Ted Hughes “captures an animal”. You can too, today. make a poem Ted style.
Here are Hughes’ instructions from his powerfully generative mentor text, Poetry in the Making:
“Animals” are the subject here, but more important is the
idea of headlong, concentrated improvisation on a set theme.
Once the subject has been chosen, the exercise should be given
a set length, say one side of a page, and a set time limit-ten
minutes would be an ideal minimum though in practice it
obviously varies a good deal to suit the class. These artificial
limits create a crisis, which rouses the brain’s resources: the
compulsion towards haste overthrows the ordinary precautions,
flings everything into top gear, and many things that are
usually hidden find themselves rushed into the open. Barriers
break down, prisoners come out of their cells.
Another artificial help is to give each phrase a fresh line.
The result should be a free poem of sorts where grammar,
sentence structure etc, are all sacrificed in an attempt to break
fresh and accurate perceptions and words out of the reality of
the subject chosen.
As in training dogs, these exercises should be judged by
their successes, not their mistakes or shortcomings. Wherever
a teacher can recognize and appreciate a hit, a moment of truth,
it is a very poor pupil that does not soon get the idea.
In my experience, it is a help to give the pupils some time
to carry the subject in their heads before they begin to write.
I have always thought it would be productive to give out at the
beginning of term some of the subjects that are going to be
written about during the next weeks. The pupils would then
watch the intervening lessons more purposefully, and we can-
not prevent ourselves from preparing for a demand that we
know is going to be made. Then when the time comes to write,
it should be regarded as a hundred-yards’ dash.
In this, as in all the exercises that follow, the chief aim
should be to develop the habit of all-out flowing exertion, for
a short, concentrated period, in a definite direction.
(Hughes, Ted. Poetry in the Making: An Anthology. Faber & Faber, 1967.)
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