It was recently pointed out to me, in a poetry workshop class, that I frequent the subject of birds. I find it hard to look at a bird and not see the subject of a poem—the careful lay of feathers to show a pattern or a color at its finest, the gift of flight, the gift of music, the perfectly purposeful twitch-like movements. I find it hard to look at anything really, and not see its “birddom.” While it is, of course, essential to have practice in writing of all subjects, I have found that the things you love make better poems than the things you don’t. In my research, I have found several poems about birds by Pattiann Rogers as well. I think we all write as much to be creative as to understand something new through language. By giving birds a new name, a new voice, through poetry, we can have some hope of understanding the flighty creatures in more ways than just through biology or ecology alone.
Perhaps, as in Pattiann Rogers’ poems, birds can even serve as a medium through which poetry expresses very human ideas: questions of divinity or eternity, representations of beauty. In Rogers’ “Suppose Your Father Was a Redbird,” the idea of the “father” hints at the notion of the divine, of God. In seeing the red of your father, the poem suggests, you are trained to spot the father in everything—“The breast of a single red bloom/ Five miles away across an open field” or “a red moth hanging on an oak branch.” Then, your faith might be so invested in the redbird that you would see the whole heavens as a bird: “the bones of the sky spread,/ The conceptualized wing.” Finally, you might create a notion of something holy and identify it with the redbird, and the redbird, or “What it is you recognize in the sun,” might then come to be your God. Through poetry, I’ve found a place for the avian enthusiast in me to dwell. So what if I have a thing for birds? Everyone has their way of understanding the world.