nature, Poems by others

The song of birds

Silhouette of a bird singing
Birdsong silhouette (Photo © 2012 by Violet Nesdoly)

by Kay Ryan

One is not taxed;
one need not practice;
one simply tips
the throat back
over the spine axis
and asserts the chest.

(Go HERE to read the rest. Scroll down a bit…)


Right around the end of last year, Mary Lee Hahn offered a Kay Ryan book giveaway on her blog—and I won it! She graciously sent  The Best of It – New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan all the way to Canada. (Thanks again, Mary Lee!)

I have been enjoying Ryan’s clever, philosophical, rhyme-riddled, witty, and always-deeper-on-second-reading-than-they-seem-on-the-first poems.

The poem “How Birds Sing” caught my attention because a few times on our morning walks in the last weeks, we’ve been hearing spring birds sing. The Red-winged Blackbirds are back, and so is the bird that sings a lilting song I’ve always associated with spring. (Before I die, I will identify that bird!)

So, no matter how deep you still are in winter, comfort yourself that spring will soon be here, and keep your ears open!

Poetry Friday LogoThis post is part of Poetry Friday, hosted today by Renee at No Water River.

24 thoughts on “The song of birds”

  1. Kay Ryan is a master at saying a lot in a few words. Love this one. Thanks for sharing! And giving us a little hope of spring on this chilly day. The temps are below freezing even in the Deep South.


  2. Thanks Kiwi & Margaret. I know about those cold temps across the continent. We’re in a cold snap here right now but nothing as frigid as many places. Yes, that poem “Ledge” is clever in the way, at the end, the subject changes, and we see it’s not only about birds, but about us.


    1. Thank you, Catherine. I think you’d like her. She isn’t really funny (or at least there’s not humour in most of the poems I’ve read by her) but has a sharp wit, as in clever with words. I love her use of rhyme. Her writing looks effortless but I’ll bet it’s not.

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  3. A perfect poem — love your photo too! Our robins are back and I’m waiting for my favorite Spring harbinger — the Carolina wren. Ryan’s poem reminded me of its sweet little song.


    1. Thanks Jama! Isn’t the sound of spring birds inspirational?1

      About the photo, it was taken on a day in April some years ago. This tiny bird was singing its lungs out, making way more noise than a bit-of-a-thing like him should be able to make. I just snapped away in hopes… I was so pleased when I downloaded the pic and found I’d caught the little guy with his mouth open!

      > >


  4. I’ve been hearing the birds too! And yesterday I saw daffodil shoots. Thanks for sharing this poem and for introducing me to her work. There are so many wonderful poets I don’t know.


    1. Yes, Liz, I have shoots in my garden too. They’re shivering right now in the freezing temps though. Hope they’re hardy enough to survive!

      As for Ryan, she was actually your U.S. Poet Laureate from 2008 – 2010, so there are many of her poems available online. She has a unique style. > >


  5. Glad you’re enjoying the book!

    Kay Ryan makes it look so easy — both the bird song, and the poetry writing. I aspire to rhyme as creatively as she does!


    1. You’re so welcome, Renee. And thank you for hosting and your generous offer of free admission to your class. I wish I were free to put my name in the hat but not this time. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity!

      > >


  6. Love your photo, Violet! I enjoyed exploring Kay’s poems on the site you sent us to, especially “The Best of It” and “Chinese Foot Chart.” Thanks!


  7. Thank you, Tabatha & Laura! I just looked up “We’re building the boat…” It is brilliant–and so true.

    Here are some that are dog-eared in my book (which I haven’t read it cover-to-cover yet): “Spiderweb” – p. 26; “How a Thought Thinks” – p. 101; and “Winter Fear” p. 165 (especially this year).


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