Author Joyce steeps the reader in rich imagery and myth, delivering a message that, at first seems painfully apocalyptic, but on reflection, is more than that. The vision is larger and redemptive. Joyce’s poetry looks at the history and fate of humankind from its very beginnings to its far future, and straddles the distances between quarks and galaxies.
In its general structure, Dead Crow is a series of linked poems, but to describe them as “linked” does the book a disservice. They are not linked in way raindrops are linked, each resembling the other in kind, but with no sense of an evolving narrative. By contrast, Joyce’s collection is like an approaching thunderstorm. It gathers momentum as the reader delves further into the book. The reader is immersed in a developing drama, ripe with rising tension and memorable characters. Throughout, our spiritual guide is Dead Crow, the “loner”, the “watcher”, the often hilarious “changeling with a bad attitude.” His voice is supplemented by numerous characters from myth, history and imagination, such as Don Juan and Dawn Crow (the love interest) and the wise, but cantankerous, guru, Grandfather Raven.
Here is a small taste of Joyce’s eloquent fusion of language, science and myth (from Dawn Crow: Mission.)
I won’t tell you who or what we found
In eons of wandering, only
That the energy of souls is rare. So rare,
The only appropriate response
Is awe. To allow arbitrary genes
To shape a body, to take on matter—a mind,
A heart, is to invite pain. Let me tell you,
Darlin’, not many in White Crow clan
Were tempted to take on flesh.
We’re content to roam, rootless
Urges and synapses—anxious
To find spirits awakening from the sleep
Of matter, anxious to find eye
Roaming to meet other eyes--
Waking eyes, dream eyes,
Past and future eyes.
If you're anything like me, you don't often visit the poetry section of your bookstore, but in this case, you would be well advised to make an exception. In Dead Crow you will find some wonderful writing and a wonderful concept, both executed to perfection (or close to it).
It's enough to make an author crow.