Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Hughes was named poet laureate of England in 1984. The vast bulk of his work is poetry, although he has written many critical essays, stories, and radio scripts, as well as works for children. In interviews with Ekbert Faas, Hughes commented on his poetic style. He believed that art should spring from “an immersion into the innermost core of the mind.” Meditation and concentration techniques practiced by Eastern religions aid in this artistic process. “Snow” is not only a probable result of this style; it also reveals the style at work in the innermost core of the survivor’s mind as he attempts to fix his mind, concentrate, and “repeat that, repeat it like the Buddhists with their ’O jewel of the lotus.’ Repeat it till it repeats itself in my very heart, till every heartbeat drives it through my whole body.”

The poet should also, Hughes believed, imaginatively enter his subject with all of his senses: “touch it, smell it, listen to it, turn [himself] into it” so that the images, rhythms, and words all “jump to life as you read them.” Even though the reader is inside the mind of the survivor, “Snow” is not abstract, but primarily concrete, visual, audible, and sensual, with simple, direct nouns, verbs, and occasional descriptors. When he is far from his chair, the narrator recalls, “Then my heart begins to thump unnaturally, because I seem to make out a dimness, a shadow that wavers deep in the grey turmoil, vanishes and darkens, rises and falls.” This achieves what Hughes says he aimed at in a later volume of verse, “a super-simple and a super-ugly language that would in a way shed everything except what [the survivor] wanted to say.” No word is wasted in these simple sentences, yet every image resonates at physical and metaphysical levels. The chair predicates the universe. The energy necessary for survival pulses with poetic rhythm and repetition from the words of this powerful short story.