Joseph Anderson

Ted Hughes, Crow

His kingdom is empty –
The empty world, from which the last cry
Flapped hugely, hopelessly away
Into the blindness and dumbness and deafness of the gulf

Returning, shrunk, silent

To reign over silence.

Ted Hughes’ Crow poems are full of the blackest humor, nihilism and death. So wonderfully evoking the spirit of Crow!

So man cried, but with God’s voice
And God bled, but with man’s blood…



Crying: “This is my Creation,”
Flying the black flag of himself.

So much darkness, violent nihilism, cackling about death. There is something so deeply powerful and purgative about this set of poems. My shamanic journeying experiences often have dismemberment in them – one animal or another cheerfully chomping out my guts, licking out my brains, stripping away my flesh. It always feels very cleansing and energizing, a blessing and not tragic at all. Hughes’ Crow has a familiar destructive zest about him – but dark…dark. It is a tale of purgation, told over and over again. In many of the poems the end is the blackness, pure blackness, of Crow – who is left ruling over a universe with no God and no humanity. A sampling of last lines:

God went on sleeping./Crow went on laughing.

Then everything went black

And everything goes to hell.

He was blasted to nothing.

Blacker/than any blindness

Utterly worn out   utterly clear

Dante’s Inferno with no purgatory or paradise, the journey down without the journey back, the healing quest with nothing in hand for the return. Just the first chapter of a longer story…but what a powerful, convincing, and honest first chapter!

So long as hope isn’t completely extinguished. So long as despair doesn’t reign. So long as an energy is held in reserve to rise up again and heal. Then this Ted Hughes Crow is powerful and useful medicine. I enter that world with a rope tied around my ankle – pull me out if I happen to faint.

But oh how I love the fierce vivid uncompromising depiction of Crow in these poems. The calling forth of the invocatory power of Inuit and other native energies to call to account and put a name on the bitterness and emptiness that does permeate our world. Like a flamethrower burning out and burning up absolutely everything that gets in the way. I think also of Fudo Myo-o, Kali, and other fearsome but ultimately beneficent energies that are honored in the East.

By temperament or karma or luck, I find myself walking in greener pastures and offering songs of blessing, healing, and hope. But Ted-Crow, my darker brother, I need your voice. I honor your wisdom and courage. May it lead me and others toward a transformative Truth. Let us not be afraid, even as Hughes’ Crow cackles and cocks his cynical and nihilistic eye.