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The Thought-Fox

Ted Hughes

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Ted Hughes' 'Thought Fox'
Added by: Joseph Dormer
This is an amazing poem. It captures that magical, mysterious, mystical pre-creative phase where you feel something within you, ‘something else that is alive’ beside – beyond – the prison of the conditioned self, beyond (as Hughes has it) ‘the clock’s loneliness. What is it, this living thing that is trying to break through – from outside – the prison bars? It is the spirit (or it comes from the spirit), personified as a fox. Why a fox – anyone got any thoughts on this? (C.f. Lawrence’s ‘The Fox’ in which the fox represents the spirit too). Is it perhaps because the fox is a wild thing that comes from the wild, the wilderness (as Levi Strauss would say) into the towns, into civilisation as the wild spirit of ourselves comes into and disturbs our everyday self?

There’s Hughes – or me, or you, or any poet, or writer or artist – and there is something stirring within him, which is why he has this sheet of paper in front of him when it’s quiet and midnight. There is something within him, something inchoate…and this sheet of paper. Through the window no star (c.f. Miroslav Holub: ‘Outside it was night, like a book without letters…).

The fox, snow, midnight, silence (the silence of things yet unborn)…the foxes prints in the snow. And then, and then..(with a sudden sharp whiff of fox) it enters consciousness and the page is printed.

I like Hugh's poems
Added by: Melissa
I really enjoy his poems on natural and animal themes. Also Hawk Roosting is very and also quite arrogant and actually sounds like what a hawk would say!
Added by: Lisa G.
He calls inspiration a fox because foxes are known for being sneaky, and for him inspiration enters like a fox, without warning. He doesn't know why it comes any more than a non-creative person would; he just knows it does come, quickly and mysteriously. Great poem.
Added by: Linnea
animals are a common theme in ted's poetry. he felt that humans have lost contact with thier real selves, that is, the side of themselves that is like an animal; relying only on instinct. (did ted not realize that ANIMALS DO NOT WRITE POETRY?) infact, this was somewhat of an obsession with hughes.
this poem, as almost all of his others (aside from birthday letters) simply addresses his beliefs on the subject. for someone who believes poetry should be fearless and bold, he's really quite drab and repetitive. notice how the poem ends; like an animal crawling away with its tail between its legs. another flop by our friend ted.
Added by: Liam
This was one of the poems that had me hooked as a young writer. I remember printing it out and having it stuck to my wall. I've always believed that Ted's poetry is the closest that poetry, or any literature for that matter, gets to capturing and preserving experience. I have to completely disagree with Linnea's comment. Hughes's poetry is as far away from drab as you can possibly get. Try reading his 'Crow' poems - they'll haunt and stun you.
Added by: Helen
I completely disagree with your 'pah' comment. For a start it is quite clear that in the 'thought fox' Hughes is the one writing the poem, not the fox and he isn't addressing his beliefs in this poem, he is simply describing one of his methods behind writing poetry and using the metaphor of a fox making footprints in snow to describe himself writing words on a page. not in any of the poems that i have tudied where he has written about nature and animals, do they 'crawl away with their tales between their legs'.'Hawk Roosting' describes quite a bold and challenging view of a hawk that doesn't appear to cower at any point in the poem. 'View of a Pig' doesn't deal with the pigs emotions at all, its unfair to critisize Hughes in this way.

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