Blog Two: Crow Wakes

The poem that has stood out to me the most so far is Ted Hughes’ “Crow Wakes.” In it a crow explodes, sleeps, then wakes to his different blown up body parts arguing, then fails at an attempt to escape the dismantled appendages.

I think initially I was captivated by this poem because of its goriness. A few different lines remind me of fever dreams I have had like, “I became smaller than water, I stained into the soil-/crumble./ I became smaller.” Just imagining these lines provokes a strange, nostalgic nausea. The imagery of the poem only gets odder. “My eyes fell out of my head and into an atom.” My mind’s eye sees two eyeballs being sucked from their sockets and entering orbit around the nucleus of an atom like two electrons. Up until the point that the speaker falls asleep, the strange sights continue, like an eye watching the speaker from a cat’s anus.

Once the speaker of the poem awakes he hears his dismantled body parts argue about what they used to be a part of. The breastbone claims the group was part of a leopard,  a rib says they were a fine woman, and an unnamed appendage claims they were “a stinking clot of ectoplasm that/ suffocated a nun”. This scene make me wonder if Hughes is commenting on our natural desire to be something greater, or at least different, than what we actually are.

The speaker of the poem tries to sneak away from his appendages, but in his attempt gets noticed and chased. This seems to suggest that one can not escape their body. Earlier in the poem the speaker fails at an attempt to silence his right leg with a towel, suggesting that we must listen to our bodies as well.

Perhaps the most intriguing yet confusing part of the poem comes in the end.

“A freezing hand caught hold of me by the hair

And lifted me off my feet and set me high

Over the whole earth on a blazing star

Called”

This ending aggravates me. I despise cliff hangers. Just as the speaker fails to tell the guessing extremities what they used to be a part of, the speaker leaves the readers guessing what the star is called that he was set upon.

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First Impressions

Off the bat, my preconceived notions of what Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath would be like as writers was immediately proven wrong.

I had read Plath’s The Bell Jar in high school, and had read “Lady Lazarus” and “Daddy” in a couple different literature classes. I presumed Plath would have feminist and dark, depressing undertones in her writings. “Juvenilia” showed me that Plath is so much greater than what I expected her to be. Contrary to what I had originally thought, I found her nature poems rather uplifting. “Aquatic Nocturne,” “April Aubade,” and “Prologue to Spring” gave beautiful, vivid descriptions of a water scene, an April morning, and a winter day. I also love the way she plays with form in “To Eva Descending the Stair.” A villanelle naturally repeats itself, but the subject matter of how time is constantly moving and repeating itself fits perfectly. Time is brought up several times in “Juvenilia” and Plath plays with it well. For me, it seems like time is being brought up to remind us of our own mortality. The last two lines in “April Aubade,” “Cinderella,” and “To Eva Descending the Stair” are what sells me on the reminder of human finiteness.

“Again we are deluded and infer/ that somehow we are younger than we were.” -“April Aubade”

“As amid the hectic music and cocktail talk/ She hears the caustic ticking of the clock.” -“Cinderella”

“Clocks cry; stillness is a lie, my dear./ (Proud you halt upon the spiral stair.) -“To Eva Descending the Stair”

Of course there is much more to these poems, but this is what stood out to me the most.

Before this class, I had read absolutely nothing by Hughes. The only things I really knew about him was that he was a writer and that he had been married to Plath at some point in his life. I was pleasantly surprised by his poems in Hawk in the Rain, and loved “Fantastic Happenings and Gory Adventures” and “Capturing Animals.” For now, I have to say I like the prose more than the poetry. Hughes’ stories captivate me and have a boyish charm about them. I loved hearing about what writers and what childhood activities influenced his writing. I am very intrigued by the recurring image of the fox.

Plath and Hughes cover many similar topics, but each tackle them in their own unique way. I feel Hughes is more verbose in his poetry, where as Plath is more concise. Both refer to nature regularly and describe it in great detail, but what kind of nature they write about differs. Plath mentions the sea more, where as Hughes seems rooted in the land. Plath personifies nature, and Hughes seems to keep humans and animals separate- even when they reside together in a poem, like in “The Jaguar” and “The Horses.”

These are just first impressions though, and I can’t wait to see how they hold up in the weeks to come.

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