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English PGR Seminar: Mark Wormald ‘Poetic Electrons: Ted Hughes and the Mayfly’ – Thursday 18 January 2018

18th January 2018 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm


In 1981, the artist Leonard Baskin wrote to the poet Ted Hughes with a list of fifteen projected poems about insects that would feature in their next collaboration. It began with ‘The Mayfly’.

This paper describes Hughes’s education in the mayfly. Like its subject, it had a long and hidden larval stage, but took memorable flight in a fishing trip to Ireland in May 1982, which ended at Saint’s Island on Lough Ree. Two remarkable prose accounts of this trip are among Hughes’ papers in the British Library. Between them they shape a visionary narrative, beginning with an Oxford tutorial in entomology from his son Nicholas, and detailing Hughes’s attempts, in the company of a group of fanatical Irish fishermen, to catch lough trout on imitations of its dun, or Green Drake, and spinner, or Spent. The poetry that emerged from this experience is faithful to these circumstances but also transcends them, offering a powerful vision of ecological interconnection not just to lovers of poetry but to all those concerned for the health of our rivers and lakes.

Dr Mark Wormald is Fellow and College Lecturer in English at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He is the editor of the Ted Hughes Society Journal and with Terry Gifford and Neil Roberts co-edited Ted Hughes: from Cambridge to Collected (Palgrave MacMillan, 2013). He is completing The Catch: Fishing for Ted Hughes, to be published by Little Toller Books.



18th January 2018
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm
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Lock-Keeper’s Cottage
Queen Mary University of London
Mile End Road, E1 4NS
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