Bird poetry is as old as British poetry itself, and a remarkable number of poets have written poems about birds. This title gathers together some of the best poems that are organized according to ornithological classification....
|Title||:||The Poetry of Birds|
|Number of Pages||:||320 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Poetry of Birds Reviews
I’m amazed the editors could publish a 300-page anthology of English-language bird poems and omit Mary Oliver, especially her poem “Wild Geese.” For me, the book suffers a bit from the usual problem of anthologies that lean too much on centuries’ dead male poets. John Clare apparently wrote more bird poems than anyone, but I didn’t relish reading so many archaic poems or so many romantics with all their exclamation points and zealous bliss. Despite this failing, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book. It did include contemporary, even American poets, and a handful of women. The editors wanted a historic overview, while I wanted a more modern approach.Included were many poems I expected to see: “Ode to a Nightingale” by Keats, an excerpt from “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by Cooleridge, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens, and “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Dickinson, probably my favorite poem in the book although its birds are metaphorical. (Also absent: Poe’s “The Raven.”) Most of the poems I had never read.Ted Hughes is credited with bringing English poets back to the birds, so the collection features ten poems by him. I particularly enjoyed how he captured what most of us think of as the nasty personality of starlings in “Starlings Have Come”: “Tumbling the sparrows with a drop kick –//A Satanic hoodlum, a cross-eyed boss,/Black body crammed with hot rubies/And Anthrax under your nails.” Some other favorites are “The Blue Booby” by James Tate, a charming account of mating rituals, “The Blinded Bird” by Thomas Hardy, and “The Sandpiper” by Elizabeth Bishop. I was also fascinated that Bishop’s name was mentioned in two other poems. Hardy paid homage to Shelley in “Shelly’s Skylark”: “Though it only lived like another bird,/And knew not its immortality.”
As the editors mentions in their afterword, birds are the creatures we see or hear most often in our lives. The poets featured are from the UK, Ireland, and the US. John Clare's work appears most often; as the poems are arranged ornithologically, Clare was clearly a keen birder.
After a run of prize winning slim volumes by individual poets it was good to come to a substantial anthology on a single concrete topic. Yay, I thought, I am going to know roughly what these are all about.... and once I'd realised there was a 'notes' section at the end, mostly but not entirely ornithological, it was even better.It was an interesting way to gain a better understanding of my own tastes - there are inclusions from famous men that just left me cold and bored, thinking "Oh you do go *on*" John Clare, whose work appears more than any another, doesn't quite fit this category, for his close observation and relative lack of gushiness. I greeted each unsentimental Ted Hughes inclusion warmly, whether or not I recognised it as his. I especially enjoyed several poems in Scots (always good to be pushed into reading a poem aloud) and the poems about sparrows. I liked the way that rather than select a single poem per species, the greater propensity of certain species to inspire poetry was reflected.I feel the anthologists made a mistake in their criteria - most of the poems are about British birds or a British perspective (obviously including Coleridge's infamous albatross) but there's a scattering of North American birds and that just seemed to jar - there weren't enough to work. And there were very few about other parts of the world or in translation. So I feel they could usefully have been either more exclusive or much more inclusive.I was also a bit surprised at what didn't appear - wot no raven quothing "Nevermore"?
What a great collection - and the notes (which I almost overlooked!) make it perfect. I like that the editors have given the more prolific bird poets (Clare and Hughes in particular) a louder voice than most; it makes complete sense, and although I remain ambivalent about the quality of Clare's poetry, it is perfect for this anthology. Simon Armitage offers some engaging thoughts in his afterword, and the book is thoroughly indexed and annotated. Anyone with a literary interest in birds (or an ornithological interest in literature) should pick up this book - they're bound to discover something new.