the Kiss of Truth, 1986

Tales of the Early World, 1988

The Iron Woman: A Sequel to “The Iron Man,” 1993

The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales, 1995

The Iron Wolf, 1995

Shaggy and Spotty, 1997


Selected Poems, 1968 (of Yehuda Amichai; with Amichai)

Selected Poems, 1976 (of Janós Pilinszky; with Janós Csokits)

Amen, 1977 (of Amichai; with Amichai)

Time, 1979 (of Amichai; with Amichai)

Blood Wedding, 1996 (of Federico García Lorca)

Phèdre, 1998 (of Jean Racine)

Alcestis, 1999 (of Euripides)

The Oresteia, 1999 (of Aeschylus)

Edited Texts:

New Poems 1962, 1962 (with Patricia Beer and Vernon Scannell)

Here Today, 1963

Five American Poets, 1963 (with Thom Gunn)

Selected Poems, 1964 (by Keith Douglas)

Ariel, 1965 (by Sylvia Plath)

A Choice of Emily Dickinson’s Verse, 1968

With Fairest Flowers While Summer Last: Poems from Shakespeare, 1971 (also known as A Choice of Shakespeare’s Verse, 1971)

Crossing the Water, 1971 (by Plath)

Winter Trees, 1971 (by Plath)

Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, and Other Prose Writings, 1977, augmented 1979 (by Plath)

New Poetry Six, 1980

The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath, 1981

The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1982 (with Frances McCullough)

1980 Anthology: Arvon Foundation Poetry Competition, 1982 (with Seamus Heaney)

The Rattle Bag: An Anthology, 1982 (with Heaney)

Selected Poems, 1985 (by Plath)

A Choice of Coleridge’s Verse, 1996

The School Bag, 1997 (with Heaney)

By Heart: 101 Poems to Remember, 1997


The youngest of the three children of Edith Farrar Hughes and William Henry Hughes, Ted Hughes grew up on the sprawling and barren moors of West Yorkshire, where he spent his boyhood scouting the wilderness with his older brother, an avid hunter and woodsman. These early experiences with nature began a lifelong preoccupation with animals which would form the basis for one of the most unique and powerful voices in English poetry.{$I[AN]9810001775}{$I[A]Hughes, Ted}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Hughes, Ted}{$I[tim]1930;Hughes, Ted}

Ted Hughes

(© 1991, Jane Bown)

While Hughes was still a boy his family moved to Mexborough, where Hughes began writing poetry, encouraged by an English teacher at the town’s only grammar school. Following his national service, Hughes enrolled at Cambridge University and studied archaeology and anthropology. With a group of classmates he founded a literary magazine, St. Botolph’s Review, and at its inaugural party in 1956 he met a young American college student, poet Sylvia Plath. They were married only four months later.

Hughes and Plath influenced each other’s writing and sensibilities, with her learning about “woods and animals and earth” (in her words) from Hughes, and him learning about American poetry from her. The manuscript for Hughes’s first book, The Hawk in the Rain, was submitted to a New York poetry contest by Plath, who typed the manuscript for Hughes. First prize, which Hughes won, was publication of the book. Hughes and Plath had two children, Frieda, born in 1960, and Nicholas, born in 1962. By mid-1962, however, their marriage was disintegrating–Hughes had become involved with another woman–and they returned to London separately from Devon, where they had been living. Plath sank into a deep depression and committed suicide in February, 1963.

For a few years after Plath’s death, Hughes primarily wrote books for children; his next book of poetry for adults was Wodwo, published in 1967. In 1969, tragedy struck again when Assia Gutzmann, his new partner, and her child died. In 1970 Hughes married Carol Orchard. Hughes spent time living in Yorkshire, London, and, primarily, Devon. He was named poet laureate of England in 1984, succeeding Sir John Betjeman.

Hughes’s first book, The Hawk in the Rain, contains a number of poems written from the perspectives of animals, and it depicts the animal world as alien to that of humans. This volume contains “The Thought-Fox,” one of Hughes’s most famous poems. This theme was carried further in Lupercal. As a writer of so-called animal poetry, Hughes was at first linked with the Romantic tradition because of his treatment of life in the natural world and of humanity’s paradoxical kinship and exile from that world. However, Hughes did not sentimentalize nature or render it impressionistically, as the Romantics had often done; instead, he presented nature in all its fury and raw power, revealing what William Butler Yeats had called its “murderous innocence.” Nature for Hughes is neither good nor evil; it simply exists. What good humanity can take from it consists of the ability, on the one hand, to resist the urge to anthropomorphize and defang it, while on the other hand refraining from an overly scientific view, which, with its penchant for reductionist explanation, demystifies the primal energy at the heart of the human experience.

Hughes’s masterpiece, Crow, illustrates the theme underlying most of the poet’s work: that humanity lies caught in its own trap, cut off from the instinctual world of animals on one side, and cut off from God–by science and rationalism–on the other. What remains, then, is the life force itself–that is, the desire to succeed and survive in the face of ultimate defeat and inevitable death. Hughes thus became the poet of primal energy, the bard of the unvanquished “I am.”

In Gaudete Hughes continued to create a new mythic treatment of life. In this long narrative poem the poet relates the story of a priest who is spirited away and replaced by a substitute with a prodigious sexual appetite. Both tragic and comic, the poem reveals many of the dichotomies lying at the heart of human existence–male and female, Christian and pagan, human and animal–emphasizing both their closeness and their differences.

Remains of Elmet explores the country of the poet’s origin as he traces the history of England from an ancient kingdom inhabited by druids and other nature worshippers to a modern industrial nation populated by secular humanists. Still, despite the progress of science and industry, Hughes effectively portrays the haunting and magical power of his boyhood landscape.

Despite his own reputation as a poet, Hughes was in many ways overshadowed by the ghost of Plath, who became an icon of the oppressed female artist for the feminist movement. As a result, Hughes was cast in the role of the patriarchal oppressor who drove her to suicide. Futhermore, as Plath’s literary executor, Hughes was extremely protective of her works, often refusing permissions to quote from them and steadfastly refusing to talk about their marriage. His publication shortly before his death of Birthday Poems, a collection of prose poems that reflect in depth on his life with Plath, was therefore something of a surprise to the literary world. The book won the Whitbread Prizes for both Poetry and Book of the Year, as well as the Forward Prize, and in 1998 he was also made a member of the Order of Merit.

BibliographyBentley, Paul, ed. The Poetry of Ted Hughes: Language, Illusion, and Beyond. New York: Longman, 1998. An introductory guide to Hughes that places him within the context of developments in poetic and literary theory during his lifetime.Feinstein, Elaine. Ted Hughes: The Life of a Poet. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001. Feinstein attempts to clear away the “he said, she said” controversies that surround Hughes’s life and offers a more complex depiction than has usually been presented.Hughes, Ted. Letters of Ted Hughes. Edited by Christopher Reid. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. This collection of letters serves as a companion to Hughes’ entire body of work, providing insight into his writing, his personality, and his creative process. His many interests and hobbies are revealed, along with the ways in which they influenced his writing.Malcolm, Janet. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. A provocative inquiry into the controversial lives of Plath and Hughes.Middlebrook, Diane. Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–a Marriage. New York: Viking, 2003. Middlebrook brings insight and empathy to a probing examination of the literary marriage of the century.Roberts, Neil. Ted Hughes: A Literary Life. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Hughes is the focus of this biography, and while Roberts does address his marriage to Sylvia Plath, he treats Hughes as a talented and influential poet in his own right. He examines Hughes’ unpublished letters and notebooks to glean information about his early life, his thoughts on his position as Poet Laureate, and the impact that his wife’s suicide had on him and his writing. This is a well-written study of Hughes’ life and his development at a poet.Robinson, Craig. Ted Hughes as Shepherd of Being. Basingstoke, England: Macmillan, 1989. Robinson examines Hughes in the light of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy, seeking his “redefinition of human maturity in our time.” He places Hughes firmly in the Romantic tradition, especially that of William Blake, in his desire for freedom from Enlightenment rationalism. The study covers Hughes’s writing through Flowers and Insects. Includes a bibliography and an index.Sagar, Keith. The Challenge of Ted Hughes. London: Macmillan, 1994. Sagar is a leading British writer on Hughes, having edited and written several other critical books on him. Includes a bibliography.Sagar, Keith. The Laughter of Foxes: A Study of Ted Hughes. Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2000. A thorough literary study.Sagar, Keith, and Stephen Tabor. Ted Hughes: A Bibliography, 1946-1995. London: Mansell, 1998. A complete bibliography.Scigaj, Leonard M. The Poetry of Ted Hughes: Form and Imagination. Iowa City: Iowa University Press, 1986. This study explores Hughes’s Asian influences, and how he has sought to augment the modern Western consciousness. Includes a bibliography and an index.Scigaj, Leonard M. Ted Hughes. Boston: Twayne, 1992. Scigaj is one of the United States’ leading exponents of Hughes and rightfully chosen to write this introductory volume in the well-known Twayne series of introductions to major authors.Scigaj, Leonard M, ed. Critical Essays on Ted Hughes. New York: G. K. Hall, 1992. One of the best collections of essays on Hughes. Some other collections are fragmentary or celebratory.Wagner, Erica. Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of the Birthday Letters. London: Faber & Faber, 2000. Offers a careful examination of the writings that detail the minds and relationship of poetry’s most harrowing couple.Walder, Dennis. Ted Hughes. Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1987. This book is written specifically to accompany Selected Poems, 1957-1981. It is basically thematic, focusing on Hughes’s myths of violence and masculinity, but seeing these tempered by more recent “feminine” poems. Offers suggestions for further reading and includes an index.
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