William Welstead
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Competing narratives on the farm and in poetry
Ted Hughes and Kay Syrad
in Writing on sheep
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In Chapter 7 poems from two poets are read, against their very different experience on sheep farms: one as an owner-occupier in Devon and the other as a writer in residence on three farms in Dorset. By the time Ted Hughes acquired Moortown Farm in Devon, which he farmed jointly with his father-in-law, he had already developed his ideas about how to treat animals in his poetry. This chapter considers how domesticated animals fit into his literary practice. The case is made for Hughes to be seen as having a primary influence in the animal turn in the humanities, in a way that complements his importance in wider ecological literary criticism. In 2014 poet Kay Syrad and sculptor Chris Drury were ‘embedded’ on three organic farms in Dorset. Kay Syrad has ‘crafted a narrative which witnesses what it is to be a farmer’ through her own poetry and recorded interviews with the farmers. The chapter reads this poetry and prose from the viewpoint of the animal turn. It also explores the very different narratives and values deployed by Hughes during what he saw as a fundamental shift in Devon farming, and those of contemporary organic and naturalistic farming practice.

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Writing on sheep

Ecology, the animal turn and sheep in poetry


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