Review: Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter

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Pathos, it feels, has been living a reclusive life away from the literary mainstream since the rise of post-modernism with its focus on irony and satire. However, quite recently, Max Porter has published the very interesting poetry/short prose collection ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ with a clear sentimental mood and with a pathos driven theme. His little treat of fine literature doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth at all – rather, it seduces you into following those forgotten feelings of pathos in contemporary literature.

‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ is about losing a loved one, and it gives an accurate description of the anatomy of grief. A family in London has lost a mother because of a domestic accident. ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ describes in detail the reactions of the bereaved boys and of the father who now has the whole responsibility for his two sons himself. Due to the death of the mother, we sense the profound feeling of absence in the little London flat where the family is living. It’s terrible. Everything turns into madness, and the world is turned upside down because of the despair and the loneliness of the family. Absurdity can be reality when it comes to the experience of grief.

As an extra poetic technique, Max Porter also uses children’s gibberish in order to show the hidden or unspoken experiences of sorrow. The gibberish of ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ is often deeply inventive from the core of the creative force. And as it turns out, poetic language shows a sort way out of the blackness of the feathers that surrounds the little family.

One cannot avoid noticing Max Porter’s huge amount of allusions to Ted Hughes’s equally outstanding work “The Crow”. The father in Porter’s book is a Ted Hughes-scholar and that creates a clear ressonance with Ted Hughes’s poetry. Furthermore, ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ seems to have borrowed both the setting, characters and incident from Ted Hughes’s personal life. Ted Hughes lost his wife Sylvia Plath and the mother to his two children when she committed suicide. He also had to take care of two children alone as the father in ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’. There are also many literary and symbolic references to Ted Hughes’s work, most significantly “the crow”. Yet ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ is a highly original work that gives a fictional account of how it must be to be a father to two children who have lost their mother.

‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ leaves this reader with an everlasting and strong impression of grief. May other readers have the same chance.

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