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Forum Home > Poetry > Helen Calcutt's poetry workshop

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Helen's workshop will take place here, starting at 7pm this Wednesday, 10th Oct.2012.

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October 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Helen Calcutt
Member
Posts: 31

Hello all,

Here is the reading material for my poetry workshop on Wednesday. 'Tree' by Ted Hughes, from his collection Remains of Elmet.

Read through the poem a couple of times,  make a few notes.You can use these points to help you;

  • think about your immediate reactions – what feelings does the poem evoke? Where does it take us? What visions does it create? 
  • think about form and style - how is the poem presented? 
  • detail - make a note of some words/phrases. Why do they stand out? What images to they conjure?
  • think about the central elements of the poem - the thing/things the poet wants us to read about. What are they? Why might they have been used?
  • think about the landscape of the poem - where are we? What are we looking at?
  • how has the landscape (or elements of the landscape) informed the writing? How have they shaped the poem, and also, perhaps, the poet?

These are general areas of enquiry,  and can be used as a rough guide to get some ideas flowing.You don't need to answer them all!

We'll begin the workshop with a brief discussion on this before moving on, so have some ideas/thoughts ready.

Enjoy!


Tree by Ted Hughes


A priest from a different land

Fulminated

Against heather, black stones, blown water.

 

Excommunicated the clouds

Damned the wind

Cast the bog pools into outer darkness

Smote the horizons

With the jawbone of emptiness

 

Till he ran out of breath -

 

In that teetering moment

Of lungs empty

When only his eye-water protected him

He saw

Heaven and earth moving.

 

And words left him.

Mind left him. God left him.

 

Bowed -

The lightning conductor

Of a maiming glimpse - the new prophet -

 

Under ending interrogation by wind

Tortured by huge scaldings of light

Tried to confess all but could not

Bleed a word

 

Stripped to his root-letter, cruciform

Contorted

Tried to tell all

 

Through crooking of elbows

Twitching of finger-ends.

 

Finally

Resigned

To be dumb.

 

Lets what happens to him simply happen.

 


 

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October 9, 2012 at 3:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Cath Edwards
Member
Posts: 3

Hi Helen, is there still time to sign up for your workshop?

October 10, 2012 at 6:03 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Helen Calcutt
Member
Posts: 31

Hello Cath, yes that's fine of course. We start at 7pm roughly, here!

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October 10, 2012 at 1:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Helen Calcutt
Member
Posts: 31

Hello all, ready to start when you are.  

Shall we open with a brief discussion on the above poem ' Tree' by Hughes? General thoughts?

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October 10, 2012 at 1:58 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Hi, I assume it should be 'unending' interrogation. The things that must struck me about the poem were the visceral sense of suffering and of violence & Hughes' capacity to transform and mythologise the ordinary and everyday.. That and the phrase smote the horizons /with the jawbone of emptiness'

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October 10, 2012 at 2:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Helen Calcutt
Member
Posts: 31

Yes it is 'unending interrogation by wind' - and I agree, it's a truly visceral poem, there's a real sense of division and fracture. Hughes is (I think) showing us a brutally ancient world, left to ruin. But there's more happening I think, than just the openness of a 'ruined' landscape. To me, there's a sense regeneration, or change?

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October 10, 2012 at 2:04 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Oh, and I thought 'stripped to his root-letter' was curious. What is a 'root-letter' anyone? 

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October 10, 2012 at 2:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Jack May
Member
Posts: 59

I thought there might be some interesting points to note about the comparison of a tree and a priest, but couldn't quite put my finger on them. Is he commenting on the inability of the church to move, evolve, and change, or is that just me reading in meaning where I want to see it?

October 10, 2012 at 2:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

The regeneration idea is interesting. The poem reminds me a bit of Hughes' take on Ovid's metamorphosis. I imagined that the link bewteen priest and tree was initially a visual one. 

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October 10, 2012 at 2:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Helen Calcutt
Member
Posts: 31

Hi Jack, that's interesting  - I was just talking about change; and there being a sense of resgurgence in the poem. The tree is perhas, in Hughes' eye, a religious symbol...and he did discuss in an interview, not just this poem, but the whole collection beind deeply embedded in myth/spirituality/religion.

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October 10, 2012 at 2:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Rebecca Toal
Member
Posts: 17

I also thought that the "root-letter" could be something to do with the letter X, symbolising the religious cross, as the poem goes on to mention "cruciform"? It makes the tree seem quite bare and stripped down?

October 10, 2012 at 2:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Helen Calcutt
Member
Posts: 31

Ann Skea (a very good critic, one to read) claimed that Hughes adopted the role of priest/shaman - I think perhaps, in response to you Jack, this is echoed in the poem? Has the 'shadow' of the poet developed and taken flesh in the physical presence of 'the tree'?

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October 10, 2012 at 2:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Thanks Rebecca, that's a helpfull idead.  I was also imagining a cross shaped tree in winter on some bleak landscape. So the X makes sense.

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October 10, 2012 at 2:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Cath Edwards
Member
Posts: 3

Hi All sorry I'm late. I'm glad I'm not the only one not understanding root-letter. 

October 10, 2012 at 2:19 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Helen Calcutt at October 10, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Ann Skea (a very good critic, one to read) claimed that Hughes adopted the role of priest/shaman - I think perhaps, in response to you Jack, this is echoed in the poem? Has the 'shadow' of the poet developed and taken flesh in the physical presence of 'the tree'?

That's another really interesting and helpful way in, Helen. How long after the death of Sylvia Plath was this poem written?



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October 10, 2012 at 2:20 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Helen Calcutt
Member
Posts: 31

Hi Rebecca, great point. The whole poem does seem to suggest a 'stripping back' doesn't it? Of skin, voice, hair, flesh...everything. Almost like a purifying, again, going back to the religious...in the line ' When only his eye-water protected him' I was reminded of holy water...of being reduced to a single, pure element.

To all...I'm wonderng if we see anything of the poet in this poem? It doesn't matter if you don't know much about Hughes...is there anything here that points towards the man? Is this poem  perhaps, as much abotut the 'inner' landscape of the poet, as well as the physical 'outer' landscape of the moors?

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October 10, 2012 at 2:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Cath Edwards
Member
Posts: 3

I'm not getting other people's posts here, but then my computer has been playing up today. I'll log out and log in again.

October 10, 2012 at 2:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Cath Edwards at October 10, 2012 at 2:19 PM

Hi All sorry I'm late. I'm glad I'm not the only one not understanding root-letter. 

You're very welcome, Cath, and thanks for the critical support! what do you think of Rebecca's suggestion that the root letter is an X?


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October 10, 2012 at 2:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

If anyone is having difficulty reading posts, try clicking out or the forum and coming back in again.:)

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October 10, 2012 at 2:23 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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