Roger Elkin: Cross-pollination: Root, Stem, Leaf

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Discussing what he terms the “cross-pollination” of poems within the various collections, Paul Keegan in the Preface to Ted Hughes, Collected Poems (2003) writes,

Several texts of a Hughes poem often coexist in print, depending on whether it is encountered in its original setting, or in the changed context of a later collection, or in one of his several selections of his poetry. (p. ix)

Such is the case of three individual poems – A Match; On The Slope and To Be A Girl’s Diary – which originally appeared in Hughes’s third collection, the limited edition Recklings (1966, pp. 27; 7; and 30, respectively).[1] Their later “trade” appearances in that order but with minor modifications in phraseology, punctuation and lineation were as Parts I–III of Root, Stem, Leaf first published in the USA edition of Wodwo (1967, pp. 32–33) where they replaced the original UK poem, Logos. Subsequent appearances with slight changes but under the same composite tri-partite title and without any reference to their Recklings provenance were in

  1. the Wodwo section of Selected Poems, 1957–1967, (UK, 1972, pp. 72–73) though they had not appeared in the UK edition of Wodwo (1967);
  2. the USA Selected Poems, 1957–1967 edition, (1972, pp. 70–71); and
  3. Selected Poems 1957–1981, (UK, 1982, pp. 76–77).

Though Root, Stem, Leaf was omitted from New Selected Poems, 1957–1994, (1995), A Match appears in the latter’s Recklings selection, p. 52; while in The Collected Poems (2003) all three poems appear in their original Recklings form and sequential position, even though On The Slope had made a further cross-pollination appearance in the Remains of Elmet section of Three Books, (1993, p. 43).

This paper seeks to explore these three poems as individual works; their relationship with each other; their influences and cross-pollinations; what is gained by their tripartite grouping; their relationship with the displaced Logos poem, which also appeared in Recklings (p. 39), albeit with slight textual discrepancies from the subsequent Wodwo version; and how they relate to Hughes’s poetry of the period, and beyond.


[1] Ted Hughes, Recklings, (Turret Books, 1966), printed in a limited edition of 150 copies.

About the Author
Roger Elkin

Roger Elkin contributed the essays "Hidden Influences in the Poetry of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes" and "Ted Hughes and 'A Separate Little Self'" to this site.

His contribution "Breaking Ground: The Uncollected Recklings Poems" was published in Lire Ted Hughes: New Selected Poems 1957-1994 and his "Neglected Auguries in Recklings" was published in The Challenge of Ted Hughes.

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