For the Birds: Poetry Friday #27

I’m reading the most amazing ARC this week — Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin. It’s a coming of age story set in the 20’s. A little bit Member of the Wedding (evocative of a time and place) and a little bit Fried Green Tomatoes (a budding relationship between two young women looking to assert themselves), Silhouette of a Sparrow is charming and beautifully written. Gigi struggles balance her family’s needs and values with her own desires and dreams. One of the themes of the book is birds. Gigi has a passion for birds and birding so there are many bird themes woven throughout the book.

Like Gigi, I’ve been fascinated with birds since I was a child. I used to watch chickadees in the hemlock outside my bedroom window and hummingbirds in the bee balm in our garden. In middle school I won a guide to North American wildlife in a science competition and I started reading about less familiar birds. During summers in New England you can hear the familiar “teacher, teacher, teacher” call of the Ovenbird but they are notoriously hard to see. I still remember the joy of finding an Ovenbird nest (they build woven nests on the forest floor).

The Oven Bird by Robert Frost

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

I love the line “he knows in singing not to sing”. My favorite poems (and books) are those that frame their questions indirectly and beautifully.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Violet at Violet Nesdoly/poems. Fly on over.

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11 Responses to For the Birds: Poetry Friday #27

  1. Oh, Robert Frost, my heart be still. My favorite two lines are the following:
    “The question that he frames in all but words
    Is what to make of a diminished thing.”
    what to make of a diminished thing indeed? How poignant and sad.

  2. I too love the last line. What an interesting thing to consider.

  3. irene Latham says:

    Yes to birds, and thanks for talking about a book that moves you and takes you back into yourself. Now I’m thinking about the question Frost poses about what to make of a diminishing thing… so much of life is transient and fleeting, which is part of what makes it beautiful. All the more reason to celebrate, I’m thinking…

  4. Mary Lee says:

    Nothing gold can stay.

  5. jama says:

    Lovely, lovely poem. Love Frost!

  6. violet says:

    Lovely poem and I really enjoyed the way you framed it with your story. We don’t have ovenbirds here. Now I’d like to see and hear one.

  7. Linda Baie says:

    I don’t know the ovenbird either, Katya. The poem is so interesting in its premise of what the bird questions and thinks about his home. He sounds like a master, at least according to Frost. Thank you Katya. I love birds too, & have studied them many times with my students. My two wonderful bird moments are seeing the Blue-Footed boobies in the Sea of Cortez and spotting one of the last whooping cranes in SW Colorado when we were also working with sandhill cranes. It was awesome.

  8. Ruth says:

    Yes, Mary Lee, this poem definitely goes with that one! I think what to make of a diminished thing is something Frost thought about a lot.

  9. I’ve never heard of an ovenbird before, and from the title of Frost’s poem, I thought it was going to be about Thanksgiving dinner! I especially like

    He says the early petal-fall is past
    When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers

  10. Frost is so amazing. I wrote the wall panels for a museum back in the spring. Oven bird was one of the birds included. I was fascinated then. I’d love to hear the “teacher, teacher, teacher” call and see one of these little wonders.

  11. Lovely poem. I hadn’t seen it before.