If Ted was Poet Laureate Today

book

Ted Hughes’ Crow [1970] was always a poetry collection reflecting on a world then, now and continuing. The line Who begat Crow from ‘Lineage’ is answered by an acknowledgement of that foreverness, and its most bleakly enduring element is confirmed as death in ‘Examination at the Womb-Door’ and the poem which follows this, ‘A Kill’.

I came to Crow later than its publication date but can’t quite remember when. At that publication and when I read later, it was beyond the fun, frolics and social commentary of The Mersey Sound, and other ‘popular’ poetry at the time [in my knowing – I’m sure it is much wider than this] was the often muscular Thom Gunn and similarly Seamus Heaney, as well as the genteel cynicism of Philip Larkin whose most direct line was ‘They fuck you up…’ – and I am not one of his detractors.

But Hughes and Crow was the yang to Larkin at the time. I revelled in the collection’s compound-word gallery, the comic brutalities described, and the relentless dark portrayals of ‘the destructive reality we inhabit’ [A. Alvarez – a critic also reflecting the time].

So when I playfully designed my Penguin Classics cover as Crowvid I was also being quite serious, thinking of Hughes as the current UK poet laureate eviscerating the decisions made by a hopeless government in a world as black as it ever was.

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