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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Poetry Friday--"Grackles"

One of my favorite poetry books in our collection is devoted to birds. It's titled, Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds [821 BRI]. The poems have been collected by Billy Collins and the color illustrations are by David Allen Sibley (of The Sibley Guide to Birds, and Sibley's Birding Basics, both 598 SIB). This is from Collins' "Introduction":
Clearly, there are a lot of bird poems flying around out there, and many of them can be found perched on the branches of anthologies. But this assemblage offers a fresh approach. By matching a rich set of poems about birds with illustrations by the illustrious David Allen Sibley, we have provided the reader in one volume with pleasures that are literary, pictorial, and scientific.

I've selected a poem by Lisa Williams, about a bird, the grackle, that I've seen less and less over the past few years. (The one we see in our area is the Common Grackle, and, yes, New Hampshire Fish and Game does show a slight decrease in their population.)

They were not one body. Yet they seemed
held together by some order, their thick necks
flickering with a blue-black iridescence,
their yellow-circled pupils bright and cold.

In a wave of differences that passed
low over the surface of my yard,
they picked it clean of morning's fritillaries
and other summer gestures fall discards

then settled on the hill behind the fence
for several teeming minutes to remark
its tapestry, each razored beak, each tail
parting Sunday's gray air like a spear.

I could tell you how they gathered up
the darkness of my winter thought that day
in mid-September, bundled it, black-ribboned,
into sleek coats and lifted it from me

just as you have imagined. But this
would be a lie. I watched them comb the fields
with interest, and, when their beaks' clicks had died,
turned back to what I was.

Michelle is hosting the Poetry Friday Round-Up at Today's Little Ditty.


  1. I don't think I'll ever tire of bird poems. Will be having a look for this anthology– thanks, Diane.

    And I had no idea grackles puffed up like that– what quirky creatures! Don't you just love that blue iridescence?

    1. It is a great anthology, Michelle! As I was growing up, I thought grackles, with their iridescence were starlings, and starlings, with their dull color, were grackles. Grackle sounded rather ugly to me, and I thought starling implied the sparkling color.

  2. This is one of my FAVORITE books of bird poems. Collins did a superb job collecting a wide range of poems.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Tricia, do you have other favorite bird poetry books that can can share? If there are some we've missed, I'd like to make sure to order them if they're still in print.