Heaney calls for Poets' Corner honour for Hughes


UNITED FOR decades with Ted Hughes in friendship, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney is backing discreet efforts to win a place for Hughes in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner - poetry's holiest of holies.

Describing Hughes as "the inheritor of the land and language of Shakespeare", Heaney last night told The Irish Timesthat he was happy to support the efforts because Hughes "was the finest English poet since Tennyson.

"His place in English poetry is secure. He doesn't need to be in Poets' Corner for that. But for him to be at the centre in a king's burial place would be entirely fitting. The language he used had a direct link back to Saxon times," he said.

While poet laureate, Hughes did not "see himself being involved with the Windsors, it was a link that went right back to the first poet laureate, John Skelton, in Tudor times," Heaney said.

In November 1998 the Derry poet spoke at the funeral service for Hughes, with whom he co-operated on two anthologies, The Rattle Bagand The School Bag,in the latter's home village of North Tawton in Devon. In his tribute Heaney said: "No death outside my immediate family has left me feeling more bereft. No death in my lifetime has hurt poets more. He was a tower of tenderness and strength, a great arch under which the least of poetry's children could enter and feel secure. His creative powers were, as Shakespeare said, still crescent. By his death, the veil of poetry is rent and the walls of learning broken."

The campaign also has the support of other literary figures such as Lord Melvyn Bragg, and has the approval of the late poet's widow Carol, his daughter Frieda and his sister Olwyn.

The final decision lies in the hands of the Dean of Westminster, Very Rev John Hall. If granted a plaque would be erected in the abbey, although Hughes's ashes would not be interred there.

Regarded as one of the finest poets of his time, Hughes was poet laureate from 1984 until his death. However, he is probably best known outside of his poetry for his marriage to American poet Sylvia Plath, who killed herself in 1963.