Our Ted Hughes discussions last Friday have led me off in all sorts of directions. The first thing they led me to was Hughes' 'Collected Poems for Children' (2005 – posthumous for Hughes, obviously). A copy was up in our daughter's crowded bookcase waiting for her to pay it some attention. As I said recently she is far more into stories (and just now science) than poetry...she is quite story-mad. Also now she is 9 I'm not sure how much longer I can refer to her as Small Girl on this blog. She is quite sick of being petite...
Anyway, the 'Collected Poems for Children' (which Deemikay has been reading too – here) has a section from his book 'Meet my folks' (hence today's title...it comes from Hughes' first volume for children, published in 1961) and for all the Hughes animal poems (and there are many in this book – no big surprise) it's the folks I turn to first...can't help myself! No matter how much people drive me to distraction (and they do...) I can't help but be interested in them, all of them (as I wrote somewhere recently I think I probably write human nature poetry...anyone heard that phrase used anywhere else?). The Hughes poems in the 'Meet my folks' section are very funny and our Girl and I have been enjoying them so far. They are not dissimilar to the Roald Dahl poems she already likes – fairly crazy and inventive and full of octopus grannies, people whose families are oak trees and Dads who inspect holes for a living (that sounds ruder than it is). Some of them have tender little endings too though. Here's the last verse of the oak tree poem ('My own true family'):
“This was my dream beneath the boughs, the dream that altered me.
When I came out of the oakwood, back to human company,
My walk was the walk of a human child, but my heart was a tree.”
These may turn out to be my favourite Hughes poems yet. Some of you might be interested to know that they are far less self-reliant and much less grandiose than some of his other work (see last Friday's comments). These poems are messy and silly and weird...kind of human, I think.
Anyway, speaking of folks...and families...there is someone I'd like you to meet. I've mentioned him now and again (say, here and here) but hey, it's my blog and I'll bang on about stuff if I want to. So here's Daddy...
Or Christopher Fox (1919-1973) to you. Isn't he something? This is one of the few photos of him that I have and I don't know when it was taken - probably before I was born. I suppose I was reminded of it when I was writing about photos of Ted Hughes last week and probably because he has the same thick hair, the same big forehead, the same penchant for tweedy sports jackets (is that what they're called...me and fashion are only loosely acquainted) - except of course (not that it matters) my Dad was much better looking! Also I thought I'd write about this little photo (it's about 6cmx4cm in my hand) because I just love it really. It's a funny thing losing a parent when you're young (or never knowing them at all) because you can't help but spend at least some of the rest of your life looking for them...all over the place...even when you know it's silly or pointless or unhealthy. It's a bit like they're always with you even in such obvious absence (except of course it's not really them...just bits of ideas). I think something similar happens sometimes with people who never find any true love or people who never feel at home or, in some cases, people who never have children. You can't help but look and wonder can you...what might have been, who might have been...stuff like that. You're not necessarily sad about it but it is in your head...at least some of the time. And I'm not being morbid, I'm really not – I'm just thinking (ascreen) about life and humans and how it all works. If nothing else it's a fantastic photo and I wanted to share it (and I don't often put up photos of family, you know...all you've seen so far is the back of our girl's head and me with strange things in my hair). Plus I just can't keep things literary all the time...it's just not my way. For me life and literature/writing are so intertwined that I can't tell you where they separate (if they ever do). We all have our ways of working and this is mine – messy and messed up but with its own kind of motivations and movement. I suppose you might be thinking - this is all just silly...how will it ever help the intellectual development of mankind? To this I have no answer but I do know there are some quite interesting thoughts on silliness over at Deemikay's of late too.
Anyway here's a little poem about that little photo. It might grow bigger this poem...or change altogether. Who knows...
To me you're black and white forever
Handsome, sepia smart and clever
Hair so thick and smile so wry
Shades of grey I know you by
Here's some other stuff about dads you might want to look at this week:
This interview with writer Martin Amis where he says “the special status of the dad has to go”. I don't think he's right necessarily (every family is different) and I'm not a big MA fan (at all!) but it's still an interesting article.
I've linked to this before but my favourite poem by Colin Will is called 'Tick' (last poem on the post). Sometimes writing about our fathers can make the whole business worthwhile. Can't it?
Talking of Ted Hughes poems (as we were) - at least a couple of you chose one of Hughes' poems about his daughter Frieda (and the moon) as one of your favourites. Here it is (although every version online seems to use a different layout – none of them the same as in my copy of the Bloodaxe 'Staying Alive' anthology). It's interesting that this (a father poem really...a very gentle one) is possibly one of his best/most popular. It's a nature and human nature poem...isn't it? Or are we just all a bunch of big softies..?
That's it for now. More Hughes-related wanderings here later in the week...
18th. Francis Ledwidge Poetry Award
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