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Listening Corner

The Thought-Fox and Other PoemsTed Hughes (ff poetry). Cassette Pounds 7.99. Faber and Faber, 3 Queen Square, London WCIN 3AU.

Ted Hughes reads 30 of his poems selected from nine of the anthologies published since 1957. He introduces some of the poems with a few words of explanation, and all are printed in the small booklet that accompanies the cassette.

Teachers will find old favourites "The Thought-Fox", "Hawk Roosting" and "The Jaguar", for instance but also others from Crow and the later collections which, al-though fine for the sixth form, are not suitable for younger age groups.

For anyone not familiar with Hughes' voice, it comes as a surprise. He sounds more the weather-beaten hill-farmer than the Cambridge-educated Poet Laureate. His soft Yorkshire accent, gentle and compassionate, is in sharp contrast to the harshness of his subject matter and this gives his words an added poignancy.

For instance, it's impossible to listen to him reading a poem like "Ravens", which describes the discovery of a still-born lamb, without being overwhelmed not only by his sense both of the remorseless cruelty of the natural world, but also by its ineffable beauty.

Listen to the cassette on a personal stereo, and you're left with that unnerving and exhilarating feeling that you're being whispered truths you have no earthly right to know.

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