National Poetry Month: Writing Wild, Day 19

Kathryn Aalto calls Helen Macdonald‘s 2016 book, H is for Hawk, a “masterpiece of literary nonfiction that braids memoir, literary biography, and falconer’s diary into a beautiful example of new nature writing.” (p. 187) The Guardian states that “loss and grief are the emotional landscape of Macdonald’s work.”

Last spring, in the early days of the pandemic, I finally got around to reading H is for Hawk. Macdonald’s writing was full of pain, a mirror for the fear I was feeling. Coincidentally, or maybe not, a hawk built a nest in a tree near enough to the edge of the road where I walk that I could watch it each day. I began to see this hawk’s natural reproductive cycle as a defiant act of life in the face of so much death. During that desperate time, this hawk family gave me hope.

H is for Hawk
An Abecedarian

Assembled from scavenged twigs, a nest rests in the
Branches of an old oak, 
Cradling a clutch of
Far above prying eyes, this woven bowl is
Guarded by two fierce
Incubating inside, three pearly
Jewels, speckled brown, are
Kept warm by both
Loyal parents. Patient, nearly
Motionless, only heads bob back and forth,
Noticing all potential threats.
On each chest, a bare brood
Patch covers the eggs like a 
Quilt, heat
Radiating, heart to heart.
Spongy moss and 
Tufts of grass
Upholster the nest, cushioning its
Valuable cache. Soon, hatchlings will
Wriggle free of their shells
eXclaiming their arrival on a spring day,
Yellow daffodils dancing on a warm
Zephyr in celebration.

Draft © 2021, Catherine Flynn

Previous Writing Wild posts:

Day 1: Dorothy Wordsworth
Day 2: Susan Fenimore Cooper
Day 3: Gene Stratton-Porter
Day 4: Mary Austin
Day 5: Vita Sackville-West
Day 6: Nan Shepherd
Day 7: Rachel Carson
Day 8: Mary Oliver
Day 9: Carolyn Merchant
Day 10: Annie Dillard
Day 11: Gretel Ehrlich
Day 12: Leslie Marmon Silko
Day 13: Diane Ackerman
Day 14: Robin Wall Kimmerer
Day 15: Lauret Savoy
Day 16: Rebecca Solnit
Day 17: Kathleen Jamie
Day 18: Carolyn Finney

16 thoughts on “National Poetry Month: Writing Wild, Day 19

  1. I loved H is for Hawk so I think this poem is terrific. Macdonald’s new book Vesper Flights is as good or better. Definitely worth reading or even better, listening to, as she reads it herself on the audio book version.
    -Alice Horning

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a beautiful book, I agree, & love that you had such a close connection to it! Great use of verbs in this poem, Catherine, like “Upholster” & “wriggle”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A poem:
    Every word perfectly
    Gifts of a

    Okay, I was going to try to write my whole comment in this form, but j and k were giving me grief. Ha! Seriously…what a great ending! I enjoyed learning about Aalto and this interesting form of poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Catherine! Your posts this month are a highlight of National Poetry Month. I’ve enjoyed every one of them. I appreciate the thoughtful way you explain your process and how you are using Writing Wild for your inspiration. You inspire, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] Day 1: Dorothy WordsworthDay 2: Susan Fenimore CooperDay 3: Gene Stratton-PorterDay 4: Mary AustinDay 5: Vita Sackville-WestDay 6: Nan ShepherdDay 7: Rachel CarsonDay 8: Mary OliverDay 9: Carolyn MerchantDay 10: Annie DillardDay 11: Gretel EhrlichDay 12: Leslie Marmon SilkoDay 13: Diane AckermanDay 14: Robin Wall KimmererDay 15: Lauret SavoyDay 16: Rebecca SolnitDay 17: Kathleen JamieDay 18: Carolyn FinneyDay 19: Helen Macdonald […]


  6. Wow. What an incredible amount of work you are putting into these posts and poems, Catherine! (And what a lot I’ve been missing.)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am so enjoying this book, Catherine. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention. Of course an abecedarian is the perfect match for H is for Hawk. I’ve never read this book, but am certainly going to now after reading the write-up in the book. I have a reading list for the rest of the year, thanks to you! LOL! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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