PN Review Literary Magazine
News and Notes
PN Review Discussion
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 from 18:30 to 20:30 International Anthony Burgess Foundation - 3 Cambridge Street, Manchester, M1 5BY Join us for a free discussion event to mark the end of a year’s collaboration between the Anthony Burgess Foundation and PN Review , whose inside back cover has been featuring key material from the Burgess archive. read more
Most Read... Daniel Kaneon Ted Berrigan
(PN Review 169)
David Herdin Conversation with John Ashbery
(PN Review 99)
Henry Kingon Geoffrey Hill's Oraclau/Oracles
(PN Review 199)
Dannie Abse'In Highgate Woods' and Other Poems
(PN Review 209)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Next Issue Andrew Wynn Owen, Four Poems Emily Grosholz, Encounters with Basho Sinead Morrissey, Three Poems Patrick Worsnip, Sleeping with Gozzano Peter McDonald, PN Review Lecture ‘The Quarrel with Ourselves’

This article is taken from PN Review 210, Volume 39 Number 4, March - April 2013.

Poet and Critic: The Letters of Ted Hughes and Keith Sagar
edited by Keith Sagar (The British Library) £25
Vidyan Ravinthiran
Ted Hughes's correspondence, like his verse - and the critical prose he insisted it physically hurt him to write - has a desperate, lunging quality. In his poems, he tries to codify this movement as a type of decisive violence, like that of his 'Thrushes' who famously 'with a start, a bounce, a stab / Overtake the instant and drag out some writhing thing'. But really it's more vulnerable than that - there's something of Tourette's about it. As if Whitman's 'barbaric yawp' weren't proud self-affirmation but a kind of desperate cry that couldn't be contained. And it's about communication - a dishevelled lurch into the world that is also a lurch towards another person whose rejection Hughes can't bear but needs to confront, and at times provoke. As he lamented in 1989, 'audience — one's idea of audience — is the great problem' - a concern that repeats throughout his correspondence, where this interpersonal dilemma is of course immediately relevant. There's a touching example in Christopher Reid's Faber selection, where Hughes writes to Philip Larkin, dying of cancer of the oesophagus, to recommend the faith healer Ted Cornish. He must know that Larkin will think this nonsense - just as he must have foreseen, before unleashing on the world Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, something of its vicious reception. But still, he has to write the letter. 'Please don't write back,' he tells Larkin, 'or mention this again—no point. But the impulse to tell you all this has ...
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image