In this week's Poetry on Air, we will pay a tribute to Ted Hughes, the British Poet Laureate who died recently. The programme will be broadcast on RTHK Radio 4 at 10.05 am today, repeated at 6.30 pm tomorrow. The 'Poet Laureate' is the most honoured living poet in Britain, who may be asked to write poetry for great public occasions. Hughes was a powerful, original poet, who drew much of his inspiration from nature, particularly animals. Hughes' poetry brings animals vividly to life, even as frightening creatures. These animals also have an extra dimension, representing aspects of human nature which are often repressed or denied. In this programme, we will read and discuss one of Hughes' most famous poems, The Thought-Fox. Hughes has read this poem aloud, on film and on tape, and talked about how it came to be written, and what it means. From his own accounts, it's clear the origin of a poem has more than one source, and that the poem itself has different layers of meaning. Imagine yourself sitting next to the writer in his study late at night. He is trying to write, when he realises he is not alone. His room becomes a forest . . . I imagine this midnight moment's forest: Something else is alive Beside the clock's loneliness And this blank page where my fingers move. Through the window I see no star: Something more near Though deeper within dark ness Is entering the loneliness: Cold, delicately as the dark snow A fox's nose touches twig, leaf; Two eyes serve a movement, that now And again now, and now, and now Sets neat prints into the snow Between trees, and warily a lame Shadow lags by stump and in hollow Of a body that is bold to come Across clearings, an eye, A widening deepening green ness, Brilliantly, concentratedly, Coming about its own business Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox It enters the dark hole of the head. The window is starless still; the clock ticks, The page is printed. The physical details of the fox - its nose, its eyes, its movement, even its smell - are very real. Yet this is a 'thought-fox'; it comes to the poet in his study at night, as he sits trying to write. The fox's paws make 'neat prints' in the snow of the imaginary forest - and after his visit, 'the page is printed'. Does the fox symbolise poetic inspiration? Perhaps - and yet the poem resists a tidy interpretation. Hughes himself commented that the 'thought-fox', unlike a real fox, would not die: 'long after I am gone, as long as a copy of the poem exists, every time anyone reads it, the fox will get up somewhere out of the darkness and come walking towards them.' REFERENCES: Ted Hughes. Selected Poems 1957 - 1981. London: Faber, 1982. Poetry in the Making. London: Faber, 1976. Videotape: Five Poems by Ted Hughes, Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1992. This is an edited version of the programme.