Letter from Ted

Part of a letter from Ted Hughes to Derwent May in April of 1992:

When you hear the English Faculty and these Guardians of the Humanities praised remember this: for the last thirty years, each year I’ve seen the work [in a national poetry contest] of selected geniuses among 10 to 17 ten year olds from the whole UK—in fact I’ve helped select it.  More natural talent than you could believe could exist in one country. Every year I watch the march past of these little stars, all bursting with hope—hurrying excitedly off to read English according to their natural bent and their utter ignorance of what is waiting for them in those abattoirs. . . . In 30 years not a single one has survived to reappear the other side of University as something unusual. . . . The whole lot are annihilated. . . . I know how it happens because I know what I went through scrambling through the barbed wire and the camp searchlights.  Regularly I receive letters from students in their second or third year—in absolute despair, sending me their poems, begging for some direction. . . .  Brian Cox, at Manchester, a few years ago, said he couldn’t bear to go on doing it.  Every year they come rushing over no-man’s-land towards us (these are his words) faces shining with youth—and we just mow them down.

From Letters of Ted Hughes, by Ted Hughes, edited by Christopher Reid

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