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Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds
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Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  175 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
In this beautiful collection of poems and paintings, Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate, joins with David Allen Sibley, America's foremost bird illustrator, to celebrate the winged creatures that have inspired so many poets to sing for centuries. From Catullus and Chaucer to Robert Browning and James Wright, poets have long treated birds as powerful metaphors for bea ...more
Hardcover, 268 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Columbia University Press (first published October 16th 2009)
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Kingbird Highway by Kenn KaufmanThe Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJongAlex & Me by Irene M. PepperbergLiving on the Wind by Scott WeidensaulThe Urban Birder by David Lindo
Birds and Birding
19th out of 82 books — 10 voters
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian AndersenThe Raven by Edgar Allan PoeJonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard BachThe Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen SibleyA Spicing of Birds by Emily Dickinson
Books About Birds
196th out of 206 books — 49 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 411)
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Meghan Pinson
May 25, 2010 Meghan Pinson rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
Turns out my interest in birds is entirely separate from my interest in poems, but there was this, which made it worthwhile:

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
Therese Broderick
Jul 31, 2010 Therese Broderick rated it really liked it
A small but gorgeous treasury: 57 full-color illustrations by the celebrated bird painter David Allen Sibley, and poems written by 98 international authors (but not composed in collaboration with the artist), and interesting tidbits of ornithology presented as captions to the pictures. Almost all of the poetry is tasteful and conservative in both style and content, with a few archaic phrases to please the nostalgic reader. Poems about bird-watchers themselves open and close this glossy anthology ...more
Nov 08, 2010 Catherine rated it it was amazing
This is a book for bird lovers who don't have the means, patience, or keen eyesight to wait for hours in the wild for a quick glimpse of some little feathered beauty. You can open Bright Wings anywhere and learn some fascinating snippet of info under the gorgeous David Sibley illustration on the left side page. For instance, the female Northern Cardinal is one of the few NA female songbirds who sings; the Great Horned Owl is the only animal that regularly eats skunks; the female Belted Kingfishe ...more
Louise Chambers
Nov 01, 2010 Louise Chambers rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, birdwatching
Had to get this through Interlibrary Loan. I've suggested to Denver Public Library to purchase.

I am thinking of buying it for my poetry collection. The book is big enough to show the illustrations well, and the poetry is beyond conventional, with a good selection of older and modern poetry on the experience of seeing birds, of experiencing birds in a most personal way.

In many of the poems, if the reader is a birder, they will be able to tell that the poet is an avid one, too.

Feb 01, 2014 Kerfe rated it really liked it
Shelves: visual-arts, poetry
A good collection. I renewed it 3 times after taking it out of the library in my leisurely journey of reading, and could continue to circle through if I didn't need to return it for others to take out and enjoy.

Collins has included an assortment of poets and styles, so it's hard to generalize about the whole thing except to say that all the poems relate in some way to birds (some more than others, of course). I tended to like the less purely descriptive, but not always; we all know how time and
Aug 08, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing
a simply charming collection of poetry that looks like a field guide. A big tweet for the poet biologist, and Collins and Sibley know their respective fields.
Jan 05, 2010 Patrice rated it it was amazing
The Sibley illustrations are gorgeous! The poems unique! I especially love "Swan and Shadow." This collection is a gem.
Eloise Klein Healy
Apr 27, 2010 Eloise Klein Healy rated it really liked it
Probably will be reading this for awhile. I'm a birder and I am usually careful with reading poems about birds.
Aug 12, 2010 Krenner1 rated it it was amazing
For bird lovers...gorgeous illustrations matched with gorgeous poetry. What's not to love? Thanks, Bailey!
Dec 26, 2009 Allison rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful little book full of poems and lovely illustrations of birds. I'm already smitten.
Nov 04, 2009 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
Mostly for bird fans, although there a few poems that are gems whether you have a passion for birds or not.
Aug 03, 2014 Iris rated it it was amazing
This is a lovely book for lovers of poetry and birds. A number of the poems carry familiar by-lines: Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning among them. The ones that moved me most such as "Bird Watching" by John Ciardi, "Visitation" by Jeffrey Harrison and "A Pair of Tanagers" by Mark Jarman were those that gave voice to the emotions I often experience when observing birds. I keep this little volume by the bed and often read one or two before turning out the light a ...more
Oct 23, 2011 Katie rated it it was amazing
Oh OK, let's put poetry, birds, and paintings all in one book and see if Katie's heart physically explodes or not. Favorites so far:
George Green, on Frigatebirds: "They're bullies and the way the feed is gross..."
Mary Oliver (OH, Mary Oliver), "Wild Geese": "You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees a hundred miles, repenting./ You only have to let the soft animal of your body/ love what it loves."
Robert Cording, "Peregrine Falcon, New York City," about an ad man who p
Jun 27, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
My Bird Club Book Club read this lovely collection of bird poetry last month. The poetry was well selected, not sappy, and the book was illustrated by drawings of David Sibley. For what it was, this book was a real jewel. It generated a lot of good discussion and appreciation of word usage. It had been a long time since I had sat around sharing poetry with friends.
Oct 30, 2014 Lyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Memorable Quotes:

"...the petrel, mindless of such height,
scales each watery hill
that rises up, adapting to the shape
of each impediment, each low escape
instinct in it, the scope of its flight
fitted to its will."

"Still keen, unwavering and alert, / Within my aching empty mind / The bright bird hovers--and the dirt / Of bottomless black ways and blind, / And all the hundred things that hurt / Past healing, seem to drop behind." (p. 85)

"I use to call them / Morning Doves, those birds / with breasts
Jay McNair
Nov 13, 2014 Jay McNair rated it really liked it
Startlingly good illustrations—with Sibley I had always thought of clean accuracy, not poetry, but many of these paintings are poetic.

And of course, great poems too, and a great introductory essay by Billy Collins.
Jan 28, 2014 Belkora rated it it was amazing
Not every poem is great, but there are enough gems to merit five stars, and who knows? I might find upon re-reading that I "get" some poems I didn't earlier. As other reviewers have noted, you'll be able to tell, if you are a birder, when the poet was one too.
Lynn Taylor
Dec 13, 2015 Lynn Taylor rated it it was amazing
Charming in every way. Great for reading after sleeping in and having coffee in bed while listening to Baroque Sunday on Dixie's old radio.
Oct 02, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely anthology. The pages are heavy and brilliantly colored, very enjoyable all around. My only critique is that some of the poems were a bit arduous.
Jan 01, 2014 Correen rated it really liked it

A beautiful book, the kind one is more likely to keep on a shelf and take out to read an occasional poem from time to time. It is filled with beautiful prints and carefully reviewed poems. The editor, Billy Collins would do no less. He includes just one poem of his own.

The downside of this book is that the poems are probably not the best work of most of the authors but rather good, well edited poems that represent the authors well and fit the purpose of the book.
Oct 13, 2013 VerJean rated it really liked it
Ahh. . .sat on the porch on sunny fall afternoons overlooking the Lake and read aloud to myself.
Just a LOVELY book. The illustrations are exquisite. A brief info paragraph of the habitat and any unusual habits of the bird is just the right amount. The poems compiled are fitting and most are easy on the mind. Not obscure or difficult to read/comprehend. I'm not one who reads a great deal of poetry, but the subject matter, the variety of birds and the info on each made this a charming change of pa
Mar 29, 2016 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems
I especially enjoyed this book because it gave me comfort to read it during my Mom's final illness. I began reading it the day she was placed on hospice care and finished it today, the day of her funeral. It added to the celebration of her life because she passed on to me her enjoyment of bird watching and her love of reading. This a beautiful collection of poems and artwork that I know I will return to and read again.
Nancy Chantraine
Sep 05, 2013 Nancy Chantraine rated it really liked it
This is a book I will keep and not donate (unlike Graeme Gibson's Bedside Book of Birds which was bizarre and is in my donation box). I liked "Bright Wings" very much. There was a nice variety of both modern and classic poems about birds - some very moving. These were accompanied by appropriate illustrations. I really recommend this book (probably will keep it on the bookshelf at my bedside).
Benjamin Wagner
Sep 21, 2014 Benjamin Wagner rated it liked it
A handsome collection.
Mar 27, 2014 Sue rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Bright Wings is an excellent collection of poems about birds, some old and some more recent. The book has gorgeous illustrations by David Sibley of the Sibley bird identification book. It is a charming book for poet & bird lovers everywhere.
May 05, 2011 Janice rated it liked it
I am not a poetry fan, but do love birds and Sibley's Birdbook. I did find several of the poems very fun though, and loved the bird facts under each watercolor by David Sibley. It's a beautiful book, very lovingly bound, not a "toss out book when done reading."
Feb 08, 2014 Fueledbychocolate rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'm torn. The artwork is beautiful and amazing 5 stars - worth owning the book just for that. Poetry: 2-3 stars. Aside from a small handful of really good poems the majority didn't touch, excite nor inspire me.
May 17, 2014 Brian rated it liked it
Fabulous illustrations add to the joy of this book. Not all the poems are inspiring, but there are enough to keep it going as a pleasant morning read, while looking out the window at the bird feeder.
A. Anupama
Mar 02, 2013 A. Anupama rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beauty! Birds with poetry, how to not love it? The collection of poems is wonderful--some classics, some unfamiliar but lovely ones. A pleasant place to meet new voices, amidst the birdsong.
Apr 15, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
Mike surprised me with this book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Poetry is distinctly suited to the descriptions of birds and the paintings by David Sibley are beautiful.
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William A. ("Billy") Collins is an American poet. He served two terms as the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. In his home state, Collins has been recognized as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library (1992) and selected as the New York State Poet for 2004.
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