Come Fly With Them

Billy Collins and painter David Allen Sibley make a beautiful book of poems, Bright Wings.

Book Cover Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has collaborated with ornithological illustrator par excellence David Allen Sibley to create a sweet little compendium, Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds (Columbia University Press), which is, as the title claims, over a hundred poems illustrated with 60 Sibley’s precise watercolor paintings.

Except for a recent enchantment by Andrew Zuckerman’s avian photography, I am not particularly interested in the feathered world, but this collection has the winning aspect of a wide array of poets from Geoffrey Chaucer to Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Bishop to Wallace Stevens—whose contribution I particularly enjoyed:
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
The complete poem is available here. And as is in evidence in this tome’s wide spectrum of image and metaphor, there is for poets something liberating and inspired as they behold nature’s winged creatures.
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