Monday, June 26, 2017

Mini Reviews: Crow: From The Life And Songs Of The Crow & Native Guard: Poems

Crow: From The Life And Songs Of The Crow - Ted Hughes

Crow was Ted Hughes's fourth book of poems for adults and a pivotal moment in his writing career. In it, he found both a structure and a persona that gave his vision a new power and coherence. A deep engagement with history, mythology and the natural world combine to forge a work of impressive and unsettling force.

Review: Crow was first published in 1970 and is considered a classic. I wanted to read it because I’d heard it was dark and violent. It also has very good ratings on Goodreads.

I guess I’m a black sheep because I kinda hated this book. The collection is about a mythological crow that causes destruction in the human world. The poems blend myth, religion, nature, and imagination. I like the strong imagery and the accessibility of the collection. The poems are pretty easy to understand. I really struggled with the anger, though. I don’t mind reading angry literature, but it’s emotionally draining, so I want to feel like I’m getting something out of it. I want to learn, or to be blown away by the author’s use of language, or to escape to another world. When I finished this collection, my thought was, Well, that was depressing. Why did I read it?

My favorite poem in the book is “Apple Tragedy.” The ending is so unexpected that it made me laugh. My brain melted all the other poems into a big puddle of misery, so I don’t really remember them. I guess I missed whatever is so amazing about this collection.

“To hatch a crow, a black rainbow
Bent in emptiness
over emptiness
But flying” - Crow

Native Guard: Poems – Natasha Trethewey

Through elegiac verse that honors her mother and tells of her own fraught childhood, Natasha Trethewey confronts the racial legacy of her native Deep South—where one of the first black regiments, the Louisiana Native Guards, was called into service during the Civil War. Trethewey's resonant and beguiling collection is a haunting conversation between personal experience and national history.

Review: Natasha Trethewey is a former United States Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. She’s biracial and grew up in America’s Deep South. In Native Guard, she writes about her childhood and the racial history of the South.

This collection is probably a good starting point for people who are new to poetry. Most of the poems are narrative. The language is beautiful but not unnecessarily complex. The collection is divided into three sections. My favorite section is the first one, where the author talks about her complicated relationship with her mother. The other two sections focus on Southern history, with an emphasis on race and the Civil War. The poems in the second two sections are well-written and taught me some facts about the war that I didn’t know, but I didn’t find them as compelling as the poems in the first section. That’s just personal preference, though.

My only complaint is that I wish there was more of a connection between the sections. I realize that all the poems are about history (personal or national), but the transitions are a bit jarring. That’s a minor problem. I really like this collection and would recommend it.

“I was asleep while you were dying.
It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow
I make between my slumber and my waking” – Native Guard


  1. I am someone who appreciates poetry a lot, and although I have read a lot of random poems, I haven't really read that many collections? So although I am on the hunt, these don't sound like they're for me...

    1. I’m like you. I’ve read a lot of anthologies and random poems, but I haven’t read many collections. I’m trying to remedy that.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. So, in 1970, Hughes' first wife (Sylvia Plath) had committed suicide (1963) and his subsequent domestic partner had as well (1969).

    Birthday Letters might be just as angry, but if you're interested in the Hughes - Plath marriage from his point of view, there it is.

    He was the Poet Laureate of the U.K.

    1. I’ve read The Bell Jar and some of Plath’s poetry. I read Crow because I wanted to see what her husband could do. I still might read Birthday Letters if I can find a cheap copy of it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!