“Crow” by Ted Hughes

I rarely read poetry, but I enjoyed this strange little book by Ted Hughes. It’s full of dark imagery, violence and unexpected humour. The poems read like myths of the origins of the world, except that at the middle of them all is Crow, this anarchic, chaotic, ugly, violent figure, playing tricks on God and turning creation upside-down.

I was reminded of the Anansi figure in West Indian Folk Tales, himself of course of West African origin. I suspect Hughes drew on a lot of mythological sources in these poems, many of which I am blissfully unaware of, but it didn’t seem to matter – even in the poems where I wasn’t sure what he was driving at, I was pleased by the rhythm of the language, somehow different in each poem but forming a coherent whole.

There’s a lot more you could say about these poems – you could probably do a whole English Literature course on them – but I don’t want to go that deep. I’m happy for now just to have discovered that rare thing for me, poetry that I can truly enjoy. I’ll keep this on my shelf and probably re-read from time to time, if only to try to understand why this worked for me and so much other poetry doesn’t.

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