Matthew Spittles article

Listening To Ted

Reflections on how the work of Ted Hughes influenced me as a young writer and continues to do so:-

As a child I ran through the summer fields, composing poetry in my head, long before I ever knew of you. Thinking I would live forever, invincible in the wind and strong on the inclines. Life stretched out like a yawning landscape at the break of day. Unshatterable.

But you understood these landscapes, the imperfect contours of living, and I learnt from you. That we should be afraid of gritstone hills because of their timelessness. The way they endure and survive. We should see both life and death in the passing of rivers. Dressing differently for each season and trying so hard to run straight, they cascade in their youth, pushing past boulders, carving out eddies, re-shaping their pools but always ending up in the great oblivion of sea.

I loved nature, aesthetic and colourful beauty but learnt through Seasons Songs that I was really observing a war. A bare-knuckle fight to survive without conscience or prisoners.

Those creatures that you caught and killed, for fun. Observing the suffering and bringing death to life on paper, like the paw prints of a fox on the snowy page. You loved, deeply and passionately, in the madness of the literary world and lost. There were Wolves howling in the night. A troubled and tempestuous woman who desired you deeply but shared the mad intensity of a creative mind. You had an affair and lost again. She craved marriage, but you declined and she died by the same fatal means. Relationships seemingly full of grief, sorrow and anger. Then many years later, one of your sons took his life too. The genes of deepness, doubts and depression. Mind-skies thick with brooding thoughts, inescapable heaviness. I read that he even looked troubled at the age of one.

You set words loose into the hills and skies and they still hang, like floating birds of prey, ever present. Scattered thoughts like wheeling skylarks. Sometimes the gritstones even speak your words in the restlessness of wind on high ground. Remembered in the drum beat of relentless rain, they haunt the wild country and the wet, stony paths I sometimes tread. There is no currency or material wealth here that can save any of us.

So through rampant and irrepressible youth, running to the exuberance of Beethoven’s sixth symphony, wild and wide-eyed, time motions us all forward. From the small sloping streets of West Yorkshire that mimic the slanting of the rain, to fame. But in the end, there is always an end. We die knowing so little in our very small slice of history. Yours was heart failure and mine has yet to come. Yet I will fight on whilst I have legs that can climb, eyes that can register both beauty and destruction, a mind that still wonders.

Still wandering the land that you wrote of and that will outlive me, I found your memorial stone. Surrounded by sodden grass, lying, etched with lichen deep within Dartmoor. The only symphony playing was the driving rain and impatient galloping of wind-hooves across the moor. It seemed fitting and is what you wanted. Leaving the landscape to have the last word.

“Matthew has written since an early age and recently published ‘Beginnings’, a collection of his more recent poetry. Drawing inspiration from the countryside
his work explores the wildlife and wonders of the natural world. Matthew moved to Lincolnshire eight years ago and attends writing groups in Sleaford, Lincoln and Stamford. He also qualified as a Hill & Moorland Leader earlier this year”

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