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Image provided by Garth Martens

Garth Martens

Affiliation with UVic English: Alumni: MFA, Poetry, 2010

Special Book: Crow: From the Life & Songs of the Crow, Ted Hughes

When did you first read this book: I read Crow as a university student in 2007. It was one of the first collections of poetry to enthrall me from cover to cover.

Which sentence from this book has special significance for you?

From Crow Tyrannosaurus: “The swift’s body fled past / Pulsating / With insects / And their anguish, all it had eaten. // The cat’s body writhed / Gagging / A tunnel / Of incoming death-struggles, sorrow on sorrow. // And the dog was a bulging filterbag / Of all the deaths it had gulped for flesh and the bones. / It could not digest their screeching finales. / Its shapeless cry was a blort of all these voices. // Even man he was a walking / Abattoir / Of innocents— / His brain incinerating their outcry. // Crow thought ‘Alas / Alas ought I / To stop eating / And try to become the light?’ // But his eye saw a grub. And his head, trapsprung, stabbed. / And he listened / and he heard / weeping // grubs grubs He stabbed he stabbed / weeping / weeping // Weeping he walked and stabbed // Thus came the eye’s roundness the ear’s deafness.”

What does the sentence mean to you?

With Hughes generally, and in Crow specifically, I was astonished with the poet’s ascendent lyricism, his use of the aerial and intimate registers. Here was the epic gesture in a modern poet whose achievement staked out ambitious territory in dreamtime. His dramatic diction, the blood thump of verbs, ligamental snap of adjectives or adverbs, occupied my tongue with possibility, the understanding, at last, that I might attempt any scaffolding as a writer so long as I built it with unrelenting rigour.