The Names of Birds

Daniel Wolff. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-935536-52-9
Wolff's first poetry collection since 2001's Work Sonnets is a transcendentalist map of the human self, produced through the study of birds. Season by season, beginning with fall, he describes the mating patterns, calls, and daily rituals of over three dozen birds. Asking readers to consider their wildness as reflected in human personalities rather than the typically anthropocentric envisioning of human traits in wild animals, Wolff captures the moody antics of a mother Blue Jay, the aggressive lovemaking of ducks, and the "drunken dance" of a Hooded Merganser. He imagines that human sorrow follows migration patterns like those of birds—going south and following an "inner compass," but inevitably returning. In his most curious poem, Wolff searches for a connection between what is seen and what is heard, conceiving for instance that the speckled pattern of the Downy Woodpecker is an outward indication of how it alternates between silence and loud tapping. Wolff transforms sensory experiences into a string of neverending questions, each subjectively answerable by assimilating the subtle truths of the natural world. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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