The work of much-loved Canadian poet Don McKay, Songs for the Songs of Birds celebrates the way birds “articulate the air” and considers what the world would be without them. Many of the poems have appeared in printed collections of poetry, notably Camber (McClelland & Stewart, 2004) and Strike / Slip (McClelland & Stewart, 2006). A few make their first appearance in this audio collection.
For quite a few years I lived with an avid birdwatcher and we are still friends now. So I am used to both birdwatchers and birdwatching and whilst I haven’t pursued the hobby, my interest in our feathered friends hasn’t left me.
I rarely review poetry but I do enjoy it and this title really called out to me. I loved the idea of a combination of the beauty of words and the beauty of birdsong. I was wary though; this was dangerous ground after all. What if the words were no match for the beauty of the bird song? Would it leave a bitter taste in my mouth?
Thankfully I was not to face such conundrums or disappointment. Don McKay reads his own works and this is a beautifully put together composition of intoxicating poetry and melodic birdsong. McKay perfectly captures the grace and fluidity of birds, in their flight and actions, and mirrors it with great skill and dexterity in his own poetic creations and delivery of them.
When I first began listening I had intended to take in just a few poems at a time and finish the volume over a few days. Instead I devoured the readings in one sitting.
This will forever have a place on my shelf and McKay will be added to my list of favourite poets. His work is wonderful and the anecdotes he intersperses during the recordings bring back numerous memories, both happy – a beautiful wryneck or hoopoe seen for the first time – and frustrating, waiting for a LBJ (little brown jobby) to appear so I could finally get a cup of tea and warm up!
Title: Songs for the Songs of Birds
Author: Don McKay
Source: A review copy was providing by Rattling Books
Additional info: 78 minutes