Crow by Ted Hughes (bought online, Jan 2012)
The Hell of It All by Charlie Brooker (Christmas present, 2009)
Right, let’s see: a bleak worldview with a well-disguised core of humanity? Inventive, extreme and rude? Dark humour? Trendy haircut? Published by Faber? Ticks in all boxes, Ted and Charlie both.
When read concurrently, these two collections have concerns that are surprisingly similar. The despair of Hughes’ poetic sequence Crow (sorrow, horror, death, emptiness, gore, anguish) could be seamlessly drag-and-dropped into The Hell of It All, Brooker’s most recent collection of Guardian columns. “Real life… a cruel and horrifying string of random unfolding events” is pure Crow but actually comes from Brooker’s column on the last days of Gordon Brown.
Poetry and comedy are sometimes so samey and lazy. Great to read instead two well-defined voices, still sounding fresh, still biting. Sure, Ted Hughes didn’t write very much about Tekken and Doom and The Apprentice, and Charlie Brooker only discusses the ultimate futility of human existence in about two-thirds of his columns, but I think the comparison stands. Utterly worn out, utterly clear equals Go away.
AND: The second of the Black Mirror episodes, 15 Million Merits, was just about the best thing on TV last year. A really clear-headed piece of writing.
AND: Hughes’ Examination at the Womb-Door in Crow is devastating, but Simon Barraclough’s riff on it, Examination at Doom’s Door, is also compelling. By putting Ted Hughes in the context of computer games – specifically Doom, “the king of all first-person shooters” – has Barraclough inadvertently imagined what the poetry of Charlie Brooker might sound like?