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Monthly Carcanet Books

This review is taken from PN Review 1, Volume 4 Number 1, October - December 1977.

WHERE THE WIND CHOOSES Ted Hughes, Season Songs, Faber, £2.40.
Paul Mills, North Carriageway, Carcanet, £2.00.

Those who claim to know where Ted Hughes's priorities lie will no doubt be stirred by the first poem, 'A March Calf', in Season Songs: 'His purple eyeball swivel-jerks/In the elbowing push of his plans', for example, provides a familar touchstone. They might not be so happy, though, about that kind of seriousness being leavened occasionally by a touch of humour and an engaging light affectionateness. The satisfactions of the 'Spring' section are many, like the constant, exacting, crucial solidity of impression, the active delicacies, words turning sharp edges to fresh light; and so, moving on, the reader will be quick to respond to the first word in the book's dedication. Not that Hughes is seeking cosiness: Energy can still be rabid, and swifts, at the start of Summer, can finally mean 'The charred scream/Folded in its huge power'. Then, too, Hughes's sense of abundance coming to a climax can produce an oppressively muscle-bound effect, as here, and even noting the disclaimer:


While others sing the mackerel's fury
The belly-tug lightning-trickle of his evasions
And the wrist-thick muscle of his last word
I sing his loyal come-back.


'Hay', by contrast, has: 'The grass is happy/When the spinner tumbles her, she silvers and she sweetens'. And when the sun is at its height repleteness is not overwhelming: there are 'Apple Dumps'; and sheep, lost at being sheared for the first time, have to 'fit themselves to what has happened'. ...


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