Originally posted March, 2012:
Crow Blacker than ever
When God, disgusted with man,
Turned towards heaven.
And man, disgusted with God,
Turned towards Eve,
Things looked like falling apart.
But Crow. Crow
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing Heaven and earth together –
So man cried, but with God’s voice.
And God bled, but with man’s blood.
Then heaven and earth creaked at the joint
Which became gangrenous and stank –
A horror beyond redemption.
The agony did not diminish.
Man could not be man nor God God.
Crying: ‘This is my Creation,’
Flying the black flag of himself.
Crow realised God loved him-
Otherwise, he would have dropped dead.
So that was proved.
Crow reclined, marvelling, on his heart-beat.
And he realised 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 realised there were two Gods-
One of them much bigger than the other
Loving his enemies
And having all the weapons.
When I posted recently on Enright’s Paradise Illustrated I also referenced Ted Hughes’ Crow, a book that had a huge impact on me at the time I read it, probably around 1975/76, 3 or 4 years after its publication. It’s a publication that produced at the time, and continues today I suspect, the poles of opinion and response. Without exploring these, I will say that I still find its nightmare vision and bludgeoning expression of this as compelling today as when I first read.
Unlike the Enright, there aren’t the ostensibly comic moments to lighten the darkness, though I do think the comic-strip hyperbole exists to reflect the poetic madness of any commentary trying to explain our lives and world, and the other mythologies that have attempted the same.
I studied for a Bachelor of Education degree – English and Education – and in my third year I wrote an extended essay on Crow. Whilst I could improve so much on its expression if I rewrote this today, the depth and intensity of my research and use of supporting reference has long passed me by. That awful seepage! It was a wonderful and impressionable time.
I do vividly recall seeing at that same time Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney reading together in the Newman Rooms at Oxford. It was stunning. Hughes read almost exclusively from Crow and it was a mesmerising experience. I was so powerfully affected I wrote about the experience, but perhaps thankfully I couldn’t find the poem when looking for it today [!], though I do remember prefacing it with a quote from, I think, Anthony Thwaite, referring to Hughes’ Pennine stabs of voice which is an apt description.
I saw Hughes reading again one or two years later in Swindon, this time from his book Moortown . I was upset and annoyed by the repetitive and what seemed gratuitous references to the fluids and other mess accompanying sheep giving birth. It wasn’t some precious antipathy to such agricultural realism – I had completed three years as a full-time farm worker before studying for my degree, and had just finished two years working part-time on a small farm outside of Oxford where as well as a tractor driver I was a pigman and shepherd: I knew plenty first-hand [excuse pun] about that messiness. Hughes’ graphic but literal descriptions seemed a far cry from the myth-making and originality of Crow, and I wrote a critical review of this book for Howard Sergeant’s Outposts magazine, my one and only review for such a publication, and one that had the arrogance to be critical of Hughes’ poetry. I haven’t changed my judgement of much of the poetry from that book, but I wish I had been asked to review Crow and perhaps comment on what a huge impact Hughes had on my love of his and all poetry. Indeed, from Gaudette  onwards I collected first editions of everything Hughes published, including a number of pamphlet and special publications. It is a personal treasure.
[NB in current support of this re-posting, I have found the Moortown review and will be posting later; I am also posting the Enright poems below]
from Paradise Illustrated
Sighing through all her works,
Nature gave signs of woe.
Earth trembled from her entrails,
Nature gave a second groan
‘What’s that strange noise?’ asked Eve.
‘Nothing to worry about,’ said Adam.
‘Just cataclysms, convulsions, calamities -‘
‘Don’t talk with your mouth full,’ said Eve.
‘Donner-und Blitzen, coups-de-foudre, infernos,
Avalanches, defoliation, earthquakes, eruptions,
Tempests, turbulence, typhoons and torrents,’
Said Adam airily.
‘And floods. Or do I mean droughts?’
He added uncertainly. ‘Also perhaps inclemency.’
‘The Snake was right about one thing,’
Eve observed. ‘It loosens the tongue.’
‘Why didn’t we think of clothes before?’
‘Why did we ever think of clothes?’
I was never a particular fan of Enright but I have always liked this collection. Published in 1978, I have wondered if it was heavily influenced by Ted Hughes’ Crow of 1972. Hard not to be I would guess. There is in XIII the bitterness of its satirical take on Milton and I think more generally the Adam and Eve myth, along with the litany of predominantly natural catastrophes, that emulates so much of the dark diatribe in Crow [which I must stress is a massive favourite of mine]. It is often lightened in a way that Crow isn’t, however, by the comic playfulness of brief interludes like XXII.