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This interview is taken from PN Review 89, Volume 19 Number 3, January - February 1993.

in Conversation with Ted Hughes Clive Wilmer

Some thirty years ago, in one of the poems for which he is still best known, Ted Hughes recalled himself as a boy fishing for pike in the South Yorkshire countryside. As night falls, he comes into contact with forces so deeply rooted in the scene and in the human psyche, that recorded history seems to evaporate.

'Stilled legendary depth,' he says of the pond, 'It was as deep as England.'

When Hughes became Poet Laureate in 1984, a good many readers expressed surprise. Yet as those lines indicate, he has always had a feeling for nationhood, though often a disturbing and uncompromising one. Now, with the publication of his book of Laureate poems, Rain-Charm for the Duchy, we have the chance to examine his interpretation of this public role. We have already seen him this year in another role that is new to him - as interpreter of our national poet. His Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being is a massive work, perhaps more mythography than criticism, which sees the whole of Shakespeare's mature work as a development of two fundamental myths, first explored in the long poems, Venus and Adonis and Lucrece.

At 61, Hughes remains very productive - he is also, for instance, an important children's author - and he lives on a small farm near the northern edge of Dartmoor.


Clive Wilmer: When did Shakespeare first grip your imagination?

Ted Hughes: ...

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