Max Porter (2015) Grief Is The Thing With Feathers

I’m a bit stupid. I wasn’t sure if this was fact of fiction or fictionalised fact. I’m still not sure. This short book had me thinking, which is often a good thing. But I don’t really get it, which is a bad thing – right?

I’ve been to a few funerals this year and I wrote in memorial that ‘Grief was too small a word’.

Setting the tone in Max Porter’s book, split into three short chapters –beginning, middle and end—is not so much a prologue as an intrusion, a short verse by Emily Dickinson.

That Love(Crow) is all there is/Is all we know of (Crow)Love/It is enough, the freight (Crow)should be/Proportioned to the groove (Crow).   

Crow is pencilled in (which isn’t possible in printed books) but it seeks to given that effect, a kind of graffiti.

Having read the book, quickly, as I’ve a tendency to do, I’m assuming it’s kinda hip. Crow as a narrator is mocking the more genteel poetry of Dickinson.

Boys as narrators, motherless sons, would I’d imagine call this wanky. They did seem to get it right.

We found a fish in a pool and tried to kill it but the fish was too big and the fish was too quick so we damned it and smashed it.

Dad as narrator.

Four or five days after she died, I sat alone in the living room wondering what to do. Shuffling around, waiting for the shock to give way, waiting for any kind of structured feeling to emerge from the organisational fakery of my days. I felt hung-empty.

‘Hung-empty’ is genius.

Crow as narrator.

Very romantic, how we first met. Badly behaved. Trip trap. Two-bed upstairs flat, slightly barbed-error, snuck in easy through the wall and up the attic bedroom to see those cartoon boys silently sleeping, intoxicating hum of innocent childhood…

I get that part, the narrator whose wife has died and left two sons is a Ted Hughes scholar. Crow is part of the Hughes cycle of poetry. I sped-read through a few of Hughes’s Crow poems and I guess Porter mimics the affect.

I lack the key to decipher meaning. Some mentor would have to guide me through it word for word, image by image. When reading becomes work, I switch off. My eyes are seeing, but my brain is unconnected. There is no emotional resonance. This is babble to me. Poetry is never finished, just abandoned school of thought.  I have failed as a reader and remain in limbo. Life is too short to worry. No need to crow about it.   Read on.

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