Stubbing Wharfe

Being in a transnational city I am stuck by how that enhances one’s sense of belonging to culture. For all its theoretical discourses and diversity rhetoric, Australia feels psycho-geographically remote, a country under siege, beset by a history of exclusions. Of course, I’ve been concerned about the bushfires, hoping for rain back home. Whilst over here, with global warming happening, the weather has been unseasonably mild, the trees only starting to turn brown.

Today it was so pleasant I walked along the canal, past barges, warehouses, cafes, schools, the industry of construction around St Pancras. It was good to observe a variety of waterfowl in the quiet leafy sections. The clouds billowed across the evening sky but held back their rain. The wind was cold, refreshing.

Ted Hughes wrote about the effect of weather on the psyche: “All living things are natural barometers and change as the weather changes,” he writes in a book for adults and children, titled, Poetry in the Making. His insights have enriched my appreciation of poetic intent, thought and craft. (I am also reading Louise Gluck’s marvellous Proofs and Theories)

“Stubbing Wharfe” is a tender poem by Hughes from the collection, Birthday Letters, published in 1998, which on the whole I don’t find as compelling as some of his earlier poems. They seem to objectify Plath and do not sufficiently embody or make implicit Hughes’ emotional response to her tragic life. It is interesting that Marjorie Perloff proposes that stylistic evidence suggests that these poems were written over a much shorter, more recent time frame than Hughes had claimed. “Stubbing Wharfe” is written with poignancy and humour about his marriage to Sylvia. It captures the bleak Pennines landscape and reads as less guarded, and even regretful of his own failure of understanding.

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