Return to Content

Books: Poems, Birds, Gardens

Books: Poems, Birds, Gardens
0 votes, 0.00 avg. rating (0% score)
Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds, edited by Billy Collins, illustrated by David Allen Sibley (Columbia University Press; $22.95) Our Life in Gardens, by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $15) Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town, by Susan Hand Shetterly (Algonquin Books; $21.95)
Photo/Art by Heath Robbins

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds, edited by Billy Collins, illustrated by David Allen Sibley (Columbia University Press; $22.95)

Our Life in Gardens, by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $15)

Settled in the Wild: Notes from the Edge of Town, by Susan Hand Shetterly (Algonquin Books; $21.95)

In his typically smart and funny introduction to Bright Wings, former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins cheerfully admits the uselessness of poetry. “Of course, if the meaning of ‘useful’ is extended from how to assemble a piece of outdoor furniture to how to engage our verbal intelligence and uplift the human spirit,” he adds, “then poetry may be said to have a purpose.”

Its purpose, in Bright Wings, is to make close observations about birds–and people–with David Allen Sibley’s gorgeous illustrations. Actually, it’s closer to say that the poems illustrate the paintings.

One of those poems, by Jane Hirshfield, about the great blue heron, contains the lines “hope is the hardest / love we carry.” That applies as well to gardening in Vermont, as Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd have been doing for more than 30 years. When a visitor to their gardens there once denounced planting annuals as “pouring money into the ground,” their response was to think, “When is gardening anything else?”

That lighthearted fatalism is part of the charm of Our Life in Gardens. Flowers clearly engage their considerable intelligence and uplift their spirits. The difference between this book and Bright Wings is that Our Life in Gardens offers practical advice, too: It does tell you how to assemble a piece of outdoor furniture (a pergola, to be precise).

You won’t find many pergolas in a Maine salt marsh, but you might find Susan Hand Shetterly, author of Settled in the Wild, a collection of spare and elegant essays about the “millions of lives” of the people, plants, and animals of “my neighborhood.” She arrived in her coastal town in 1971, brave and ignorant, and began learning.

One lesson was nearly fatal. She went tramping in the salt marsh by herself at low tide. Her boots got stuck in the mud as the tide began to rise. “What a stupid way to die,” she thought to herself.

She managed to yank herself free–leaving the boots behind. She wriggled through the mud to solid ground and walked home in her socks, singing “Rock of Ages” as loudly as she could. “Plastered in mud, bone-cold, unrecognizable to anyone but myself,” she writes, “I loved my life.”

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Tags:
Tim Clark

Author:

Tim Clark

Biography:

Tim Clark has been writing for Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer's Almanac since 1975. Subjects of his many Yankee profiles have included filmmaker Ken Burns, historian Barbara Tuchman, pediatrician and political activist Dr. Benjamin Spock, and World War II General James Gavin. Tim left his job as Managing Editor in 1999 to teach English at ConVal High School in Peterborough, N.H. for 13 years, but since retiring from that demanding and rewarding profession in 2012, he has continued to contribute articles and book reviews. Tim lives in Dublin, N.H., two miles from the offices of Yankee Publishing, and serves as Town Moderator, a post previously occupied by Rob Sagendorph, the founder of Yankee Magazine.
Yankee Magazine Advertising

Bring New England Home
plus, get the Tablet Edition FREE!

In this issue: Our Favorite Fall Drives

  • Sweet & Savory Apple Recipes
  • The Mohawk Trail at 100
  • New England's Best Cider Festival
  • Man vs. Seal on Cape Cod
Subscribe Today and Save 44%

One Response to Books: Poems, Birds, Gardens

  1. Gladys Crowley-Bodge June 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    I can relate to this one. I’m afraid of getting stuck in the mud and now I know why. Glad she slipped out of her boots and made it home ok.

Leave a Reply

We reserve the right to remove or edit comments that are offensive or disrespectful to our readers and/or writers, cannot be verified, lack clarity, or contain profanity. Your comments may be republished by Yankee Magazine across multiple platforms.

Register Sign In

©2013, Yankee Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yankee Publishing Inc., | P.O. Box 520, Dublin, NH 03444 | (603) 563-8111

fall-eguide-2014-600x350