Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bright Wings, Billy Collins (ed.)

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds

Billy Collins (Ed)

Category: Poetry; Animals (Birds)

Synopsis: Former poet laureate Collins presents poems about birds.

Date finished: 2 September 2014

Rating: ***

I imagined that I would love this book. I love poetry. I love birds. And I love Billy Collins. So a book of bird poems edited by Billy Collins seemed an enjoyment no-brainer. Unfortunately, not so much. While I enjoyed the book, it didn’t “burn me down” as my old poetry professor told us good poetry should. There was a candle flicker occasionally, but no roaring fire.

Now, I was impressed by the sheer number of poems in this collection. And almost all of them were poems I didn’t know. No Poe’s “The Raven.” (But he did include Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese.”) There are old and contemporary poets. It really is a good mix.

The pictures, though, blew me away. Some of them really are breathtaking. The illustrations are done by America’s foremost bird illustrator, David Allen Sibley. And each bird represented in poetry is depicted in artwork and accompanied by a short dossier of the bird. It’s all printed on good, heavy, glossy paper. And I really like the size of the book. (When it comes to poetry, it’s as much about the presentation as the thing being presented.)

One quibble I had—and perhaps I missed something—is that the poems/birds seemed to be in no particular order. All of the poems about a bird (cardinals, for example) were together, but there seemed to be no method to the presentation. I expected to see all the songbirds together, all the birds of prey, all the waterfowl, etc. Granted, I don’t know much about bird orders, but it didn’t seem logically organized. (Although it might have been, for all I know.)

But overall, it really is an elegant and sophisticated little collection. And I found some real gems. But the ratio of gems to “ehs” was too low to make it a favorite anthology.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
This would be a beautiful gift for a birder or poet in your life.

You might also enjoy:
Aimless Love, Billy Collins
Dog Songs, Mary Oliver

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