Saturday 20 June 2015

Ted Hughes on children writing poems, and on not letting words kill each other...

This post is about Ted Hughes writing about writing poetry.
It comes from his book 'Poetry in the Making' published by Faber in 1967 but were originally broadcast on BBC Schools Radio programmes 'Listening and Writing'.

Along with five other poets, we've been looking at the book, writing poems inspired by the book, and, in my case, visiting the BBC written archives at Caversham to see how Ted Hughes and the BBC wrote to each other. 

The three  programmes will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 starting on the third Sunday of July and then they'll be up on iPlayer. 

In the current climate, good writing has been infected by the idea that it starts from single 'good' words. I don't believe this. Occasionally it starts from 'sequences of words' - that is, things we hear or read that bounce round our heads. To get good writing, I believe we have to do a mix of thinking about the experiences we've had, reading widely and often, and having space and time to write what we want to write. 

Ted Hughes suggested that in order to write a poem about, say, an animal, we should 'look at it, touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn' ourselves into it. 'When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic.' 

Or, later: '…The minute you flinch, take your mind off this thing, and begin to look at the words and worry about them…then your worry goes into them and they set about killing each other.'

Again, '…after telling yourself you are going to use any old word that comes into your head so long as it seems right at the moment of writing it down, you will surprise yourself.. You will read back through what you have written and you will get a shock. You will have captured a spirit, a creature.'