Friday, 4 December 2009

Bird poetry anthologies

I was going to review these two new books today, but I think I'll leave that until a bit nearer Christmas. In the meantime, it's just worth saying that both these books make great Christmas presents for anyone with an interest in poetry and/or birds.

The Poetry Of Birds, edited by Tim Dee and Simon Armitage, is a chunky hardback from Viking, and lists the poems by bird species, imitating the layout of the average field guide. There's a good notes section at the back, too, offering a little background on some of the poems, and some of the birds for that matter.

Now some of the selections surprised and pleased me, such as Colin Simms, Helen Macdonald and Peter Reading (always glad to see his work - he seems to have slipped off the radar in recent years), but I do have one or two criticisms. One is that there still seems to be far too much of the usual suspects. It's not that I don't enjoy John Clare, or Ted Hughes, say (any regular readers here will know that I'm a big fan of both), it's just that I suspect a lot of potential readers will have the poems featured already, in other anthologies if not in collections of the individual poets' work. I'd have liked a bit more from outside the UK and the USA, and a few more surprises, I suppose.

Don't get me wrong, though - it's great for a bit of browsing, and a very nice complement to the Collins Field Guide and Birds Britannica in any home library.

Bright Wings is an illustrated anthology from the USA, edited by Billy Collins and with paintings by David Allen Sibley. A lot of the poets here were fairly unfamiliar to me, although that's in part because I've not read anything like enough US poetry, but quite apart from anything else it's a really nicely produced book, with the illustrations setting off the poems very well.

It's sent me off following up quite a few leads in terms of reading more by the poets involved, and as that's what I generally want most from an anthology, it's done its job very well.

Anyway, I will come back to these very soon, but check them out on Amazon if you think they sound up your street.

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