|Emily Dickinson, |
A Spicing of Birds: Poems by Emily Dickinson, Illustrations by Early Masters of Bird Art
(Wesleyan University Press, 2010)
The maddest noise that grows, --
The birds, they make it in the spring,
At night's delicious close.
-- Emily Dickinson
When works are readily available to the public at large, one must question sometimes the reasons for reissuing them in a new package. Is it, in some way, a significant improvement over previous formats?
In the case of A Spicing of Birds, the answer is a resounding "yes." Sure, the poetry of Emily Dickinson is already on the market in numerous forms, but this new, specialized collection is a meaningful and appealingly packaged alternative.
If you weren't already aware, book editors Jo Miles Schuman and Joanna Baily Hodgman will explain Dickinson's abiding love for birds. They appear in a great number of her poems, usually with a sense of delight and wonder. This collection, then, couples Dickinson's poetry along that theme with 18th- and 19th-century illustrations that a birder of Dickinson's generation would have enjoyed.
Look for the gorgeous, highly detailed work of John James Audubon, Allan Brooks, Robert Ridgway, Cordelia J. Stanwood, Alexander Wilson and more. They provide a perfect setting for these 37 poems, which here are reproduced on heavy stock, in a weighty book that is a pleasure to read.
Birds, the editors note in their introduction, are mentioned 222 times in Dickson's poetry.
"Birds were an inseparable part of Dickinson's world," they write. "She brings them to us in her poetry, where we see and hear them through her eyes and ears. Her brilliant observations enrich our own acquaintance with these same 'common' birds. Many readers familiar with the songs of birds but less so with the cadences of poetry may find unexpected beauty and pleasure in her words."
Dickinson also was capable of voicing her outrage at what was, to her, the destruction of a precious life.
His Bill is clasped -- his Eye forsook --
Perhaps more satisfying is Dickinson's substitution of her garden, and the birds and flowers that lived there, for a house of worship made by human hands.
Some keep the Sabbath going to Church --
A Spicing of Birds is a lovely book that should find its home on the shelves of nature and poetry lovers alike. In Dickinson, the two passions intersected, and this volume is a fitting testament to them both.
book review by
28 May 2011
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