The publication last week of the letters of Ted Hughes has left critics crackling with excitement. Revealing, intimate, often generous, sometimes bleak, they catch the mind of a poet in the process of creation, bewildered and lost in the wreckage of his ill-starred relationships with Sylvia Plath and Assia Wevill - or offering young students advice on poetry or life. But one aspect of Hughes's life, which inspired his poetry and engaged his hunger for learning, is missing - his deep love of nature and concern for the environment. Despite the yards of shelf space devoted to Hughes's complex personal life in memoirs, biographies and criticism, despite the popularity of nature writers such as Roger Deakin, Robert Macfarlane and Kathleen Jamie, Hughes's environmental activism and his prophetic insight into the consequences of consumerism have been almost entirely overlooked. It's a shame because these were essential to the man and the poet, and because so many of his hunches about what the future held are coming true.
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