A Moment with Ted Hughes
Are poems ever truly finished?
My experience with the things that arrive instantaneously is that you can't change them. They are finished. There is one particular poem, an often anthologized piece that just came––"Hawk Roosting." I simply wrote it out, just as it appeared in front of me. There is a word in the middle that I'm not sure about. I always have this internal hiccup when I get to it because I had to make the choice between the singular and the plural form and neither of them is right.
Has the answer occurred to you yet?
No, I don't know how that could be solved. It's one of those funny things. So that poem was abandoned insofar as I couldn't solve that problem. But otherwise it's a poem that I could no more think of changing than physically changing myself. Poems get to the point where they are stronger than you are. They come up from some other depth and they find a place on the page. You can never find that depth again, that same kind of authority and voice. I might feel I would like to change something about them, but they're stronger than I am, and I cannot.
Here's the poem:
I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.
The convenience of the high trees!
The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth's face upward for my inspection.
My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot
Or fly up and revolve it all slowly––
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads––
The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:
The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.