Poetry Friday: Murmurations

Last spring, I decided to finish reading a couple of books that I’d abandoned for one reason or another. One of these, H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, was a book that I felt I should love but just couldn’t. Macdonald’s writing is poetic and full of reverence for nature, and I appreciated the beauty of her writing. But the story was full of pain, so maybe it wasn’t the best choice for the dark days of April.

Then, in July, an essay from Macdonald’s new book, Vesper Flights, appeared in The New York Times Magazine. Here, the kindred spirit I’d glimpsed in H is for Hawk was in full view. Like the swifts she’s describing, this piece was “magical in the manner of all things that exist just a little beyond understanding.” I pre-ordered the book immediately.

I have been savoring these short essays one at a time, every couple of days. They are every bit as magical as the essay that was in the paper. Even the titles are lyrical, so I decided to create a poem from them. I know found poems are supposed to be kept in order, but these are not. I have added a few articles and prepositions to the beginning of some lines for clarity.

The numinous ordinary
of sunbirds and cashmere spheres
the vesper flights
of the human flock.

Thinking about “Murmurations” made me realize I couldn’t remember the last time I saw one. Then, on the way to work on Tuesday morning, a flock of starlings flew across the sky, begging me to write them a poem. How could I refuse?

A ribbon of starlings
unspools from a giant oak,
trimming the sky .

Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Please be sure to visit Jone Rush MacCulloch at her beautiful new website for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

13 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Murmurations

  1. Gorgeous, Catherine! The story behind your story of reading these essays is so real to me. I was entranced with poem titles this week too–absorbing Irene’s This Poem is a Nest. I believe those starlings did call you to poem…and I’m so glad they did. A ribbon of starlings is such a beautiful image!

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  2. Starlings calling to you, Ah! Then, you responding poetically, a 2nd Ah! The use of the word ribbon is appropriate. I am used to seeing ribbons in the sky and do so wish that happens this year, Catherine.

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  3. When I saw your title in the roundup, I thought, as I clicked your link, “I MUST recommend VESPER FLIGHTS…Catherine will LOVE it!” HA! She does!

    I am listening to it, one or so essays a day, savoring her voice telling the stories. But we have a copy (hubby’s already read it) and I know for sure it will be one I go back to for an “eyeball reading.”

    You captured so much in your poem. Anyone can skim the surface and love it, but knowing how it connects to themes in the essays…perfection.

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  4. Another book to add to my list. I love the idea of murmurations and once presented a video to my students for poetry writing. Somehow they lend themselves to that unique expression. I love the words “trimming the sky” like a ribbon trims a gift. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I just LOVE the unspooling, Catherine. I too find murmurations irresistible — I wrote a picture book about them you might like! It’s called One Dark Bird. I wish I would have thought to include a ribbon image! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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