poem index

Thirteen Ways of Looking: Poems About Birds

Year

2009
In honor of the poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens


I. As Faith

Hope is the thing with feathers  
That perches in the soul,  
And sings the tune without the words,  
And never stops at all,  
   
And sweetest in the gale is heard;          
And sore must be the storm  
That could abash the little bird  
That kept so many warm.

     –from "Hope is the thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson





II. As Freedom

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
   When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,--
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
   But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings!

     –from "Sympathy" by Paul Laurence Dunbar





III. As Nature

I will never give up longing. 
I will let my hair stay long. 
The rain proclaims these trees,
the trees tell of the sun.
Let birds, let birds.
Let leaf be passion.
Let jaw, let teeth, let tongue be
between us. Let joy.

     –from "Let Birds" by Linda Gregg





IV. As Exile

The Himalayan legend says
there are beautiful white birds
that live completely in flight.
They are born in the air,

must learn to fly before falling
and die also in their flying.
Maybe you have been born
into such a life

with the bottom dropping out.

     –from "In Flight" by Jennifer K. Sweeney





V. As Muse

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,  
  Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,  
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,  
  Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:  
Already with thee! tender is the night,
  And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,  
    Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;  
          But here there is no light,  
  Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown  
    Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

     –from "Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats





VI. As Music

Tuwee, calls a bird near the house,
Tuwee, cries another, downhill in the woods.
No wind, early September, beeches and pines,

Sumac aflame, tuwee, tuwee, a question and a faint
But definite response, tuwee, tuwee, as if engaged
In a conversation expected to continue all afternoon,

Where is?—I’m here?—an upward inflection in 
Query and in response...

     –from "Birdcall" by Alicia Suskin Ostriker





VII. As Ecstasy

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing  
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding  
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding  
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!  

     –from "The Windhover" by Gerard Manley Hopkins





VIII. As Wisdom

Look!  Look!  he is climbing the last light
Who knows neither Time nor error, and under
Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings
Into shadow.

     –from "Evening Hawk" by Robert Penn Warren





IX. As Patience

Then it picks up one stem leg. This takes time.
And sets it down just beyond the other,
no splash, breath of a ripple, goes on
slowly across the silt, mud, algae-
throttled surface, through sedge grass,
to stand to its knees in water turning
grayer now that afternoon is evening.

Now that afternoon is evening
the gray heron turns blue, bluer than sky,
bluer than the mercury blue-black still pond.

     –from "The Blue" by David Baker





X. As Poet

My mother would be a falconress,
And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,
would fly to bring back
from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize, 
where I dream in my little hood with many bells 
jangling when I'd turn my head.

     –from "My Mother Would Be a Falconress" by Robert Duncan





XI. As Omen

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered--not a feather then he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before--
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
               Then the bird said "Nevermore."

     –from "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe





XII. As Pest

Last night I dreamed of chickens,
there were chickens everywhere,
they were standing on my stomach,
they were nesting in my hair,
they were pecking at my pillow,
they were hopping on my head,
they were ruffling up their feathers
as they raced about my bed.

     –from "Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens" by Jack Prelutsky   





XIII. As Dinner

CHICKEN.

Alas a doubt in case of more go to say what it is cress. What is it. Mean. Why. Potato. Loaves.

     –from Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein




More Poems about Birds:

Leda, After the Swan by Carl Phillips
Perhaps, / in the exaggerated grace...

The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Caught this morning morning's minion, king-...

To a Waterfowl by William Cullen Bryant
Whither, 'midst falling dew...

Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!...

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
It is an ancient mariner...

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens
Among twenty snowy mountains,...

If the Owl Calls Again by John Haines
at dusk from the island in the river, and it's not too cold...

My Mother Would Be a Falconress by Robert Duncan
My mother would be a falconress,...

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,...

Last Night I Dreamed of Chickens by Jack Prelutsky
Last night I dreamed of chickens,...

Leda and the Swan by W. B. Yeats
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still...

The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy
I leant upon a coppice gate...

Evening Hawk by Robert Penn Warren
From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through...

The Starlings by Jesper Svenbro
Late one afternoon in October...

Birdcall by Alicia Suskin Ostriker
Tuwee, calls a bird near the house...

Birds Appearing In A Dream by Michael Collier
One had feathers like a blood-streaked koi...

I am Like a Desert Owl, an Owl Among the Ruins by Noelle Kocot
The alpha You. The omega You...

Birds Again by Jim Harrison
A secret came a week ago though I already...

Darwin's Finches by Deborah Digges
My mother always called it a nest...

The Scarlet Ibis, Section VII by Susan Hahn
Once, I got lost...

Littlefoot, 19, [This is the bird hour] by Charles Wright
This is the bird hour, peony blossoms falling bigger than wren hearts...

Hope is the thing with feathers (254) by Emily Dickinson
Hope is the thing with feathers...

The Eagle by Lord Alfred Tennyson
He clasps the crag with crooked hands...

Home to Roost by Kay Ryan
The chickens...

Poet as Immortal Bird by Ron Padgett
A second ago my heart thump went...

The Heron by Linda Hogan
I am always watching...

Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains...

The Blue by David Baker
heron is gray, not blue, but great enough...

The Parakeets by Alberto Blanco
They talk all day...

Let Birds by Linda Gregg
Eight deer on the slope...

To a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit...

In Flight by Jennifer K. Sweeney
The Himalayan legend says...

Tender Buttons [Chicken] by Gertrude Stein
Pheasant and chicken, chicken is a peculiar third...

Hummingbird by Elaine Terranova
What with foresight and dancing...