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Archive for January, 2013

Found Poetry

I happened upon a tiny (3 1/4″ x 5 1/2″) bird guide from 1906 titled, Land Birds East of the Rockies, from Parrots to Bluebirds, by one Chester A. Reed. It was published by Doubleday and presented in an illustrated cardboard slipcase.

Birds-titmouseThe “216 Illustrations in Color,” also by the author, charmed me. So did the language, which reads like poetry and is somehow flowery and Zen-like at the same time. Mr. Reed’s writing is direct and succint, but laced with diction and turns of phrase that sound quaint to today’s ears (“a trifle of orange on the forehead,” “dashing after insects,” “They are said to be fond of orange juice,” “the ruffians of the family,” and so on.

After reading some of these beautiful descriptions aloud to David, I decided to reformat some of them as verse, altering them with only minor tweaks of punctuation and careful omissions (forgive me, Mr. Reed). Et voila! Found poetry. Here is one:

Tufted Titmouse
Baelophus bicolor.    6 inches

Head crested,
forehead black,
flanks
brownish.

They swing from the ends of twigs
in all manner of positions
and creep about trunks,
peering in crevices of the bark
for insects.

Their eggs are laid
in soft nests
of down and feathers
in hollow stumps.

Their notes
are loud, clear whistles.

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