I finished the monolithic biography of Ted Hughes by Jonathan Bate this morning and thought I’d reflect on some of that. At 672 pages it’s an effort, but mostly worth it, except for some of the more arcane analysis, particularly close examinations of notebooks and notebook poems and some tenuous links between life and art.
It’s a bit of a defence of Hughes against the ‘Libbers’ and, despite the fierce instance of the value of Hughes’s work in its own right, he remains a figure connected always with his relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Plath, a connection that’s evident in both the writing and the life lived forever after.
Bate argues that the release of Birthday Letters, late in Hughes’s career, marks a freeing up moment but Hughes didn’t live long enough after that to benefit from that clarity.
As a writer I was very interested in Hughes’s own working mode, his self-scrutiny and reliance on detailed notebooks, and observations of people and nature, many of which seem like poems themselves. This is an unauthorised biography, and it seems the estate did not give Bate permission to use poems in the text, behind the notebooks quoted a lot.
Most importantly, it’s drawn me back to a poet I thought very highly of when those first books came to my attention in the 1980s, and I pulled these two down from the shelf and re-read them both.
I rarely publish poems here, maybe I should do that more. Anyway, I finished this one, and thought I’d put it into that Adobe Spark format. 23 Beaver St was the address of my grandparents, in Essendon. I looked it up on Google Earth and the house is gone now, which is fitting.
After a busy time lately, it was nice to take a bit of time yesterday to walk in The Briars, a little historic homestead park close to where I live. I took some photos, looked for birds from a couple of hides and followed the line of Balcombe Creek back towards the sea.
I quite like the idea of walking the same place again, year after year, and seeing the fine and subtle differences. As Thoreau wrote: ‘Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.’ I have high praise for the local: from Gilbert White to Thoreau to the place examined in contemporary writers like Robert Macfarlane.
There’s something refreshing about walking by water in the morning. This morning, the bay was blue-grey, the sky just grey, the wind talking of winter. It was nice to be out in it, beside that body of water.
another experiment with the Adobe app; this time with multiple images
I’ve been looking at ways of presenting text online in more interesting or diverse ways. Nothing wrong with black text on a white page, but nice also to think of other ways to present and share text, with images as well. This is a new poem, using the app Adobe Spark I would have liked an embed within the blog, but the image below, which I found on Flickr, links to the poem and image as hosted on the Adobe site.
I was pleased this morning to receive in the mail my copy of Our Home is Dirty by Sea, a new collection of ‘Australian poems for Australian kids’, published by Walker Books, and edited by Diana Bates, which includes my poem Immigrant House.
Immigrant House recalls my experience growing up and entering the strange European interior of a friend from school. It was published in my first collection Lost Things, and I’m pleased that it’s likely to find a new (and younger) audience here.
I’m also in pretty good company with poets like Robert Adamson, Ian Mcbride, Susan Hampton and CJ Dennis! also included in the collection.
Walker Books describe themselves as Walker Books Australia ‘the leading children’s publisher in Australia and New Zealand.’