Grief is the Thing With Feathers

Thoughts gittwfbymp Graywolf Press 2016, 114 pages

JUST ANNOUNCED! This is on the TOB Short List!

Challenge: TOB Long List and also counting for Poetry 100
Genre: Poetry, Adult Fiction
Type/Source: Tradeback / Library
 Why I read this now: It’s short!

MOTIVATION for READING: I’ve heard good things about this moving story.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  A man loses his wife, his two sons lose a mother. A crow moves in to help them grieve.

WHAT’s GOOD:  The style, the cadence, the imagery.

What’s NOT so good: I admit that I am not much of a Ted Hughes fan but that is probably because the only thing I know about him is that he was Sylvia Platt’s husband. But I tried to drop my bias because I’m not sure I have given him proper consideration. That said, this book is somewhat based — I’m assuming – on a Hughes’ Crow poem. (I had to google that. Could have been part of the fiction for all I know.)

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I really did enjoy this sad yet hopeful poetic work. It reads very fast. It begs to be read aloud, as I assume poetic works do.

RATING: Four slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

A sample:


Look at that, look, did I or did I not, oi, look, stab it.
Good book, funny bodies, open door, slam door, spit this, lick that, lift, oi, look, stop it.

Tender opportunity. Never mind, every evening, crack of dawn, all change, all meat this, all meat that, separate the reek. Did I or did I not, ooh, tarmac, macadam. Edible, sticky, bad camouflage.

Strap me to the  mast or I’ll bang her until my mathematics poke out her sorry, sorry, sorry, look! A severed hand, bramble, box of swans, box of stories, piss-arc, better off, must stop shaking, must stay still, mast stay still.

I also wrote down more poets to investigate:  Ibn ‘Arabi, Shostakovich, Osip Mandelstam, R.S.Thomas.

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20 thoughts on “Grief is the Thing With Feathers

  1. Thank you for the review, which compelled me to order the book. I’ve been dancing around ordering the book for a while, but you clinched the deal. Birds are powerful symbols indeed.

  2. Hughes’ Crow poems are about a trickster figure, which makes this even more interesting than the echo of the Emily Dickinson title already made it sound to me (Hope is the Thing With Feathers).

  3. You lost me at poetic work and not using it to describe beautiful writing. I draw the line at poetry. That is one genre I just do not understand nor care to spend the time to try to understand. I made the mistake of reading a poetic work in my first or second year of blogging and swore I would never do it again.

    1. Then STAY AWAY! the bit I provided isn’t the way the whole thing goes, btw. It really is accessible and relevant.

      Also, I have a goodreads category of the TOB books – you can sort by page number and read the shortest ones first. 🙂 I think I will end up skipping the horse racing one – it’s like 600 pages. The Nix is long, too, but I’ll do it.

  4. I saw this one some time back but the whole crow thing was a little odd. I saw that TOB list today and noticed it was on there. Isn’t that a great list this year? Nearly every book on there sounds fab.

    1. The crow “WORKS” – it really does. Try it. And you can read it in a sitting – very worth it.

      To be honest, I haven’t even read up on a few of them – some are obscure even to me?! It’s funny how some make ‘my’ circle and some do not, yes?

  5. This was my favorite book of last year, so I was excited to see it made the shortlist (and I’m looking forward to the commentary on it!), though it’s definitely for a specific reader so I’m curious who the judges will be.

    1. Favorite! That’s terrific. (I haven’t even thought yet about my faves from 2016).

      I think the discussion will be great and I think so many will have read it because it is only 110 pages! I am not sure about my chances to read the horse racing book.

  6. Glad you liked the book, I enjoyed this one too. Some of Hughes’ crow poems are online if you want to read them. I’ve not read all of them but the ones online are pretty intense and good. And I think trickster doesn’t necessarily mean bad, so yeah, crow can be good and helpful 🙂

  7. I am with Michelle. I am not one for poetry. But I ILL’ed the book and if it gets here before the tournament (and that is a big IF) I will give it a shot and keep an open mind.

  8. I love it when writers lead me to other writers! Also, if you are down on Ted Hughes, can I recommend Janet Malcolm’s book The Silent Woman? It’s nominally about Sylvia Plath but it also talks about Ted Hughes and his sister, who’s the executor of both estates, and about the ethics of biography more generally. It’s super good and made me dislike Ted Hughes at last 30% less.

    1. Sound very interesting, thanks! Again, I really don’t know anything about Sylvia OR Ted; just biases one sometimes picks up without any analysis. It happens. I’m not proud.

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