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AS and A Level: Ted Hughes
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Top tips for writing about Ted Hughes and his work
- 1 Hughes was fascinated by the harsh and brutal cruelty of the animal world.
- 2 Simon Armitage said that for Hughes, poetry was ‘a connecting rod between nature and humanity’.
- 3 Consider the different perspectives in Hughes’ poems; for example, he uses a subjective tone in Hawk Roosting. In others, he directly addresses the reader.
- 4 Consider the symbolic power of Hughes’ poems. The animals could be interpreted as metaphors for his views on humanity and society: what, for example, might the hawk or the jaguar suggest about human nature?
- 5 Have a think about Hughes’ style. His language is often concrete and economical, yet retains a powerful impact. Hughes also varies his use of structural devices (rhythm, rhyme etc.). What do you think the effects of these choices are?
Writing about Hughes' poetry
- 1 Hughes’ poetry was often inspired by his experiences, such as his childhood in Yorkshire. However, it is important to understand the difference between the poet and the narrative persona created in the poems.
- 2 The perspective, tone and register of the narrator are good places to start analysis. Remember that these differ across Hughes’ poems.
- 3 Look for patterns and oppositions that emerge.
- 4 Consider effects of poetic techniques, for example use of symbolism (a key technique in Hughes’ poems) or phonological devices (to do with sounds).
- 5 Consider the effects of structure (e.g. number of verses, line length, rhythm, rhyme etc.) and form (e.g. free verse) as well as language.
Key things to remember when writing essays
- 1 All essays should be well planned with clear points. This will help to create a structured essay.
- 2 Introductions should clearly show they are answering the question.
- 3 Each paragraph should ideally begin with a topic sentence which addresses the question, evidence from the poem/s to support the point (with quotes embedded), and detailed analysis using technical terminology. This can be known as P.E.E (Point, Evidence, Explain).
- 4 If relevant, some biographical information about Hughes and the influences on his poetry can contribute to an essay.
- 5 Some comparisons with other poems can develop analysis but remember to always adhere to the question.
- Marked by Teachers essays 1
In the first three stanzas, the end of the two longest lines rhyme, forming a sort of rhyming couplet, e.g. "...dust" and "...bust" in the first stanza. In the first stanza, the writer, uses alliteration in the first phrase, "The swallow of summer, she toils all the summer" the use of 's' words. This gives the line a sort of rhythm to it. The metaphor, "A blue-dark knot of glittering voltage," gives us this impression of a bright, powerful and energetic image of the swallow.
- Word count: 1854
The usage of the fire image is more related to their colors rather than suffering, since the third line continues to say that they are trying to attract the attention of the visitors with their shrieking. The image of cheap tarts in the third line is again a reference to the bright colors of the parrots and how they try to get the attention of visitors. As the stanza ends with the fourth line, the description of lions and tigers is made through the word indolence, as the tone again appears as boredom, a monotonous life and the acceptance of the current state of imprisonment for these animals.
- Word count: 5442
is being affected by the wind and it gives the reader the image of then landscape being afraid of the wind, the line 'fields quivering' especially gives this impression because you can imagine the fields sort of trembling in fear as the wind passes. The poet uses onomatopoeia in his poem such as 'crashing' and 'booming', which emphasizes the horror of the night and the darkness and how loud the wind is. Then it says that the 'day rose' and everything is fine again, now that the shadows are gone, whereas before the hills were 'booming' they are now quiet and are 'new places'.
- Word count: 937
He often uses interesting lexis to help our imaginations. Hughes uses a lot of figurative language in this poem. One particularly effective technique is metaphor. He starts the poem with the metaphor - "This house has been far out at sea all night" This is very effective because it creates a very strong picture in your mind. "Far out" suggests isolation, and a mention of night suggests danger and fear. Another effective example of metaphor is "The skyline a grimace".
- Word count: 417
This lack of physical movement is further evidenced in the next stanza, where Hughes uses metaphorical language, calling the coils of the boa constrictor a 'fossil'. Here it is almost as if he is implying that the animals lie so still all the time they seem to have died already. Apart from the idea of indolence and sleep-inducing inertia, there is a sense of eternal exhaustion bordering slightly on decrepitude. Hughes writes that each cage 'seems empty, or Stinks of sleepers from the breathing straw', which suggests the degree of uncleanliness of the cages; either they are laden with the excrement of the animals they incarcerate or the carcasses of the animals themselves.
In the poem Wind, Ted Hughes describes the experience of a windstorm, using powerful imagery to convey the power and impact of the weather.
cannot physically be built out at sea); the addition of the modifier "all night" reinforces the idea that this is a temporary state lasting just one night. The phrase "out at sea" is also reminiscent of a ship at sea, which by its very nature is at the mercy of the elements; this reminder reinforces the vulnerability of the house and, by extension, humanity. The poem goes on to introduce the more specific elements of the weather, namely the wind (and to a lesser extend the rain, as demonstrated by the use of the adjective "wet"), making great use of metaphor and personification to turn these elements into tangible objects.
- Word count: 1137
Lines are quite frequently broken or interrupted, or run on to the next line, suggesting the fast, erratic flight of the birds. Furthermore the Hughes immediately establishes the tone and mood of the poem within the opening stanza; it's the "Fifteenth of May"-springtime "Cherry Blossom". Yet whilst Hughes reacts with excitement at watching the punctual arrival of the swifts as can be seen through his direct speech, "Look! They're back! Look!" as for him it seems like it's the beginning of summer.
- Word count: 1118
Compare and contrast the treatment of weeds in these two poems. Consider connotations, tones and attitudes expressed, language techniques used and ideas derived from each and say which you prefer and why.
One comparison that can be made between the poems is that the title of each poem has negative connotations. "Nettles" and "Thistles" are both annoying, spiky, irritating weeds. The connotations and ideas derived from these titles give the reader expectations of the poem as being negative and pessimistic, the reader has already formed opinions and prejudices towards the subjects of these poems based on the 'baggage' attached to these weeds. The ideas formed from reading the title of each poem are the same for both poems, thus there is an obvious comparison between the two poems in this respect.
- Word count: 816
The poem uses onomatopoeia, too, as it describes the sounds that the wind makes: "bang and vanish"; "the house rang like a goblet"; even the roof moves and "the stones cry out under the horizon". In this poem we feel the way man is powerless when nature is at its most violent. Particularly vivid, I feel, is the way Hughes "scaled along the house-side" as if he is rock-climbing just to walk upright in the wind and to save himself from being bowled over.
- Word count: 1235
The language in "Mother to Son" is very informal. The language used in the poem is like this because the person talking in the poem is talking to their son, i.e. "mother to son", therefore the Langston Hughes feels that the poem need not be formal. However this informal dialect may also be down to the fact that the person speaking throughout the entire poem has a strong American Southern accent, this also effects the dialect used in the poem by making it less formal than that of say someone who came from a different part of America, "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair".
- Word count: 1197