One of the highlights of Writers’ Week for me was Max Porter and his book ‘Grief is the Thing with Feathers’. He is an English writer, and his book is small and poetic, and about grief, with three characters (or perhaps 4), dad, boys (two sons whose sections are written interchangeably by both), and crow. Crow comes to the family after the unexpected and unexplained death of the mother and is a life force, a solace, a provocation and various other symbolic and ‘real’ things. I really liked the book a lot, and I enjoyed the enthusiasm, earthiness and intelligence of Max. The title of the book is a variation on a line of Emily Dickinson’s poetry…
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
…which makes me think about the crow representing hope for the little family too.
There is much more to it than this, including Ted Hughes (who himself had a lot of grief to contend with), who wrote a book of poems called ‘Crow’. Dad, in the book, is a Hughes scholar.
The thing about crows is that they can be very vicious, but also very determined to live their own lives. Here is a quote from Porter about this:
“What good is a crow to a pack of grieving humans? A huddle. A throb. A sore. A plug. A gape. A load. A gap. So, yes. I do eat baby rabbits, plunder nests, swallow filth, cheat death, mock the starving homeless, misdirect, misinform. Oi, stab it! A bloody load of time wasted. But I care, deeply. I find humans dull except in grief.”
Here is a youtube clip of a local crow calling and calling…