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This review is taken from PN Review 19, Volume 7 Number 5, May - June 1981.

THE SHAPE THE POEM HAS Ted Hughes, Moortown (Faber and Faber) £5.25
Jon Silkin, The Psalms with their Spoils (Routledge and Kegan Paul) £2.95; Selected Poems (Routledge and Kegan Paul) £4.95
Kathleen Raine, The Oracle in the Heart (George Allen and Unwin) £3.75

Ted Hughes's reputation is as settled as that of any living poet, and this latest volume confirms that reputation. It is one of those few books of contemporary poetry for which one feels grateful, and any discussion of it starts from the fact of the goodness of these poems. If I choose to write tentatively of an anxiety about his poetry as a whole which has been deepened for me by what seems to be his most recent output, the 'Moor- town' section of this book, it is because the value of the poems is such as to remain unshaken by such questioning. Since this volume also contains early poems, some of them first published as long ago as the early 60s, that is another reason for thinking about his work as a whole.

Hughes's poetry has never been a poetry of continuities, for most of the poems tend to be a form of circling about an object, the poetic subject matter, which then only appears to change in that it is being seen from a number of differing vantage points, but in which no real alterations occur. The movement of the verse is thus much like the motions of one of those creatures he so well describes, the world of the poem existing apparently outside of time. His attraction towards myth rather than history is a reflection of this, as if it were objects outside historical time which carry poetic meaning for him; as has been ...


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