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Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow (Faber Library)
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The Monday Poem > Seasonal Poet April - June 2016: Ted Hughes "Crow"

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message 1: by Jenny (last edited Mar 15, 2016 02:46AM) (new) - added it

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Our next seasonal poet for the months of April until June will be Ted Hughes (1930 – 1998) an English poet, playwright, translator and children's book author who is considered one of the most important poets of his generation, won numerous awards and served as Poet Laureate from 1984 until his death.
Though many people will know him for his literary work, many people know him as a controversial figure first and foremost. He was married to American poet Sylvia Plath from 1956 until her suicide in 1963. His part in the relationship was controversially debated by many, he was publicly shamed by feminists and American admirers of Plath. His last poetic work, Birthday Letters (1998), explored their complex relationship.
Though I think exploring their relationship through their work and their influences on each others poetry will be fascinating, we thought it would be nice to meet Ted Hughes the poet outside of this context first.

We will focus on what he himself once considered his masterpiece: Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow. As always with our seasonal poets, we highly encourage you to read any other of his collections alongside or instead and discuss his poetry here with us.

from the Ted Hughes Society:

Crow holds a uniquely important place in Hughes oeuvre. It heralds the ambitious second phase of his work, lasting roughly from the late sixties to the late seventies, when he turned from direct engagement with the natural world to unified mythical narratives and sequences. It was his most controversial work: a stylistic experiment which abandoned many of the attractive features of his earlier work, and an ideological challenge to both Christianity and humanism. Hughes wrote Crow, mostly between 1966 and 1969, after a barren period following the death of Sylvia Plath. He looked back on the years of work on Crow as a time of imaginative freedom and creative energy, which he felt that he never subsequently recovered.

Recommended side read: Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, published in 2015, a novella in which both Ted Hughes and Crow appear as characters.

For more information on Ted Hughes here are a few recommended links:

The Basics: Wikipedia Ted Hughes
Wikipedia "Crow"

In Depth: Poetry Foundation Bio Ted Hughes
Ted Hughes Society

Recommended Reading: The Art of Poetry - Ted Hughes in Interview with the Paris Review


Leslie | 15985 comments I didn't realize that he had written The Iron Giant (or any children's books!). I saw this while I was perusing my library system's holdings of books by Hughes.


Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Leslie wrote: "I didn't realize that he had written The Iron Giant (or any children's books!). I saw this while I was perusing my library system's holdings of books by Hughes."

I enjoyed that one Leslie! I read that he wrote it to comfort his children after Plath's death. In any case, I find it an endearing little book.

And yes, he was quite prolific, a plethora of works - plays, translations, poetry, essays, children's books - quite a lot!


message 4: by Shashi (last edited Mar 23, 2016 06:30AM) (new)

Shashi He was probably the earliest one from USA to write Haiku like poetry which I love to read and like to write a lot.

Looking forward to reading Crow.
Cheers!!!
___
Shashi
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya


message 5: by Jenny (new) - added it

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Shashi, glad to have you join us. Really looking forward to that one too.
Would you please just alter your post so that it's in line with our no-self-promotion policy? Thank you!


message 6: by Shashi (new)

Shashi Jenny wrote: "Shashi, glad to have you join us. Really looking forward to that one too.
Would you please just alter your post so that it's in line with our no-self-promotion policy? Thank you!"


Will do that, sorry I was not aware, my fault that I did not read the policy of Do's and Don'ts on the group.

Cheers!!!
___
Shashi
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya


message 7: by Jenny (new) - added it

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments No worries Shashi.


Gill | 5720 comments I've read the first 11 poems in Crow now. I think mine is a later edition, because it includes 7 additional poems. I've reached one that appeals to me. It's 'Crow hears fate knock on the door', one of the additional poems.

I'm finding these poems quite hard to engage with and to understand, but at this stage I'm reluctant to read extra information about them. I've decided that I'm going to read to the end of the book before I look at any extra information. I can always go back and start again after that.


Pink I found this collection quite hard to connect to, most of it went over my head. I much preferred Birthday Letters, which was a far easier read and more emotionally impactful.


message 10: by Gill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I've finished Crow now, and didn't like it much at all. Which is saying something, given I read such a wide range of poems and poets.

I'll look at other work by him; I enjoyed Birthday Letters when it was published, so am optimistic I'll find other things I like,


message 11: by Greg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Gill wrote: "I've finished Crow now, and didn't like it much at all. Which is saying something, given I read such a wide range of poems and poets.

I'll look at other work by him; I enjoyed Birthday Letters wh..."


I have Tales from Ovid: 24 Passages from the Metamorphoses translated by Hughes, and that one is fairly accessible. I like the directness of it. I wouldn't say it's stunning, but it's a good translation.

My copy of Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow is still in the mail for a while; I'll let you know what I think when it eventually gets here. I'm impatiently waiting ... and waiting. :)


message 12: by Jenny (new) - added it

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I am really sorry to hear Gill, I haven't started yet myself, but I will at the end of the month. It seemed interesting as Hughes himself and critics consider it his masterpiece, and it gives a chance to look at Hughes not in the direct context of Plath (otherwise the Birthday Letters would have been the go-to choice) but critics and readers often disagree I guess.
Can you tell a bit about why you didn't like it? Is it much different to other poems you've read by him?


message 13: by Gill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I found the language harsh, and I'm not really clear what the subject matter meant. I didn't find enough to relate to, Jenny. I'll have a read around it, to see if that helps. I think all I've really read before are Birthday Letters, but there may have been some odd other ones.

Greg, I'll see if I can get hold of those.


message 14: by Jenny (last edited Apr 05, 2016 09:18AM) (new) - added it

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments I just realized that my library also has the Birthday Letters, so I will read this after reading Crow.


message 15: by Jenny (last edited Apr 05, 2016 09:54AM) (new) - added it

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Gill wrote: "I found the language harsh, and I'm not really clear what the subject matter meant. I didn't find enough to relate to, Jenny. I'll have a read around it, to see if that helps. I think all I've real..."

Yes harsh is a word I came across a few times when reading about Crow, I think it's possible quite deliberate two. Apparently it was at first a much larger project. The Hughes Society said it marks the beginning of the second phase of his writing when Hughes turned away from direct engagement with the natural world to unified mythical narratives and sequences Crow was originally meant to be an epic folk-tale of prose poetry.
By the sound of it, it was never quite completed as such, but was reduced to a group a poems, that are linked by a narrative that isn't explicitly told.

I find it really interesting what Hughes lists as influences for Crow. He places it in the tradition of primitive literature, using Trickster mythology, drawing from folktales and oral devices such as repetition.
The other influence Hughes lists is that of contemporary Eastern European poetry, such as that of Miroslav Holub (my favourite discovery of last year thanks to Gill), Zbigniew Herbert, János Pilinszky and above all Vasko Popa, and its witness of the atrocities that defined much of the twentieth century (most of these authors were also translated to English by Hughes)

Does the mention of Miroslav Holub make sense to you after reading Crow Gill?


message 16: by Gill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I've found a good documentary about Ted Hughes on BBC Iplayer

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/...

It's only available for another 16 days.


message 17: by Greg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Gill wrote: "I've found a good documentary about Ted Hughes on BBC Iplayer

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/...

It's only available for another 16 days."


Great Gill! Thanks!! :)


message 18: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink I watched that BBC documentary and thought it was excellent.


message 19: by Jenny (new) - added it

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Thanks Gill!


message 20: by Gill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Jenny wrote: "Gill wrote: "I found the language harsh, and I'm not really clear what the subject matter meant. I didn't find enough to relate to, Jenny. I'll have a read around it, to see if that helps. I think ..."

I'm still trying to clarify my thoughts, Jenny.


message 21: by Gill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I'm now reading Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. I think it's an extremely good book, and the layout is very, very good.
You need to read Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow before you read this, for it to make sense. So now I'm very pleased to have read Crow!


message 23: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink Thanks for posting about that book Gill, I've got it reserved at the library but they've only just ordered the book. I'm interested in how it relates to Crow, even though like you, I didn't particularly connect with that poetry collection.


message 24: by Noorilhuda (last edited Apr 08, 2016 09:36PM) (new)

Noorilhuda | 185 comments Okay first of all, a confession: I don't like crows, as in the birds. At my mom's place and my own, all they do is eat the seeds of the lovely other birds (doves, mynah, sparrows, bulbul etc.), like garbage, have ugly voices and unattractive faces. They are also too large to be 'birds'. Even the cats don't eat them! And they aren't scared of the 'scarecrow/ plastic bag' trick. A crow in a garden ruins the entire space!


Now to Ted Hughes' Crow:

I liked the following poems and am copy-pasting them here:

Crow and the Sea (which to me felt like going against the impossible and realizing the unsurmountable)

He tried ignoring the sea
But it was bigger than death, just as it was bigger than life.

He tried talking to the sea
But his brain shuttered and his eyes winced from it as from open flame.

He tried sympathy for the sea
But it shouldered him off - as a dead thing shoulders you off.

He tried hating the sea
But instantly felt like a scrutty dry rabbit-dropping on the windy cliff.

He tried just being in the same world as the sea
But his lungs were not deep enough

And his cheery blood banged off it
Like a water-drop off a hot stove.

Finally

He turned his back and he marched away from the sea

As a crucified man cannot move.


Crow's Theology (which is a beautiful poem - 'crow' realizing there are other beings and God is with everyone and against everyone at the same time!)

Crow realized God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.

And he realized that God spoke Crow-
Just existing was His revelation.

But what Loved the stones and spoke stone?
They seemed to exist too.
And what spoke that strange silence
After his clamour of caws faded?

And what loved the shot-pellets
That dribbled from those strung-up mummifying crows?
What spoke the silence of lead?

Crow realized there were two Gods-

One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.



I did not like 'The Harvest Moon' where the description of the moon is more like an afternoon sun than a moon shining at night!

I did not like 'Apple Tragedy' because it once again showed women as vamps, liars and fools.

Didn't understand 'Crow's Fall' - "Up there," he managed,
"Where white is black and black is white, I won."

Baskin's sketches are marvelous.

There's an interview on YouTube of Ted Hughes talking about the Crow collection:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXYMN...


message 25: by Noorilhuda (new)

Noorilhuda | 185 comments In chapter 11 of ‘The Achievement of Ted Hughes’ (edited by Keith Sagar) The Achievement of Ted Hughes, ‘Crow or The Trickster Transformed’, Jarold Ramsey gives in detail what Hughes was trying to do with the Crow poems:

- Hughes has always aimed at sequnetiality in his books; he has noted that most of ‘Lupercal’ is ‘one extended poem about one or two sensations. There are atleast a dozen or fifteen poems in that books which belong organically to each other.’ The following book ‘Wodwo’ he described as a ‘single adventure’......In Crow, one has the sense that the whole book adds up to much more than the sum total of its individual parts.

- It seems clear that Hughes’ protagonist undergoes a radical transformation in the course of the book: beginning as an avowed meddler who has bee created by an opponent of God to ‘show Him up’ in his creation, especially with regard to Man, Crow goes through a progress in which he becomes less and less an adversary of Man, and more and more a humanely vulnerable creature himself, sharing helplessly in the human predicament. There is a kind of formula to be seen in the chief mythic identities that Hughes forces upon Crow in the course of his career: beginning as something akin to the Devil, he becomes a Trickster-Transformer whose Tricks are nasty for Man; later he is identified with Prometheus and other heroes; then he is linked blasphemously of course with Christ; ultimately he seems to be approaching merely human status. Crow’s devilry gives way very quickly after his incarnation to less confident actions and responses: he peers, mopes, weeps, feels helpless, feels sympathy, is appalled, sings ‘trembling‘ and so on. Hughes own remark on this question is definitive: ‘He’s a man to correct man, but of course he’s not a man, he’s a crow: he never does quite become a man.’‘ But we might add, he comes close, too close for Christian comfort.

(btw, I have no idea what ‘Christian comfort’ means)

- Now to the text, with an eye to its ordonance. The first seven pieces contrive in different ways to get Crow born into earthly life..... ‘Lineage’ with its mockery of Biblical genealogies. God begets Nothing, who begets Never, who begets Crow. Here and in the following poem ‘Examination at the Womb Door’ with its mock-catechism emphasising the primacy of death, Crow is none the less portrayed as somehow circumstantially superior to death: ‘But who is stronger than death? Me evidently.’ The world in these poems does belong to Death, yet Crow, having been begotten by Never, lives - like all other Tricksters, he carries on with a kind of brute avidity, much like the human race. Though there is no comfort in asserting mere survival, and indeed no meaning, ‘the evidence’ supports Crow’s assertion, and he passes the exam mysteriously and is sent into life.

- With ‘A Childish Prank’, crow has fully arrived in life and takes up his career as Trickster and Transformer with gusto.....there is a kind of child’s naughty delight in blasphemy in saying forbidden things right under God’s nose; the poem is really a paradigm of Hughes’ sacrilegious use of mythic traditions. God is ‘deus otiosus’ here because following the Zohar and Manichaen lore, he can’t seem to get Man’s and Woman’s souls to enter their waiting bodies. The story of Zohar (There are analogues in the Koran) illustrates the poet’s way with legend.

- In a limited edition of the book published in 1973, with 12 crow-drawings by Leonard Baskin, Hughes does include a poem entitled ‘Crow’s Courtship’, in which following a Talmudic tradition about God’s first botched attempt to create a wife for Adam out of raw material, crow waits impatiently outside the lab as God labours to make him a Frankenstenian bride, and then ruins the wrok by breaking in at ‘the worst moment.’ But even here Crow’s sexuality is untested - apprently Hughes wanted to keep his Trickster simple in this respect, even childish, and thus perhaps a sharper perspective on a dimension of human predicament that I am guessing the peot found to be the most terrible of all.

- After ‘A Childish Prank’, in ‘Crow Alights’ and ‘That Moment’, Hughes commences on an intermittent run of poems that are explicitly prophetic and escatological. Crow, with mounting horror at what he has gotten into, looks ahead to history, to us, from the Creation he is attending. All of God’s teleology.....which in ‘The Moment’ are cancelled apparently by suicide. Typically, the Crow, ‘stronger than death’, surviving at any rate, has to ‘start searching for something to eat’. The implications of this detail are at once macabre and eminently practical - the essence of Crow.

- ‘Crow Hears Fate Knock on the Door’ and ‘Crow Tyrannosaurus’ together depict Man, through the distorting lens of Crow, in his predicament as conscious beast, human animal, their chief predecessor in Hughes’ early poetry is ‘Wodwo’. As in that unforgettable poem, so here, the view of man’s condition is mythic, the opposite of existential: essence precedes existence, and our essence is hopelessly mixed. Crow, already losing his insouciance as Trickster - cannot resist the Wodwo-like impulse to inspect and try and understand everything and , the ‘prophecy inside him, like a grimace’ is essentially all Humanism, the concept of Man, the Measurer of Measure - ‘I will measure it all and own it all / And I will be inside it / As inside my own laughter’....but in fact the consequence of such an imperative ‘like a steel spring / slowly rending the vital fibres’, will be alienation from Nature and the peculiar ignorance that goes by the names of rational skepticism and scientific inquiry.

- ‘Crow’s account of the battle’ , ‘The Black Beast’, ‘Crow’s Account of St. George’ , ‘Crow on the Beach’, ‘Revenge Fable’, ‘Crow and the Sea’ - all dramatise the terrible consequences of the Crow’s prophecy: we can’t help being ‘scientific’, it deadens us within, and now more than ever threatens to destroy us physically.

- Before proceeding to the general career of Crow, his ironic humanising, we should glance at two themes introduced into the sequence by Hughes once he has gotten the hero established in Creation and beginning to suffer it. ‘A Disaster’, ‘The Battle of Osfrontalis’, ‘Crow’s Fall,’ ‘Crow Tries the Media’, ‘Crows Goes Hunting’, ‘Owl’s Song’ , ‘Bedtime Story’, Crow comes up against the peculiarly human gift-curse of language.

- In contect we know that Crow will of course revive, is he not stronger than death? And we know from context what Hughes thinks in general of Man’s alienating, self-obscuring impulse to pursue the truth according to the canons of scientific humanism......But despite it all, there’s something appealing, even heroic about Crow’s sheer childlike persistence. And this note is carried on in the next piece ‘Crow and the Stone’.

- The book ends with four summary poems, ‘King of Carrion’, ‘Two Eskimo Songs’, and ‘Littleblood’. The first one depicts as if at a great distance, a kind of terrible final apotheosis of Crow - no longer humanised, a mediator with human impulses, but rather the monarch of the desolation that men now have it in them to create earth: truly a place where no man would go, and no crow fly. The Crow, once the image of something ‘livelier’ than death, now he is death’s very totem, immobile, silent. The two ‘Eskimo Songs’ are not based on extant Eskimo myths or songs: what Hughes seems to be aiming at in the title is an evocation of the quality of Eskimo life - its acceptance of what looks like impossibly minimal conditions of existence, its cultivation of spirit in song and in religion. In the final poem ‘Littleblood’ having attained a measure of calm, and even perhaps a simple expectancy, and having put aside his mediating Trickster, crow, the poet turns to appeal to a new bird-totem. Littleblood is one of the very minims of life it seems. It represents something stronger than death, something olrder than pain, but the wistfulness and tenderness with which the poet appeals to it dramatises that the primal agony and rage against the nature of things, through which Crow is so effective a guide, has run its course. ‘sit on my finger, sing in my ear O littleblood.’

- At the end of the chapter, Ramsey states ‘We have been needing a Trickster.....he may be one of the imaginative things our polarised age demands.’


message 26: by Greg (last edited Apr 08, 2016 11:09PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Noorilhuda wrote: "Crow's Theology (which is a beautiful poem - 'crow' realizing there are other beings and God is with everyone and against everyone at the same time!)..."

Noorhilda, I'll read more of your second post when my copy arrives. I want to read the poems fresh first without knowing critics' interpretations until I've read it.

I do love one of the poems you posted 'Crow's Theology' though. I love the sound of it and the oddness of it in such phrases as "spoke stone." I completely agree with you that it's a lovely poem. Taking the poem by itself, it does seem quite ambivalent ... as you say, the ending is perhaps a realization that God is not only "for" the crow also "for" the crow's enemies. He loves not only the crow but also the "shot-pellets" that killed the other now "mummifying crows."

I feel some harshness in it, the harshness of the natural world. Of course perhaps I'll see it differently when I read the whole poem cycle. But thanks for posting and whetting my appetite! :)


message 27: by Noorilhuda (new)

Noorilhuda | 185 comments cool!


message 28: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink Noorilhuda wrote: "Okay first of all, a confession: I don't like crows, as in the birds. At my mom's place and my own, all they do is eat the seeds of the lovely other birds (doves, mynah, sparrows, bulbul etc.), lik..."

They were good poems. You've reminded me that I liked quite a few of them, but most of the collection went over my head.


message 29: by Gill (last edited Apr 09, 2016 04:28AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Just finished Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. What an excellent and moving book.

Thanks for all your comments on the poems, and the extra information, Noorilhuda.

I have an audio version of the poems read by Ted Hughes, so I'm going to listen to that soon.


message 30: by Gill (last edited Apr 23, 2016 11:27AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I really like the audio version I'm listening to. There's a short audio introduction by TH, and then a very short introduction to each poem. It's making much more sense to me now, and it's nearly always good to hear a poet reading their own poems.


message 31: by SallyA (new)

SallyA (sallyanneatkinson) | 3 comments The first few pages of the Iron Giant was read to me in school - it's one of my most vivid and earliest memories of literature. I can remember the text and even the teacher's face as she read it. It still astonishes me that it came out of something so simple as a book! And for whatever reason I've never read it to this day but I may yet change that.


message 32: by Gill (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I finished the audio version of Crow now, and it certainly enhanced my experience of the poems. I'm wondering whether to start something else by Ted Hughes. (Already read Birthday Letters.)


message 33: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink I might try The Iron Man, for something a bit different. I wouldn't know what to try next from his other poetry collections. Actually scrap that, I know I want to try Tales from Ovid. Maybe I should add Ovid's Metamorphoses too, but that seems a bit more daunting because of the size.


message 34: by Greg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Pink wrote: "I might try The Iron Man, for something a bit different. I wouldn't know what to try next from his other poetry collections. Actually scrap that, I know I want to try Tales from Ovid. Maybe I shoul..."

I'll probably re-read The Iron Man Pink; I remember it being touching (and quite short), but it's been a while! I love that he wrote it to comfort his kids after Plath's passing.

My copy of Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow finally arrived yesterday. Some poems I like, but others I'm not crazy about. I wonder if this collection was so critically acclaimed partly because it was so new and different at the time? Not that there isn't talent in it, but I suspect I'd enjoy The Hawk in the Rain more. I loved the poem "The Horses" that Jenny posted for a Monday poem.


message 35: by Bionic Jean (last edited Apr 29, 2016 01:36AM) (new) - added it

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Some great analysis of Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow here, thanks Noorilhuda especially. That book was one of the first presents Chris bought me (when it first came out) so it's amazing we're still together really ... given that it's so savage! Quite a shock after The Hawk in the Rain, but I think it set the tone for most of his later work.

Greg - I think you have a fair point! Most contemporary poets at that time were less direct and brutal - presenting crossword puzzles to solve, but Ted Hughes seemed a new voice, very earthy and using language not seen in poetry before.


message 36: by Bionic Jean (new) - added it

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Coincidentally, just before this read started I had begun River from 1983. I see that some others are also reading other books by Ted Hughes, so thought I'd come in on this, even though I'm having a bit of a break from reading any more by him at the moment!

It's been a tussle for me, as I find his poetry so complex, but on reflection I think it's probably one of his very best. An extract from one of those poems is on his memorial stone in Poets' Corner so perhaps he thought that himself. River is really all about the cycle of life.

Here is my review of River.

Under it I share some extracts from the poems. My favourite poem was "The Kingfisher", which is beautiful, and I think harks back to the earlier Ted Hughes of The Hawk in the Rain.


message 37: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink Thanks Jean, I liked your review and comments above about Hughes. I find him difficult, but worthwhile to read. So far his poetry has been hit and miss for me, so I'll be interested to read some more.

I currently have both The Iron Man and Tales from Ovid on reserve at the library, so hopefully I'll get to those soon.


message 38: by Bionic Jean (new) - added it

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I love The Iron Man! I often used to read that to kids at school and got some great Art work from it :) Don't know the Ovid though.

Thanks for liking my review Pink :)


message 39: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink You're welcome Jean. Here's the link for Tales from Ovid incase you wanted to take a look. I'm excited about both of these.


message 40: by Greg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Jean wrote: "Coincidentally, just before this read started I had begun River from 1983. I see that some others are also reading other books by Ted Hughes, so thought I'd come in on t..."

Fantastic review Jean! I'll post some thoughts of Crow here as I get further


message 41: by Bionic Jean (new) - added it

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I'll look forward to reading those Greg. And thanks :) I always have a crisis of faith about poetry, but if you "like" something I wrote I know I can't be too far off the mark!


message 42: by Pink (new) - rated it 2 stars

Pink I know it's not one of his poetry collections, but I read The Iron Man yesterday. I'm not a big fan of children's books, but I thought it worked very well and can imagine it being read out to a classroom. I think the poetic quality of his writing shone through at times.

I'm now awaiting Tales from Ovid and Grief Is the Thing with Feathers to give me another dimension to Crow.


message 43: by Bionic Jean (new) - added it

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Another book I wish I hadn't got rid of... but yes, it's imaginative and direct enough to appeal to children, I found.


message 44: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne (suzanne03) | 29 comments I am finding the Crow poems difficult and not just in the sense of understanding them but because they are so depressing. I can only take a few at a time but am persevering because the language is so expressive.


message 45: by Greg (last edited May 01, 2016 09:58AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Suzanne wrote: "I am finding the Crow poems difficult and not just in the sense of understanding them but because they are so depressing. I can only take a few at a time but am persevering because the language is ..."

I feel the same Suzanne. The language is expressive, but I think Jean is exactly right when she uses the word "brutal."

For instance, when Crow learns the word love in "First Lesson":

"And woman's vulva dropped over man's neck and
tightened.
The two struggled together on the grass.
God struggled to part them, cursed, wept --"

It's a combat of bodies, hyper-physical, vulgar, with no tenderness. I'm finding it hard to force my mind to enter fully into these poems because the vision of them feels so foreign to my sense of the world.

Yet, there are some beautiful turns of phrase.

For instance, in "Crow Alights":

"... the herded mountains, steaming in the morning.
And he saw the sea
Dark-spined, with the whole earth in its coils."

I would ordinarily say "lovely," but these poems are never lovely. They're tactile; they twist, contract, squeeze ... the beauty in them is feral and sleek like an animal muscle. But they are also so very harsh.

They're full of primal energy too, the book beginning with all these violent hyperbolic births. None of them is anything like the event of birth itself but like the mythology of the event. Crow is aware as he is born, aware of everything physical--especially in "The Kill"--but with everything spiritual or even emotional stripped away.

He invokes the Bible with his own dark sequence of begats in "Lineage", though that one as a poem isn't very satisfying to me other than the vivid ending "trembling featherless elbows in the nest's filth." I love the vividness of that line, but again, such a harsh vision!

Overall, I recognize his talent, but it's really hard for me to live in the harshness of this vision. I don't believe in it myself. The world isn't that brutal. Also, I think sometimes he kind of pulls as close to the edge as he can; in a few poems, he's perilously close to falling over the edge into something almost silly. But they have an incredible tactileness and energy! I can see how they would be seen as something new, refreshing, exciting in that energy.

I'm about half done.


message 46: by Bionic Jean (new) - added it

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Yes! A brilliant post Greg. "I don't believe in it myself. The world isn't that brutal." is pretty much what I felt - and said - about "River". It is difficult to be objective concerning a different world view when it is so ... unremitting.

And I just love your language ... They're tactile; they twist, contract, squeeze ... the beauty in them is feral and sleek like an animal muscle."


message 47: by Greg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Thanks Jean :)


message 48: by Greg (last edited May 13, 2016 12:13AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Ok, I finished.

A few of the poems I did quite like, such as "Crow's Theology" that Gill or Pink posted earlier. It's rough and brutal, but it has its own kind of grace.

Several other poems also have moments of brilliance. There's something haunting about the isolation that's often in them, such as in "A Bedtime Story":

"... he groped to feel
But his hands were funny hooves just at the crucial moment
And though his eyes worked
Half his head was jellyfish, nothing could connect
And the photographs were blurred...."

There's a terrible inability to connect, with others or even with oneself, an almost desperate isolation and violence.

But many of the poems just didn't appeal to me at all with their repetitions ... like unrhythmic children's rhymes, except steeped in despair and violence.

For example, from "Fragment of an Ancient Tablet":

"....
Above - her perfect teeth, with the hint of a fang at the corner.
Below - the millstones of two worlds.

Above - a word and a sigh.
Below - gouts of blood and babies
...."

I don't feel any particular rhythm in these lines; the images aren't especially vivid or unique. The sentiments are vulgar and uncomplex. I just don't see much to get out of it, aesthetically or semantically.

Perhaps my problem is that I'm missing the humor? In the book's inside flap, there's a quote about the book by A. Alvarez: "Each fresh encounter with despair becomes the occasion for a separate, almost funny, story...." But I didn't actually find any of it funny - I found it sometimes sad & haunting, sometimes vulgar & brutal. Perhaps I just don't have the right personality to catch the humor here? Humor is a very personal thing, easy to miss. I don't know. I'll admit I don't get the humor in a lot of Quentin Terrantino movies; so maybe I'm just not the right audience?

In any case, Ted Hughes has talent, but this was my least favorite collection by him. I much preferred the others I've read.

Like Gill and Pink, I gave this one 2 stars.


message 49: by Bionic Jean (new) - added it

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Do you know of Al Álvarez Greg? I read The Savage God: A Study of Suicide when it first came out - shortly after Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow. So the fact that he is quoted on your copy adds an extra dimension - interesting.


message 50: by Greg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Greg | 7264 comments Mod
Jean wrote: "Do you know of Al Álvarez Greg? I read The Savage God: A Study of Suicide when it first came out - shortly after [book:Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow|975..."

No Jean, but it looks interesting. I see you gave it 4 stars. I'd seen Alvarez' name referred to before, but I never really knew who he was. I'll see if my library has it.

I do feel like I'm missing something in Crow; hopefully someone in the group will really love it; so they can give me more insight. Jenny has been busy; I hope she gets around to giving it a try.

Do you remember if you noticed any humor in Crow when you read it a long time ago Jean?


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