Study Guide

Big Poppy Sex

By Ted Hughes

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Hello, sensual thematics! Between the flower and the bee in "Big Poppy," we have ourselves a couple. This is kind of a strange thing – after all, a flower and a bee can't mate, and this is no Discovery Channel special. So what's the deal with the whole bee-in-flower business? Well for one, it is biological. Bees climb up into flowers all the time to gather pollen and the like. Also, as far as we know, flowers (even when the male and female parts aren't on the same plant, as is the case with plants such as holly bushes) don't actually get together to reproduce. They do things like release pollen into the air and make us sneeze. The picture we see in "Big Poppy" is far more intimate. This theme is also closely related to the poppy-as-woman theme, as it positions women as intensely sexual beings, wild and almost unaware of the power that they have.

Questions About Sex

  1. What kind of sexual being is the bee in this poem? Purposeful? Ignorant? Both? How can you tell?
  2. Similarly, what kind of sexual being is the poppy?
  3. How is the poppy's center (i.e., its "eye") made sensual in this poem? What kind of effect does that have?
  4. How are sex and death related in this poem?

Chew on This

By focusing heavily on the sexual nature of pollination in this poem, "Big Poppy" highlights the profundity of nature in the summertime.

The poppy's sexuality in this poem is almost contradictory in nature – the poppy is aggressive in its display, but passive in terms of the actual act of pollination.

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