The county of Yorkshire is one of unparalleled natural beauty, so it is no wonder that it has inspired some of the British Isles best poets over the years. Plus, poets just love walking – as it gives them tranquillity and time for reflection – and Yorkshire has some of the most famous and scenic trails in the country. So dear reader, it’s time to fall upon our way and see what this fairest blogger had to say, about the greatest poets of Yorkshire from ancient to the modern day.
‘The convenience of the high trees!
The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth’s face upward for my inspection.
My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather’
Such were the lines that can be considered as a framing style for the poet; and as we all know, the poetics are shaped by the experience and lives that were led. Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, near Halifax in West Yorkshire, in 1930. He would go on to become one of the 20th century’s most important English poets. Regularly listed in top lists of English writers, Hughes served as poet laureate from 1984 until 1998. He is also remembered for his marriage to celebrated American poet, Sylvia Plath, who moved to Yorkshire and is now buried in the nearby town of Hebden.
Hughes’ poetry is enveloped in the spirit of the Yorkshire landscape for much of his early work. His first published poem, Thought Fox, from the collection Hawk in the Rain is heavily indebted to the wild natural landscape in which he grew up. Indeed you can hire local tours to visit all the places Ted wrote about in his early poetry, viscerally feeling each stump and hollow among the widening greenness. A true Yorkshire legend and one whose words will echo through British society as long as it lasts.
One of the most accomplished poets of the modern era, Simon Armitage is also a Yorkshire local. A man of many literary talents, as a poet, playwright and novelist, he still stresses his Yorkshire roots in many of his poems. Born in Huddersfield in 1963, he has been a lifelong fan of their football team ever since.
Recently, Armitage (in collaboration with the Arts Council) carved several stanzas of his poetry onto secluded rock faces among the Yorkshire moors. Such a stunt is typical of the earthy but transgressive nature of his poetry. He even wrote a collection based upon his walking of the Pennine Way – done in the opposite way to the traditional run of course. “The moors can be dangerous. People go up there, get lost and don’t come back” he said this year, “But they are also enticing and beguiling spaces, pages waiting to be written.
Many lines of Armitage’s poetry will be familiar to GCSE students up and down the country, as his lively and contemporary style featuring working class Yorkshire roots, can resonate profoundly with younger minds. Narrowly missing out on the title of Poet Laureate to Carol Anne Duffy must have hurt, but Armitage can still take pride in knowing he will forever be one of Yorkshire’s most celebrated poets.