In the mythologies of cultures worldwide, Raven, or his smaller cousin, Crow, is often portrayed as an ever-selfish, ever-hungry trickster and destroyer. In this collection, John Smelcer has crafted Raven as all these things, but also as an Instigator who was present at key moments of human history when things went awry. This is the collection that Hughes considered to be the American cousin to his Crow.
“Crow, Raven, and the Hughes-Plath Family Tree” The Unlikely History of the Art of Raven Mythopoetica The Birth of Raven 1 Ravencolor 2 Raven’s Song of Himself 3 A Lingering Doubt 4 The Day after Saturday Creation Myth 5 Raven and the First People 6 Raven’s Theology 7 When God Tried to Teach 8 Raven to Speak When God Tried to Teach 9 Raven Mathematics When God Tried to Teach 10 Raven Compassion Raven Remembers 11 What Raven Had for Breakfast 12 The Temptation of Eve 13 The Mark of Cain 14 God Apologizes for the Flood Exodus Raven The Other Temptation of Christ 15 Passover, 33 A. D. 16 Golgotha The Substitute 17 Beowraven 18 Raven Fly Trap 19 Raven’s Vision 20 Raven Sends Out a Search Party 21 Raven’s Hit List 22 Raven Remodels the World 23 Extinction Theory 24 Raven and Killer Whale 25 The Dog Husband 26 When Raven Tried Benevolence 27 Raven, the Problem-Solver 28 The Corpse King 30 Raven’s Mask 31 The Blue Prince 32 The Birth of Iago Instigator Frankenraven Stool Pigeon 33 To Build a Fire 34 Raven & Vinny Raven’s Titanic Fun Raven Cum Laude 35 Heil Raven 37 Role Model Civil Disobedience Electric Raven New York City, 1969 38 Raven’s Doppelganger 40 A Tibetan Myth 42 Raven’s Shell Game Freud Discovers the God Complex Raven Goes on a Game Show Gender Bender Raven Pulls his Trump Card Raven Writes the Epitaph for Humanity The Law of Entropy 43 In the Language Raven Gave Us Zen Raven 45 The Meaning of Life 46 Prayer Singer 48 A Minor Correction 49 Hunter’s Luck 50 When Raven Was Killed 52 Hide & Seek with Raven 54 Raven & Butterfly 55 Corax Corax After a Sermon at the Church 57 Paradise Lost 58 Unemployment Line 59 Raven Takes a Career 60 American Indian Self-Police 61 Returning the Gift 62 The Meal Kinship 64 Witness 65 Ravens at Auschwitz Raven Oracle A Raven Funeral 66 The Great Religious Trial 68 Raven Addresses the Jury A Modern Day Indian Fairy Tale 69 Roadkill The Myth-Makers Imbibe 70
“From the Far North comes Crow’s bigger cousin jabbering news of this poet.” Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
In 1997, John Smelcer and Ted Hughes—Sylvia Plath’s widower and Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom—met at a pub in Guildford, England. Over pints, the idea of this poetry collection was born. Finally, the book that Hughes considered to be the American cousin to his Crow flaps, caws, and spraddles into the pages of literary history. It was inevitable that Hughes and Smelcer should meet. Crow, meet Raven.
“In clean clear language Smelcer takes this knotty cosmic riddle, cruel compassion, treacherous beauty, trickster Raven God—or human beings—and tries out his tough, funny poems. This book is a hard-won look at the riddle.” Gary Snyder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“Ted Hughes and I co-founded Modern Poetry in Translation in 1965, five years before Faber & Faber published Crow. I can tell you that Ted considered this book to be the sister companion to his.” Daniel Weissbort
“John Smelcer is a myth-maker. He has his own tongue, ancestry, ancient tribal ground. And coming out of those particularities, his myths ring true and touch us wherever we dwell in the here and now. Interesting and effective in its own right, this book is deepened and enriched by its close association, in friendship and vision, with a kindred poet, Ted Hughes. Raven and Crow eye one another, warily.” David and Helen Constantine, Editors of Modern Poetry in Translation
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“In a world where such poets are more rare than people might imagine, John Smelcer is one of the truly great poets I have come across in my life. His poetry is genius.” Ruth Stone, winner of the National Book Award
“In these fresh and mythic poems, John Smelcer reinvigorates the midnight attitude of Raven, taking the legendary trickster into the Bible, where Raven easily competes with the devil, and then into the contemporary world, where human beings writhe in response. The authenticity of Smelcer’s voice, in collaboration with and tribute to Ted Hughes (with a little help from their friend Seamus Heaney, too), makes an electric, multi-leveled series of parables for our often dark times. Raven, a project accomplished with a sublime spirit of collaboration, glows.”