Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In tangent

In math, a tangent is the point where a circle touches a straight line. It is not an intersection but it is the common point.
The book Bright Wings is such a tangent for me. It is the common point, where poetry touches birds. And where birds touch poetry.

The book is edited by Billy Collins with paintings by David Allen Sibley. Sibley's is currently my favorite birding book - I keep my copy beside our computer. I used to carry Peterson's Field Guide with me - one in my car, one in my backpack. But just recently a friend introduced me to Sibley's, so now I am enjoying his birding art.

And Billy Collins? He is a kick of a poet and reader. He can share poems with you in a way that only lovers of poetry can share. He didn't write the poems in this book, but he has gathered them to showcase Sibley's paintings.

It is hard not to look at a bird and see some sort of poetry. It can be poetry of hope, of soaring, of anger, or of hunger. Of the blue heron, Collins shows us the Jane Hershfield poem "Hope and Love".

I know that hope
is the hardest
love we carry.
He slept 
with his long neck
folded, like a letter
put away.
(Hope and Love, pg. 32, Bright Wings)

or this poetic picture about crows by Lucia Perillo:
Little Elvises, the hairdo slicked
with way too much grease...
(The Crows Start Demaning Royalties, pg. 139, Bright Wings)

And a view of an owl  by Charles Simic:
When I say his name aloud,
He turns his head
And looks at me
In utter disbelief.
(The Great Horned Owl, pg. 95, Bright Wings)

Poems about birds...
crows looking like Elvis, 
owls starring at you in disbelief, 
hope as a love...
what a lovely tangent!



giantspeckledchihuahua said...

Thanks for sharing! I'll be looking for that book. Two of them! One for me and one for mom...oh! maybe three! One for one of my sisters!

The Retired One said...

Oooooo, those bird photos are gorgeous!

Tracy said...

Thanks for the heads up. Sounds like a book worth reading.

Sugar the Golden Retriever said...

Woof! Woof! My mom will definitely check out the book. LOVELY photos. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

altadenahiker said...

I run out to take a bird photo and the birds fly. You have a lighter step. And a better eye.

Babzy said...

very good capture !

BANJO52 said...

You've been tossing a lot of fine bird shots at us lately. Thanks, and way to go.

I'm interested in the Collins book. Although I'm hot and cold on his poetry, I trust his judgment on the poetry of others, and there are MANY fine poems about birds--even a couple at my place, like Richard Wilbur's turkey vulture. Lucille Clifton has a GREAT crow poem, but I'm not sure it's online.

You could start a series on this . . .

BANJO52 said...

P.S. There are also a lot of great bird photo blogs, but two that add a lot of personal touch and humor are Susan Gets Native and Julie Zickefoose, both at

Joanna Jenkins said...

That sounds like a book worth checking out. Thanks for the tip and the gorgeous photos!