"Poetic voice of blood and guts" (Welsh 1) said one newspaper headline announcing the appointment of Ted Hughes as the new Poet Laureate in November of 1984. It was fairly typical of the surprise with which the media greeted this appointment because Ted Hughes, it seems, is for most people a difficult poet. Hughes is frequently accused of writing poetry which is unnecessarily rough and violent when he is simply being a typically blunt Yorkshireman, describing things as he sees them. For example, his Moortown poems (which began as a journal recording his farming experiences) are not at all like the traditional romantic view of nature for which English poets are famous. There is no trace in them of the kind of sentiments expressed in Elizabethan poet, Robert Herrick's, lines - "Fair daffodils we weep to see you haste away so soon" (Rosengarten 98), or Wordsworth's - "I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills" (Rosengarten 234). Poetry, for Hughes, is to do with the world of imagination; He calls it "a journey into the inner universe" (Faas 29), and "an exploration of the genuine self" (Faas 32). Poetry (he once wrote} is one way to:
"unlock the doors of those many mansions inside the head
and express something - perhaps not much, just something - of
the crush of information that presses in on us....Something
of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are....
Something of the inaudible music that moves us along in our
bodies from moment to moment like water in a river..." (Faas 82)
An excessive scrutiny of the seamy, shocking side of Ted Hughes' writing, particularly his "animal poems", has characterized much of the critical attention paid to the poet laureate. Many scholars, such as Ben Howard, suggest that Hughes "has often seemed the celebrant, if not the proponent of violence and destruction" (253). This approach to his poetry, however, disregards...