Ted Hughes On Thinking

Editor of The Psychologist and man about town, Jon Sutton, just sent me a fantastic monologue by poet Ted Hughes on the experience of thinking.

I’ve uploaded the piece to YouTube where you can hear Hughes’ remarkable analysis in his own characteristic voice.

The piece is almost nine minutes long but in this part Hughes describes what psychologists would now call metacognition.

There is the inner life of thought which is our world of final reality. The world of memory, emotion, feeling, imagination, intelligence and natural common sense, and which goes on all the time consciously or unconsciously like the heartbeat.

There is also the thinking process by which we break into that inner life and capture answers and evidence to support the answers out of it.

And that process of raid, or persuasion, or ambush, or dogged hunting, or surrender, is the kind of thinking we have to learn, and if we don’t somehow learn it, then our minds line us like the fish in the pond of a man who can’t fish.

I have tried to find the origin of the piece but have come up with nothing and Jon says he originally recorded it from Jarvis Cocker’s BBC 6music show but has no more details.

If you know any more about the piece, do add a note in the comments.

Link to Ted Hughes ‘On Thinking’ (massive thanks @jonmsutton).


  1. David Mackinder
    Posted October 31, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s from a radio series called Listening and Writing, which became his book Poetry in the Making. See http://shop.bl.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/BritishLibrary/ISBN_9780712305549 for more details

  2. Posted November 1, 2010 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    David is correct. I have a copy of that book and the passage you quote is in Chapter 4, “Learning to Think.” Apparently the radio series was for children, and the writing reflects that, but it’s very clear brilliantly argued, and not patronizing. Thank you for bringing this to our attention! I’m going to read it tonight & try to listen soon.

  3. Posted November 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Great monologue, but video is cut off from the middle of the poem.

  4. Tom
    Posted November 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    It cuts off right in the middle of the most captivating part. Great find though.

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