Like their counterparts in English Romantic poetry and elsewhere, American poets and writers have been fascinated by birds, compelled by their beauty, their strangeness, their mysterious, fleeting presence. From the colonial period to the present, they have sought to evoke the ways birds enchant us, connect us with nature’s wonder, fragility, and sometimes savagery, and offer moments of transcendence.
We invite you to a virtual cocktail party in celebration of summer and American birds. Mix a bird-themed cocktail (recipes here) and join Olivia Gentile (author of Life List), poet Sidney Wade, wildlife biologist and author J. Drew Lanham, and Andrew Rubenfeld, co-editor of the Library of America anthology American Birds: A Literary Companion, for an exploration of the mystery and magic of birds and the imaginative flights they’ve inspired.
The event, “On Extended Wings: American Birds and American Writing,” will be held from 6-7 pm Eastern time on Thursday, June 17. BirdWatching readers can register at this link. The event will be on Zoom, so be sure to download the Zoom app before it starts. The event is free. The host, Library of America, requests donations to support future presentations.
Here’s more about the book, which was published in March 2020:
Literature professor and avid birder Andrew Rubenfeld, in collaboration with acclaimed writer Terry Tempest Williams, who provides a foreword, gathers evocative and surprising writings on birds and our fascination with them from an astonishing array of American poets and writers. The result is a literature of singular depth and beauty, with occasional flights of fancy in the mix.
Experience the exquisite beauty of Native American songs about birds. Accompany Lewis and Clark as they encounter new species, Audubon as he sketches near New Orleans, and Emerson and Thoreau birding together around Walden Pond. Delight in Sarah Orne Jewett’s poignant tale of a Snowy Egret in the Maine woods and Florence Merriam’s portrait of a Winter Wren in Central Park. Join Rachel Carson as she watches skimmers along the Atlantic coast and Roger Tory Peterson observing Snail Kites in the Everglades. And thrill to an impressive roster of modern and contemporary poets, including Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Sterling A. Brown, Cornelius Eady, Mary Oliver, Linda Hogan, Louise Erdrich, and David Tomas Martinez, as they evoke the magic and haunting beauty of America’s birds.
Celebrating our ardent engagement with the wondrous creatures around and above us, this dazzling collection is a one-of-a-kind field guide to the American literary imagination.