Ted Hughes: The Poetic Quest

A close analysis of Ted Hughes’ creative alchemy in the poetic sequences of Cave Birds, Remains of Elmet and River.

My thanks to the Hughes Estate for permission to quote from the work of Ted Hughes; and to Tate Britain for permission to reproduce etchings by William Blake

Poetic Quest Cover



Chapter 1. The energies and the inner world

Chapter 2. Starting the journey

Chapter 3. The Perfectibility of Man

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Cave Birds

Chapter 4. An Alchemical Cave Drama

Chapter 5. Stage One of the Alchemical Synthesis:
Calcination, Mortification, Putrefaction, Nigredo.

Chapter 6. Stage Two of the Alchemical Synthesis:
The Leukosis.

Chapter 7. Stage Three of the Alchemical Synthesis:
Solution and Distillation: Sulphur.

Chapter 8. Stage Four of the Alchemical Synthesis:
Conjunction, Crystallisaation, Projection.

Notes on the origin, performance and publication of Cave Birds

Table 2.
The titles and order of poems in the published edition of Cave Birds (Faber 1978)
and in the two lists among the drafts held by Exeter University.

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Remains of Elmet

Chapter 9. ‘The fallen sun’…

Chapter 10. ‘… Where the Mothers’

Chapter 11. ‘…at the dead end of a wrong direction’

Chapter 12. ‘Before these chimneys can rise again’…

Chapter 13. ‘I swallowed an alarm clock’

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Chapter 14. ‘The liturgy of the earth's tidings’


Variant Editions.

Abbreviations used in the text.

© Ann Skea 2021. For permission to quote any part of this document or any pages linked to this document contact Dr Ann Skea at ann@skea.com

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