The stone in the abbey floor, to be unveiled Tuesday evening, is next to one honoring T.S. Eliot, Hughes‘ mentor and publisher.
Hughes‘ stone is inscribed with his name and words from “That Morning,” one of his “River” poems: “So we found the end of our journey / So we stood alive in the river of light / Among the creatures of light, creatures of light.”
Hughes died of cancer in 1998, months after publishing “Birthday Letters,” a powerful collection reflecting on his troubled first marriage to the poet Sylvia Plath. Plath killed herself in 1963, after the couple had separated. A letter Hughes wrote to her in 1956 was chosen as one of the readings for the ceremony.
Hughes was born Aug. 17, 1930, in the mill town of Mytholmroyd in Yorkshire, northern England.
“Hawk in the Rain,” his first volume of poetry published in 1957, immediately established him as one of the most interesting of Britain’s young poets. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984.
Hughes described the collection as “a gathering of the occasions _ written with no plan over about 25 years _ in which I tried to open a direct, private, inner contact with my first wife, not thinking to make a poem, thinking mainly to evoke her presence to myself and to feel her there listening.”
Hughes joins 111 writers memorialized in Poets’ Corner in the area where Geoffrey Chaucer was buried in 1400 _ not because he wrote “The Canterbury Tales,” but because he was Clerk of the Works at the nearby Palace of Westminster, now almost entirely rebuilt.
A magnificent tomb for Chaucer was installed around 1550, and the poet Edmund Spenser, author of “The Fairie Queene,” was buried nearby in 1599, establishing a tradition.
Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield and Alfred Lord Tennyson are among the writers buried in the Abbey.
Many more are honored with tablets and other memorials, often placed there long after death. Shakespeare was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1616, and no memorial was placed in Poets’ Corner until 1740. Lord Byron died in 1824 but, because of his scandalous lifestyle, wasn’t honored until 1969.
By John Solomon
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