Tuesday, August 16, 2022

hell of birds

I went on my first formal bird walk this year, though I enjoy birds in my own back yard and often spot herons and swans at local ponds and owls and hawks on road trips. hell of birds is no bird walk. It is its own thing altogether! A compelling chapbook by Kimberly Povloski (Driftwood Press, 2019) with compelling cover art by Alexander Landerman, that folds over onto the back cover, too. Interestingly, the book's title comes from another work of art, Hölle der Vögel, by Max Beckmann.

The gray swirl of birds in Landerman's cover reminds me of a phrase I love in one of Povloski's poems: "dark pearl of weather." Then a sad, moody poem called "pearl" begins, "The summer your parents planted a wisteria tree it died." Then a coincidence, a short poem called "painted bunting" reminds me of Thoreau burning down the forest in O'Nights.

     i could set fire
     to these fields

     i could burn

The book is about "bird gods" as much as birds, about saints and suffering. It ends with an interview with the poet about subject matter and process. I love her answer to the first question, about birds: "They exist and thrive in human-engineered environments--in the cities and suburbs that have destroyed their natural habitats." That's something I learned on my first bird walk! How my own community is actually a haven for birds that would otherwise be displaced. Povloski goes on, "That adaptability, that cunning, seems almost elemental. Birds-as-animal embody an extant wilderness in our daily lives. I think that's what makes birds-as-symbol so provocative."

Yet another wonderful find in the Sealey Challenge this August!

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