Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Crow, Blacker Than Ever

Just take the last portion of this poem, because my critic's-manner is tearing off chunks:
Man could not be Man nor God God

The agony




Crying: ‘This is my Creation’

Flying the black flag of himself.
The man/man God/God verbal mirroring; the skewed reflection of the words ‘crow’ and ‘grew’, which are almost the same word; the almost (but not, quite) overplayed tunings of ‘g’ and ‘c’ throughout: between God, God, (a)gony, grew, grinned—and crow crying creation. The artful asymmetry that hinges on the insolence of ‘grinned’——because the overall shape of the poem trips not once but twice on that line: once, in that the syllable count of the lines looks like it ought to follow the symmetrical pattern 8, 4, 1/1, 4, 8 with a final octosyllabic line as coda. But ‘grinned’ is three syllables short. Or, to look at it another way: ‘The agony grew. Crow grinned’ could conceivably be octosyllabic itself, giving us 4 eight syllable lines arranged with a bit of creative layout. But it’s not: ‘‘The agony grew. Crow grinned’ is a syllable short. And that metrical truncation is wholly in keeping with the tearing-off-head manners of the whole. The critical urge to uncover regularity in the prosody and structure of the poem is to ignore the poem’s third word—the key, in its negation, to the whole.

But as with the whole collection of course it’s not nihilistic. Setting up and refusing to balance its various pairs, the poem ends with that superb final line: the crow in flight, solitary, suspending itself by (as it were) its own bootstraps, a flag without a pole. Out of kilter.

A PS: I had not noticed before how paradoxically unblack is the illustration on the first edition's cover:

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