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The Poetry of Birds

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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.


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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.

30 review for The Poetry of Birds

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alarie

    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 enjoye 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.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    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 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"?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Fay

    DNF stopped at page 125. Sorry lost the will to live a bit with this one. Thought it might be a nice dip into every evening for some nice poems about birdies. Maybe my taste in poetry is more hallmark card who knows? Anyway way too many poems with big words that I didn't know the meaning of, sorry I'm not grabbing a dictionary to decipher some poets showing off. A few lines from a handful of poems stuck with me but too few to carry on, and what's with the poem about the feral teens grabbing some DNF stopped at page 125. Sorry lost the will to live a bit with this one. Thought it might be a nice dip into every evening for some nice poems about birdies. Maybe my taste in poetry is more hallmark card who knows? Anyway way too many poems with big words that I didn't know the meaning of, sorry I'm not grabbing a dictionary to decipher some poets showing off. A few lines from a handful of poems stuck with me but too few to carry on, and what's with the poem about the feral teens grabbing some bird from it's nest and kicking it around? Just no. I wanted twee relaxing birdie poems to see me off to sleep not stuff to make me angry or my brain ache.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Howdle

    A fine anthology by the new Poet Laureate. As with any anthology, a reader can take issue with what is in and what is out. So, "Adlestrop", that tedious anthology piece, is included, for one line "And for that minute a blackbird sang." Hardly, a penetrating view of bird-song. And not a single line by Shakespeare! Then again, Gunn's marvellous "Patchwork" is included, which shows that Armitage has been birdwatching off the beaten track. The real bird gems come from John Clare who is worth more th A fine anthology by the new Poet Laureate. As with any anthology, a reader can take issue with what is in and what is out. So, "Adlestrop", that tedious anthology piece, is included, for one line "And for that minute a blackbird sang." Hardly, a penetrating view of bird-song. And not a single line by Shakespeare! Then again, Gunn's marvellous "Patchwork" is included, which shows that Armitage has been birdwatching off the beaten track. The real bird gems come from John Clare who is worth more than dreamy Keats and waffly Wordsworth to the bird lover.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Artemis

    A compilation of mostly mediocre poems (many racist) with at times interesting facts stored in the back. I don't understand why racism was necessary in a book about poetry involving birds. I also don't understand where there was an appendix of facts - why wasn't it simply placed within the main body? If I hadn't read reviews before diving in I wouldn't have known they were there and I would have missed out on almost all of the enjoyment I had from this book. Note: I'm not that big into poetry, so I A compilation of mostly mediocre poems (many racist) with at times interesting facts stored in the back. I don't understand why racism was necessary in a book about poetry involving birds. I also don't understand where there was an appendix of facts - why wasn't it simply placed within the main body? If I hadn't read reviews before diving in I wouldn't have known they were there and I would have missed out on almost all of the enjoyment I had from this book. Note: I'm not that big into poetry, so I was expecting a mediocre (for me) read, but this was, below expectations.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adz S

    Interesting book, as the title clearly says a collection of avian poetry. If your interested in the probably the most observed of wildlife around us and perhaps only a smidgin of interest in poetry (like myself) then this should prove time well spent. The background info and footnotes add to the flavour too. It’s one you can pick up and put down at anytime.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Frost

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Fort

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ali

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eleni

  12. 4 out of 5

    James

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vida Rajkovaca

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  15. 5 out of 5

    Roos

  16. 5 out of 5

    Saskia Kalb

  17. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Gray

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eric Radzwill

  19. 4 out of 5

    Christine Weber

  20. 4 out of 5

    James Everington

  21. 4 out of 5

    Siobhan Ellis

  22. 5 out of 5

    Asli

  23. 5 out of 5

    Louise

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Ray

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jane Gardiner

  26. 5 out of 5

    Book Urchin

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tricia M Foster

  28. 5 out of 5

    anthony wheeler

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Butterworth

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amy Lomas

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