Originally the medieval bestiary or book of animals set out to
establish safe distinctions - between them and us - but Hughes'
poetry works always in a contrary direction: showing what man and
beast have in common, the reservoir from which we all draw. Alice
Oswald's selection is arranged chronologically, with an eye to
different books and styles, but equally to those poems that embody
animals, rather than just describe them. Some poems are here
because, although not strictly speaking animal, they become so in
the process of writing; and in keeping with the bestiary tradition
there are plenty of imaginary animals - all concentratedly coming
about their business. The resulting selection is subtly responsive
to a central aspect of Hughes' achievement, while offering room to
some wonderful overlooked poems, and to 'those that have the
Faber and Faber Poetry
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