Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
The poet who, through brutal and often violent animal imagery, describes life as marked by inner tensions and violence but also by energy and even excessive vitality.
Hughes was one of the most interesting new poets to come to maturity in the late 1950s. He was born in 1930 in Yorkshire, the Bronte district, whose moors to exercise a deep influence on his poetry . In 1951 he entered Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he first studied English (including Middle English literature), before changing to anthropology and archaeology, and where he began to make a reputation as a poet.
He took his degree in 1954 and spent two years between Cambridge and London, earning a living from a variety of different jobs (gardener, zoo keeper, teacher, etc) . In 1956 he met Sylvia Plath, an American poet who was studying at Cambridge, and in June of the same year he married her.
In 1957 Ted and Sylvia moved to the United States, where he published his first collection of poems (The Hawk in the Rain), and taught for some time at the University of Massachusetts. In 1959 they returned to England, where Ted began writing for "The New Statesman" and "The Listener".
In 1963 Sylvia committed suicide by putting her head into a gas oven (she had already attempted to kill herself in 1953, after a course of electroshock treatment). Ted was blamed for her death because he had left her months earlier for Assia Wevill, a brilliant and glamorous 'German Russian Israrli', who eventually bore him a daughter , Shura. struck by his wife's death, he wrote nothing for three years, except for some poems for children, and devoted himself to selecting Sylvia's poems to have them later published in a collection, Ariel, which established Sylvia's reputation.
In 1969, six years after Sylvia's suicide, Assia , too, one spring evening turned on the gas like Plath and let herself die together with Shura. Ted was shocked by this second tragedy and when, in 1970, he published Crow, a new collection of poems he dedicated it on their memory.
In 1970 he married the twenty eight year old Carol Orchard, with whom he found peace and stability. In 1984 he was appointed Poet Laureate.
In 1998 January he released Birthday Letters, a volume of impassioned poems about his first wife, Sylvia, breaking thirty-five years of silence on the subject. In August Queen Elizabeth II awarded him membership in the prestigious Order of Merit, which honours distinction in science, law and the arts.
He died in November 1998 in his Devonshire house where he had lived with Sylvia, with Assia and finally Carol.