Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Trouble With Ravens: Ted Hughes

Ah, Ted Hughes in his murky, swashbuckling prime...what silver gloom flits behind that heavy stare? He was our Ovid, a trespasser of high consequence, wrapped not only in the skins of different animals, but also in the ideological rags of academia. His metamorphoses conveyed brute power as well as rapture propelled by the clotted energy of his tongue:

He loved to fish, but even there he was mawed by death, the suicides before and after his own death in 1998.
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.

- from "Crow Blacker Than Ever"
Last summer the Antigonish Review published a poem of mine in response to Hughes' "Ravens."

The Trouble With Ravens

And its first day of death was blue and warm
--from "Ravens" by Ted Hughes

In Devonshire, where your jaw plucked away
the light, I followed you to the top of the hill
on that first blue day of spring. I was a kitten
slipping on the morning mud. You scooped me up,

your right knuckle whiskery and scuffed like the red
snout of a cow. I felt like Jackie Paper riding the prow
of your neck. How far are we going? I asked. The sky
swung into view dripping with black birds. Ravens you

said, placing me beside a huddle of sheep. I felt
their breathing, a damp bundle of lungs sprung from
the earth. There was blood anchored to a mother's rear,
torn by new life growth. Steam pumped from the pipe

hole. Then I saw the rag-doll of death, strings broken,
a gutted puppet. Is it hurt? I asked as you picked it up
by the hoof. You had done this before. It dangled and
swayed like my bedroom mobile. Then its body ripped

from your clutch, folding down in a heap. I still remember your face holding the dripping limb, sterile as a scrub of moor
you knew once at my age. I'm older now--you're gone,
but your clumsy work remains farming a hole in my head.

- David Kootnikoff


  1. Thank you for this post, however:

    "Old Crow
    Flying your black bag of jewels
    From chaos to chaos
    Probe hard for those maggoty deaths
    Which poison our lives."

    This is not Ted Hughes, it is Professor Ann Skea writing it tribute to Hughes.

  2. hi dave and thank you for pointing that out. i've now corrected it.