Study Guide

Wind

By Ted Hughes

Wind Introduction

Mercifully, the poem "Wind" is not a six-verse ode to having gas, or an extended euphemism for a fart. So you can quit your giggling right now. Or… can you?

Yes—yes, you can. Actually, we should feel stupid for even thinking that this joke would make you more likely to read the poem. The truth is that this poem's not about "breaking wind," but it is about a wind that breaks things. Beyond that, though, this is just a normal, everyday wind—you know, the kind that blows your hair back as you stand on the beach in a commercial for coconut water.

"Wind" is one of the centerpieces of Ted Hughes's first book of poems, The Hawk in the Rain, published in 1957. When it was published, W.H. Auden said, "Woah! If this poetry book were mashed potatoes—I wouldn't be getting seconds, I'd be getting thirds!"

Okay, so he didn't actually say that (but he could have thought it). However, he was one of the judges who did give it first prize in a competition that allowed it to get published by Harper and Row. Ol' Teddy Hughes was ready for the big time. He went on to have an illustrious career—though one partly fraught with controversy, after the suicide of Hughes's wife, the famous poet Sylvia Plath.

"Wind" bears the characteristic markings of Hughes, one of the most famous and respected British poets of the second half of the twentieth century. It fits in with his other classic nature poems—intensely observed, with a sense of the otherness, power, majesty, wildness, bleakness, and the indifference of the natural world.

What is Wind About and Why Should I Care?

Chances are, you've experienced the wind at some point. But, just in case you think you haven't, allow us to explain: if you've ever been walking down the street and suddenly felt like the air was moving around you, knocking the ice cream cone out of your hands and leaving it smashed and melting on the ground, splattering chocolatey gooey drops all over you—we can assure you that there was just a limited cause for concern. You were just hit by a gust of "wind." Yep, it's a very common, natural phenomenon. If you happen to be living on some windless planet somewhere, you're just going to have to trust us on this one.

In Ted Hughes's poem "Wind," the dude really goes bananas over this stuff. We're not saying he loves wind—at least, he doesn't love love it—but he's pretty strongly affected by it. He's awed and inspired. The wind in Hughes' poem is pretty intense. It makes stones scream, dents eyeballs, and hits magpies, among other things.

But what's the point? Why sit around describing wind in a poem? Why is Hughes getting his jollies this way? Maybe by seeing the metaphors hidden in the wind, Hughes is actually realizing more about the wind, and about what it really signifies or means, than someone who just says, "Oh, it's windy today. Blargh." By meditating on Nature and its deeper metaphors, Hughes learns to see what's really there. He's not just spraying a layer of poetic talk over reality—he's getting at the truth, the really… um, real reality.

In a way, "Wind" is a case study in what poets (well, most poets) do. They look at the world and see the different levels of meaning hidden in it—the different images and correspondences evoked by a single object or a single event. To use a metaphor of our own, the wind isn't just a flat tortilla—it's a burrito of meaning, packed with savory, unexpected metaphors and doused in a spicy secret sauce of world knowledge.

Wind Resources

Websites

Brief Bio, with Poems
The American Academy of Poets pays homage to the great Hughes with this brief biography and sampling of poetry.

Another Bio, with More Poems
Here's Ted Hughes, brought to you by The Poetry Foundation (which is really the same thing as Poetry Magazine—the most storied poetry magazine in America, probably). You get a peek at his life and some poetry, especially poems of his that were actually published in Poetry.

Video

"Wind"—Reading and Short Film
Literature Today UK presents you with a reading and short film interpreting "Wind." In this version, the speaker is definitely a middle-aged adult.

Tribute to Ted
Here's a smattering of Ted Hughes sound-bites and interviews, including a weird dream about a badly burned fox man.

Seamus Heaney Speaks for Ted Hughes
Hughes's old friend, Seamus Heaney, speaks while a memorial is dedicated to Ted Hughes at the Poet's Corner at Westminster Abbey.

Audio

Ted Hughes Reads "Wind"
Here's the man himself, with his Yorkshire accent, reading the poem itself. Check it.

Ted Hughes "On Thinking"
Ted Hughes tries to explain how poets think in this fascinating monologue.

Images

Ted Hughes
This was what Ted Hughes looked like—a distinguished poet-dude.

Ted Hughes' Birthplace
This is the place where Ted Hughes was born, out in Yorkshire.

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath
Here's the doomed couple, in happier times.

The Calder Valley, Yorkshire
This may or may not be where the action of the poem is set. It's the place in Yorkshire where the young Hughes grew up.

A Magpie
In case you were wondering what a magpie looks like, specifically… it looks like this.

A Black-Backed Gull
This is a black-backed gull—a pretty straightforward, classic-looking kind of gull in our opinion.

Articles and Interviews

The Paris Review Interview of Ted Hughes
A esteemed hotbed of literati, The Paris Review, goes deep with Ted Hughes.

"Ted Hughes Was Haunted by Sylvia Plath's Suicide" from The Daily Mail
This is but one perspective on the tragic Hughes-Plath marriage—a major subject of literary controversy even today.

"Sylvia Plath: 50 Years Later and the Same Bitter Arguments Rage On"
This argument gives a fairly comprehensive run-down of the Plath-Hughes controversy.

Books

Ted Hughes' Collected Poems
This is the collection you need if you love Ted Hughes. If you're to Ted Hughes what Spike Lee is to the Knicks (their number one fan), then this is the Ted Hughes volume for you.

Ted Hughes' Selected Poems: 1957-1994
If you're daunted by the Collected Poems, why not try these on for size? There's still a lot in here.

Crow by Ted Hughes
One of Hughes' most famous works, Crow traces the dark adventures and doings of its mythological protagonist, a crow (named Crow).

The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes
This was Ted Hughes first book—a prize-winning volume that included "Wind."

The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes
Originally titled The Iron Man, this is Hughes' children's book about a giant iron man-machine who tries to save the world. It was later adapted into a hit movie.