Tuesday 17 March 2015
I broke my own routine this week. Generally I alternate work by men and women but this week I wanted to keep to a birds theme to tie in with the forthcoming installation at Fabrica by Marcus Coates, dawn-chorus.
So we started with an essay that Margaret Atwood wrote for The Guardian about how birds are disappearing at unprecedented rates. Jane Fordham and I had been talking about why there are birds on everything and have been for a few years – birds on bags, fabric, wallpaper, mugs, plates…..and yet they are dying or being killed. The skies are emptying. Atwood is a fiction writer who has made dystopias her own. During the discussion of her essay we wondered if Atwood would write the story in which birds have totally disappeared from the world. The group enjoyed the way Atwood wrote this essay using the techniques of fiction. It is as gripping and shocking as any of her stories.
Her website details her own green policy and links to bird protection organisations: margaretatwood and she has a reading list covering all aspects of the environment on a separate website: yearoftheflood
It was perhaps cheeky, but I paired with Atwood’s thought provoking essay, Wallace Stevens’ poem, ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’.
Stevens died the year I was born, whereas I see Atwood more or less as a contemporary. Stevens worked for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut, most of his life and briefly supported the Italian fascist Mussolini. There is a biography here: poetry foundation So he and Atwood are far apart, politically. But although much of his poetry is obscure and difficult – he was a modernist writer, born in 1879 – this poem has endured as a favourite of many poets I know. The group enjoyed its starkness and simplicity and Gus Watcham suggested it read like a blackbird’s song.
There are more links for Atwood and Stevens on the Texts page.