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10 December 2011

Ted Hughes

The airwaves have been full of tributes to the larger than life poet Ted Hughes, after a memorial was unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. Numerous poets, writers and celebrities offered their thoughts on the man and his work. Some performed readings of the poem fragments that touched them the most.

However, nothing can match a reading by the man himself. His voice has an immense and immediate effect. He spoke directly from the soul. Words hung in the air, visualisations whirled around the mind. The poem breathes; it exists. It's a feat that can only be approximated by others, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Many say Hughes had such an immense presence he could hush a room simply by walking in. Nevertheless, it's his powerful, highly original voice that's burned into our consciousness; words that resonate inside our soul.

But, that notion brings both joy and sadness.

Hearing someone else read a poem I find there's something missing. It's the same if I read a passage myself. An extra dimension has been lost. It doesn't have the gravitas, authority and pure force of energy it needs and demands. Hughes lived those words; the delight, the pleasure, the heartache and the suffering.

Sadly, Ted Hughes cannot read to us any more. His words will always have the capacity to unleash a torrent of emotions and imagery. But I for one will seek out a reading by the man himself.

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