Module 2

The Thought Fox - Ted Hughes

I imagine this midnight moment's forest:

Something else is alive

Beside the clock's loneliness

And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:

Something more near

Though deeper within darkness

Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,

A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;

Two eyes serve a movement, that now

And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow

Between trees, and warily a lame

Shadow lags by stump and in hollow

Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,

A widening deepening greenness,

Brilliantly, concentratedly,

Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox

It enters the dark hole of the head.

The window is starless still; the clock ticks,

The page is printed.

The Thought Fox - Summary

The fox is described in terms of its nose, its eyes, its paws leaving prints in the snow (the whiteness of the snow similar to the blankness of the white page in front of the poet), suggesting that the poet’s imagining of the creature is coming in partial details, much as inspiration often arrives gradually though vividly.

The poem ends with the whole fox becoming fully formed in the poet’s mind’s eye – or rather not just his eye but his nose too (‘sudden sharp hot stink of fox’). The poet successfully writes his poem, as if printing his words across the white page is simply a case of mirroring the paw-prints of the animal across the snow. The window remains ‘starless’: old-fashioned and clichéd poetic tropes were not required here. The poem is written – as, indeed, ‘The Thought-Fox’, a truly meta-poem, is now complete.

‘The Thought-Fox’: context and origins

Curiously, the poem had its origins in one of the most significant events of Hughes’s young life. While he was studying English at the University of Cambridge, Hughes found that studying poetry was having a deleterious effect on his own poetry: he was writing virtually no new poetry, because he felt suffocated by the ‘terrible, suffocating, maternal octopus’ of literary tradition.

The Thought Fox - Presentation

The Thought Fox - Q & A

What is the main idea of the thought Fox poem?

The poem metaphorically depicts artistic inspiration as a fox—mysterious, twitchy, and unpredictable—that moves slyly through the darkness of the imagination. Through this metaphor, the poem shows that writing requires patience, concentration, instinct, and a bit of luck.

What is the tone of the thought Fox?

The physical setting of the poem in a dark forest and the slow revelation of the fox together create a tone of great suspense and mystery. Furthermore, the imagery of "the dark hole of the head" adds a grotesque element but also indicates that this poem has been largely introspective.

Why did Ted Hughes use the Fox as the poetic impulse?

Ted Hughes chose to use the fox as the poetic impulse because it was a creature close to his heart, a symbolic guide. The flow and rhythm of the latter part of the poem capture the silky movements, the light measured skips, the quick trot of the now lively fox

Poetry - Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond

all this fiddle.

Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one

discovers that there is in

it after all, a place for the genuine.

Hands that can grasp, eyes

that can dilate, hair that can rise

if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because

they are

useful; when they become so derivative as to become

unintelligible, the

same thing may be said for all of us—that we

do not admire what

we cannot understand. The bat,

holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless

wolf under

a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse

that feels a flea, the base-

ball fan, the statistician—case after case

could be cited did

one wish it; nor is it valid

to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must

make a distinction

however: when dragged into prominence by half poets,

the result is not poetry,

nor till the autocrats among us can be

“literalists of

the imagination”—above

insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them,

shall we have

it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance

of their opinion—

the raw material of poetry in

all its rawness, and

that which is on the other hand,

genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

Poetry Marianne Moore - Summary

Marianne Moore was a modernist poet, critic, translator and editor. Her poetry is characterized by linguistic precision, acute observation, meditative analysis and philosophical reflection. Her poem titled “Poetry” is one of Moore’s best-known and most discussed poems. It is an investigation into the mysterious art of poetry. Moore reworked on this poem several times and brought out several versions of it. The poem is best known for the shocking first line, in which Moore states that she dislikes poetry. She says that there are many more important things than such nonsense. Even if one reads poetry with “contempt” one might discover something genuine in it. A genuine poetry makes one feel grasping it, his eyes become dilated and the hair rises. These happen not because of the fancy interpretations one can build on them but because they are useful. People tend not to like things they do not understand. They reject it when they are imitative or which are beyond their intelligence. She gives examples of things that are rich and vital, such as a bat hanging upside down, an elephant pushing, a rolling horse, and a tireless wolf under a tree. All these are images of animals engaged in very natural acts. Moore is also known for using animals in her work. Having just decried most poetry as being unintelligible, the poem's speaker argues in favour of using subjects that can easily be understood, which turns out to be animals. Moore's choice of animals and their actions also convey a sense of restlessness to the reader. The reader may feel the speaker's eagerness to move beyond bad poetry and into the good. Immediately after listing the names of animals, she lists a few people - the "immovable critic," who is compared to a horse bothered by fleas, a sports fan, and a statistician. These are just a few examples of "case after case" that could be cited in poetry. All are equally valid and interesting. She quotes from the diaries of Tolstoy. Tolstoy wrote that poetry is verse, prose is not verse. And poetry is everything with the exception of business documents and school books. But Moore says that even the most ordinary pieces of text like business documents and textbooks should not be discriminated against the topic of poetry.There should be a distinction made between good poetry and bad poetry. Just writing about the above mentioned things does not constitute genuine poetry. Any subject, the speaker argues, can make a good poem as long as the poem is written by a real poet, not a "half poet." When “half poets'' write of these subjects, they remain trivial; they have not captured the essence of these things. The speaker also states that good poetry will not exist until the "autocrats'' (the supposed authorities who determine what makes "good" poetry), become "literalists of the imagination." The expression "literalists of the imagination" is taken from Yeats which means those who make imagination as important as the natural world. That is there isn't any difference between the products of the imagination and reality. When these poets can finally give us “imaginary gardens with real toads in them,” then it will be real poetry. If you defy the half poets and demand poetry consisting of “raw material” and "genuine feeling, firmly rooted in real, everyday phenomena, you can officially be deemed “interested in poetry.” The tone of the poem is like a casual conversation. The poet openly expresses her dislike of poetry. The poet is not actually against poetry as the initial lines indicate. She is indeed of the view that poetry is of such influence and has a substance that someone who is not fond of poetry will also be able to appreciate it. She tries to make a distinction between good poets and half poets and the components of good poetry. The conversational tone is best to convey her thoughts to the readers. Moore's concise language and stanza-long sentences can obscure the poem's meaning during an initial reading. But behind the complexity of language is a simple message

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