Are you Ted Hughes?
10 August 2016
I was working at the fabulous Calder High School toward the end of last term
with a bunch of the nicest Year 7s you could hope to meet.
Bright, interested and engaged, I talked to them about the poetry of Ted Hughes
before getting them to become poets themselves and write about the
de-coy crow [pictured] I had taken in with me as a stimulus.
It had felt like a Hughes-appropriate object to use with them.
In fact all four sessions had a Ted Hughes flavour to them, from the time I left Mytholmroyd railway station, where there are panels celebrating his wonderful children’s story ‘The Iron Man’, to strolling along the valley and then up an aerobic hill to the school, past the Ted Hughes Theatre to school reception.
Ted Hughes, I was emphatically reminded, once lived in this village!
I’m not often daunted but this did give me pause? Was I a fake poet compared to Hughes? How could I possibly emulate him?
So when the student asked, in all seriousness, ‘Are you Ted Hughes?’ I was sorry to have to disappoint him, and say, ‘Well, actually I’m James Nash’.
But the sessions went well and all the young people produced brilliant work. And as in all Calderdale schools I only had to look out of the window to see beautiful countryside. A complete joy.
On my last day I had been asked if Calder High School could film me writing a poem in thirty minutes or so to a subject of their choice, talking all the while about the process and the decisions I was making. The lovely media staff set me up in front of a camera, I was given my topic title, ’Cooperative Values’ [the activity the school was celebrating on that day] and then left me to it. It was like being in a newspaper office again, working to deadlines. I produced a first draft in the allotted time. The end result, after several more drafts, is my poem of the month for August.