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This article is taken from PN Review 157, Volume 30 Number 5, May - June 2004.

Ted Hughes's Collected Poems: An Interim View David Gervais

Tout et rien. Encore une fois la dialectique terrible de la création esthétique, qui vide de leur contenu, comme un coquillage précieux, bruissant déjà d'on ne sait quelle autre mer invisible, tous les moments d'une vie.
Yves Bonnefoy, L'Arrière-pays


This is not a book to review; readers alive to its scope will feel instead that it is reviewing them. Far from being a cue for snap judgements it is a mine to plumb for years to come. There have already been some instant responses to it, from people who should have known better, because we live in a culture where classics are born overnight, without benefit of criticism, but Hughes, for all his early fame and later notoriety, cannot be treated so glibly. It will take time to assimilate even a fraction of this volume; we will probably not find our way in it until our poets themselves begin to digest and harness it to their own work more than any of them have done so far. One expects this of a poet who has had such a wide influence on his contemporaries, nor can we assume that influence will always mean understanding. French poetry had to wait for Mallarmé and Rimbaud before the innovations of Victor Hugo could be grasped. Valéry thought these later poets were so original precisely because Hugo had made it so hard for them to find a style of their own. In other words, an initial view of Hughes ...


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