Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Gaudete


Before I signed up for the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, April was always associated in my mind with National Poetry Month. It still is, just now with a little twist. So in order to honor one of my favorite months and subjects, I’m dedicating the letter G to the next of my keeper books: Gaudete by Ted Hughes. 

Gaudete was another purchase from Foyle’s of London, and to be honest when I bought it all I knew about Hughes was that he had been married to Sylvia Plath. I had no idea what his work would be like, but the cover, a creepy pen-and-ink drawing of a giant screaming head by Leonard Baskin, caught my imagination and wouldn't let go. When I read the back cover, I was fascinated to learn that the text had originally been written as a film scenario, and that may be one of the reasons I ended up reading it over and over.

When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do when no one was looking was to watch English black-and-white horror movies, especially the ones set in sinister villages where it turns out the headmaster of the local school is leading a coven of witches, or the neighbors regularly sacrifice newcomers on Midsummer’s Eve. I loved the way the hoity-toity villagers sped around in open-top sports cars, the gentlemens' ties flying in the wind, or the ladies' silk scarves protecting those beehive hairdos. When they met for afternoon tea to plot their next evil deed, my main thought was not "how awful," but, "Wow--just look at that Royal Doulton. And that Tudor oak wainscoting. I HAVE to go there one day!"

Gaudete is straight out of this traditional very British and very proper horror vein, with plenty of humor directed toward the genre to make it even whackier. A dark and, yes, philosophical, tale of changelings and elementals and overgrown hedgerows, it’s a real page turner, and some of the best and most accessible poetry you’ll ever read. It's a keeper!

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